‘Too’ Hot Mamas Brings Heat to Mahoning Valley
HUBBARD, Ohio – Getting into the pepper business wasn’t easy, but it’s not too much work for “Too” Hot Mamas, 129 N. Main St.
When Christina Frohman and Audra Horton got the idea to start a pepper company, they got an education in all that’s required to make and sell them. Having persevered, their company, “Too” Hot Mamas, sells canned peppers in 15 stores in the Mahoning Valley and western Pennsylvania.
“There’s not a lot of people that do it,” Horton says of the pepper business. “We really got that niche of the market because of the all the steps it does take to do this – to sell them, to can them, to offer them to the public.”
They cut the ribbon Friday to their first storefront on North Main Street.
Among the products for sale: Hots in Sauce (pepper rings in a red sauce), Hot Pepper Mustard (a sweet and spicy condiment) and Pickled Peppers (pepper rings in a garlic vinegar brine).
A mutual interest in peppers led the women to begin creating their own recipes, Frohman said.
“We played cards a lot, and we were constantly buying peppers,” she said. “A cousin came over with a pepper in a red sauce. We thought it was delicious, so we started experimenting and came up with all of these.”
Their first batch proved so popular that they soon began branching out. However, Frohman and Horton quickly learned that the legal requirements to make a food product for sale involved more time than they thought.
“We learned all the steps we needed to follow regulations with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, with the health department, and then we had to take online courses to open our own kitchen and learn the better process control behind being able to can and pack legally,” Horton said.
Developing recipes for sale also involves a detailed legal process, Horton said.
“When you come up with a recipe for peppers, you submit it to Cornell University, in our case, or an approved process authority,” she said.
The steps a producer takes in developing a recipe and preparing the food based on it must be documented and filed with the Food and Drug Administration.
“Everything we cook is measured by pH [the 14-step scale that measures acids and bases],” Horton says. “We have to fill forms out and keep them for three years in case there’s ever a product recall. So if something goes wrong, they have your logs to see where the process went wrong. We follow a lot of the same guidelines that winemakers follow.”
Frohman and Horton eventually hired a sales representative and began getting their peppers into stores, including the Giant Eagle supermarkets in Niles, Warren and Poland.
As they expanded operations, the women began looking for a permanent storefront for “Too” Hot Mama’s.
“We were selling out of area farmers’ markets and cooking at the Kitchen Incubator in Youngstown,” Horton said. “It was farther away and it takes hours of cooking for us to make enough to sell. So we wanted to find something close to home.”
Despite some initial nervousness, opening a storefront turned out to be the right move, Frohman said.
“There’s overhead with it, so it’s a little nerve-wracking at first,” she said, “but the response has been great in town.”
“Too” Hot Mama’s is at work on developing new recipes for the spring and summer. The owners plan to launch their “extra hot” line by June, Horton said.
“We’re going to come out with a little more mild line and an extra-hot line, so we should be good.”
Pictured: Tom and Audra Horton, Christina and John Frohman.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.