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The History of Crystal Hot Sauce

In 1923, Alvin Baumer moved to New Orleans and met his future wife, Mildred Bacher. She was the daughter of a wealthy New Orleans businessman and Baumer was between jobs, so he asked her father for a loan to buy Mill’s Fruit Products, a sno-ball syrup producer located on Tchoupitoulas Street. When he took ownership, he found a hot sauce recipe in the company’s archives, and Crystal hot sauce was born. Baumer immediately pivoted from making sno-ball syrups to making hot sauce using the recipe he found; he also began producing other preserves and canned goods. In the 1940s, the business became known as Baumer Foods Inc. and during World War II, most of the company’s production was devoted to making jellies and preserves for soldiers. A postwar boom caused the company to move to a larger factory space on Tulane Avenue. There, workers produced huge batches of Crystal hot sauce along with several other canned and preserved goods, including shrimp, green beans, okra, sweet potatoes, and kidney beans. Crystal hot sauce quickly gained popularity and developed a reputation for its balanced, versatile flavor. (Notably, the company still maintains exclusive rights to aged red cayenne peppers produced in Chihuahua, Mexico that are used in the recipe.) In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Baumer plant, like much of the city, was heavily damaged by flooding. After a months-long stoppage as the community dealt with the disaster, production resumed. Two years later, Crystal’s production moved to a new plant in Reserve, Louisiana. Today, Crystal hot sauce has a cult-like following and Baumer Foods produces a whopping 3 million gallons of Crystal hot sauce at its Reserve plant each year. Not only is it the top-selling hot sauce in Louisiana, Crystal is also the 9th-best-selling hot sauce in the United States and is shipped to over 75 different countries where it is enjoyed by its many devoted fans, who range from well-known professional chefs to casual enthusiasts.

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