Hot sauce production was #8 in IBISWorld’s April 2012 list of the fastest growing US industries. Looking at actual revenue, the numbers were not huge compared to Generic Drugs or Green & Sustainable Building Production. Even compared to #4 on the list, Pilates & Yoga Studios, its numbers were small. However, the growth rate for hot sauce production during the decade preceding the report was an average of 9.3% a year.
And that takes me to tweaking. Yes, we have the “macro inventions” that were the major breakthroughs. Also though, we have the people who make something better because they are dissatisfied with someone else’s design. Malcolm Gladwell told us that Steve Jobs was a “tweaker.” The mouse and icons? Jobs saw a version at Xerox in 1979. The iPod? Music players were horrible. Similarly, looking at invention during the Industrial Revolution, 2 Northwestern economists have concluded that insufficient attention has been paid to the people who had the engineering prowess to improve the machines with which they worked.
For hot sauce, I wonder if a “tweaker” created Sriracha. A condiment that brought mouth burning flavor to a mild American diet, Sriracha was founded by a Vietnamese immigrant 33 years ago. Packaged in a glass bottle with a rooster imprint, the sauce distinguishes itself by requiring fresh rather than the dried jalapenos that market leader Tabasco, made by McIlhenny, uses. With demand having soared to 20 million bottles sold last year, Sriracha received the best-tasting hot sauce of the year award from Cook’s Illustrated in 2012, it was the Bon Appetit ingredient of the year in 2010 and it was a finalist in Lays’ Potato Chip new flavor contest.
My bottom line? Industries are invigorated by innovation from small newcomers. Perhaps like Southwest Airlines transformed the airline industry, a young upstart with a slightly different idea can change competition and fuel industry growth.
Sources and resources: Malcolm Gladwell’s tweakers article in the New Yorker is fascinating while this academic paper on the industrial revolution provides a more scholarly perspective. Meanwhile, with a video documentary on Sriracha having been in the news, articles on the firm are everywhere. Here, here and here are some of those stories. Finally, you can read more about the fastest growing US industries in this IBIS World report.
Here is the trailer from the Sriracha documentary: