Rebel Chilli’s hot sauces enjoy global success
Ray Ryan recounts the inspiring tale of Rebel Chilli, a food company enjoying international success with its unique range of spicy sauces.
Rebel Chilli is an innovative, successful Cork food company that produces an award-winning range of fresh chilli sauce.
Paul Moore, the company’s 25-year-old managing director and owner, and his brother Ken, loved hot and spicy food.
But they could never find any high-quality chilli sauce. As a result, they started making their own and began selling at the local farmers’ market.
Paul’s passion saw him take over the operation whilst studying for a degree in Business Information Systems at UCC.
After graduating in 2014, Paul’s entrepreneurial spirit gave him the self-belief to take the plunge and go full time with Rebel Chilli.
“I saw the potential in the company and knew I’d regret it if I didn’t risk it and give it a go,” he said.
Paul has now grown Rebel Chilli to the point where it’s exporting to UK and Dubai, and has over 300 stockists in Ireland. He has also started exporting products to Spain, where they will initially be available in selected Barcelona stores.
That is seen as an exciting marketing story — the tale of how chillis from Cork are set to tickle the tastebuds of the Catalans.
Meanwhile, a growing number of restaurants and cafes across Ireland are using the sauce while the Chopped salad bars have recently started doing so on their salads. In January 2016, on his 24th birthday, Paul sent his first export order to Dubai. In February, he was shortlisted for the AIB Startup Academy from more than 400 entries.
Graham Clarke, a founder of Irish brand Kooky Dough, has now joined the team after the successful sale of that company in 2014. He has experience in brand development and food business, Rebel Chilli has six different products which are available in Dunnes, Tesco, SuperValu and in Chopped outlets countrywide.
Some of the company’s oldest customers are O’Mahony’s Butcher’s in the Cork English Market and Bradley’s on the city’s North Main St. The brand name was carefully chosen as Paul explains.
“Rebel Chilli stems from two different factors,” he says. “The first was us being from Cork where we started out. The second is the fact that when we started, an Irish chilli sauce wasn’t exactly the norm, and setting it up was rebellious in itself.”
The company is now focusing on the British and American markets. It hopes to be sending a lot more product in those directions in the coming months.
“These markets hold the most potential, so we really hope to get some listings in London and the East Coast of the US as a starting point.
“Further down the line, I would love to open my own restaurant or café at some point, comprising all of my favourite foods and flavours that I’ve picked up along the way on the Chilli journey,” says Paul.
He says the company’s range of fresh chilli sauces are bursting with heat and fantastic flavours for retail and foodservice sectors in Ireland and beyond.
“We use only the freshest ingredients when we are making our sauces, so they have totally unique flavours and are incredibly versatile in the kitchen. We never use any additives or preservatives and all of our products are gluten-free,” he says, explaining that every product s of maximum quality and freshness.
The products have won numerous awards at Blas na hÉireann and the Irish Free From Food Awards. Last year, the company was chosen as the best startup in Cork City as part of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition.
Rebel Chilli has a varied customer base because its products can be used in a number of different ways.
“Our main customers would be young families that cook a lot and have an interest in Irish produce,” says Paul. “We also appeal to young professionals who know that they can get great flavours in our sauces and use them in their own food when they’re on the go.
“Our range is fresh and natural so our customers vary from food lovers, home cooks, heat aficionados, and health conscious people who do not want to sacrifice flavour in their diet.
“We built a loyal base of customers from attending so many farmers’ markets and food festivals over the years, and they continue to support us today.”
Rebel Chilli sources the majority of its ingredients from Pallas Green in Cork. They import peppers and chillies especially for the company from the Netherlands, Spain, and Uganda.
“We know we are always getting the highest quality ingredients from Pallas, and have developed a good relationship with them as a result,” he says. “Some of the peppers we use are organic.
“In fact, I visited one of the greenhouses that grow some of the peppers that we use, in the Netherlands in September of last year.
“It is the largest in the world and they grow over 16m peppers every year.”
Paul says Rebel Chilli would not have been the success it is without the support of customers and others, including the Local Enterprise Office in Cork City.
He explained that the company also became a member of Love Irish Food — which was formed in 2009 by a group of Irish brands making everything from porridge to orange squash.
“We joined Love Irish Food as a result of our passion, because we wanted to be aligned with a group that celebrated and championed the very best of Irish produce,” says Paul.
“We could see that they shared the same values as us — and so we wanted to support them, as they are supporting us.
“Love Irish Food plays such an important role in the promotion of Irish produce, and it is invaluable to be part of such a group.
“Our customers really do appreciate quality Irish products and hopefully they can discover more through Love Irish Food.”