NEWTON FALLS, Ohio – After his line of barbecue sauces became a favorite in the Mahoning Valley, Guy Hughes was often asked if he had a sugar-free sauce.
He didn’t, so he got to work developing one.
“People were constantly asking me for a diabetic-friendly sauce,” Hughes, of Newton Falls, says. “I thought it would be important to come up with one that is equally as good as my regular sauces.”
The result was the G.Hughes line of sugar-free barbecue sauces and ketchup, which hit store shelves in 2014. And the reaction went beyond expectations.
While the original Guy’s Award Winning BBQ Sauce line is a regional success, the G.Hughes sugar-free line is being sold in stores across the country.
The sauce is manufactured according to Hughes’ recipe and specifications at Summer Garden Food Manufacturing in Boardman.
“It’s the No. 4 selling barbecue sauce line in the country,” says Doug Koller, director of specialty foods at Summer Garden. “It resonates with anyone looking to cut back on sugar.”
Summer Garden ships “an average of 500,000 bottles a week on the G. Hughes line,” Koller says.
G.Hughes sugar-free sauces are sold at Walmart, Kroger, Giant Eagle and other national and regional food retailers.
“I just got back from a vacation in Hawaii, and I saw it there,” Hughes says.
He was a bit surprised at its fast rise in the marketplace, but says the timing of its release was perfect.
“I believed [nationwide success] could happen but not as quickly as it has,” Hughes says. “It came in the nick of time with people becoming health-conscious. Diabetes is running rampant.”
G.Hughes sauces are also gluten-free, which appeals to those with celiac disease, he points out.
Sugar is replaced with sucrose in the sauces.
“The flavor is there,” Hughes says. “You don’t get the carmelization [that you get from a sauce with sugar]. But the flavor profile is spot on.”
One hurdle the product faced was shipping it fast enough to meet demand, he says.
“When I develop products, I try everyone else’s brand and compare it to mine,” Hughes says. “I take a lot of pride in my products and came up with something successful.”
Hughes has been in the barbecue industry all his life. He had some restaurants, including The Smoke Pit in Warren but closed them all in 2013.
He was also in the catering and concession stand business, and customers at festivals would frequently ask if they could buy a bottle of his sauce.
He soon reached a deal with Summer Garden to make and distribute Guy’s Award Winning BBQ Sauce.
While his focus remains on bottled sauces, his concession truck still is a mainstay at a few larger festivals in the area, including the Youngstown and Warren Italian festivals.
Pictured: Guy Hughes’ sugar-free sauces are sold nationwide.