Students in Southeast Missouri State University’s hospitality management program have created the University’s first hot sauce – being marketed as Hawk Sauce – a fiery condiment heating up the campus and local community.
Hawk Sauce is currently available for purchase at Southeast’s Catapult Creative House, located at 612 Broadway in downtown Cape Girardeau, and at the Alumni Hospitality Tent on the Aleen Vogel Wehking Alumni Center lawn Oct. 26 during Homecoming tailgating festivities.
The concept for producing a hot sauce began as a hands-on sales and marketing hospitality management class project during the spring 2019 semester, said Dr. Quantella Noto, associate professor of hospitality management and hospitality management program director.
“I wanted to make the textbook come alive,” she said. “It was a creative opportunity to do something unique and let the students put the ideas we talk about into action.”
The students had to create a marketing plan; research recipes; taste-test and refine the final recipe; cook and bottle the sauce in the Dearmont kitchen; and create a label. This fall semester, the students made approximately 370 bottles of Hawk Sauce.
For Brianna Mitchell, a junior hospitality management major from Naperville, Illinois, the project was an exciting opportunity to learn how to create a real-world product from concept to market.
“This experience has been super rewarding and fun because it is not your typical classroom assignment,” Mitchell said. “To tie our work in the kitchen to an actual business product has taught me more than a textbook could teach. We got to put our classroom knowledge all together into one project. My favorite part was the bottling process because that is where the entire project comes together.”
The project was also an opportunity for the student to collaborate with other disciplines and offices, including Charlotte Cervantes, instructor of dietetics, who provided insight into FDA regulations and bottle label requirements; and Nate Saverino, assistant director of athletics for external affairs, who has helped the students partner with Southeast’s Department of Athletics.
The students taste-tested three sauce options, but ultimately selected a sauce using a Fresno pepper, which while not as spicy as traditional sauces, still provides a bright, unique flavor, Noto said. Additionally, their market research showed that the southeast Missouri region enjoys and prefers a mild sauce.
“We were striving for a signature sauce, and we wanted it to be unique, and a Fresno pepper is different and interesting,” she said. “It has a beautiful color, but it’s not too hot for people’s palates. It’s a sauce made from southeast Missouri for southeast Missouri.”
And the response from the campus and local communities has been exceedingly positive, with nearly 100 bottles being sold thus far. Additionally, Noto will be presenting a session about Hawk Sauce at the National Society of Experiential Education’s (NSEE) 29th Annual Conference in September 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“The positive response has been crazy and totally unexpected — who knew people would crave bottles of our hot sauce?” Mitchell said. “I am so proud to have been a part of this project, and I hadn’t even realized how cool this was until I found out about the demand we had created for our sauce. I’ve learned a lot about the true strength that word of mouth can have because everyone seemed to know about Hawk Sauce before we even had a finished product made. It is really special to be a part of a major that gets the opportunity to partake in something like this. I will definitely be able to use everything I’ve learned in this class in the future because I have seen what hard work can do and the success that comes from just an idea.”