Product ‘too naughty’ for Coles, Woolies
Renae Bunster's hot sauce empire rakes in millions every single year - but you'll never find her popular products at your local Coles or Woolies.
The former TV journalist started making hot sauce for friends a few years ago, but it became a full-time job after a crowd-funding campaign to kickstart the business in 2015 raised $250,000 off a target of $65,000.
However, she realised she couldn't go down the traditional route of approaching supermarket juggernauts Coles and Woolworths due to her signature product's "too naughty" name - Sh*t the Bed Hot Sauce - which she joked would leave customers "fainting in the aisles".
Instead, the Perth mum sidestepped the major retailers and sold her cheeky range online and via IGAs and butchers.
Since launching her business from her own kitchen, sales have doubled every year and now, it rakes in more than $1 million annually.
And while other businesses struggled during coronavirus lockdown, Bunsters Hot Sauce thrived with March 2020 sales more than doubling the sales of March 2019.
Now, Ms Bunster is celebrating a fresh triumph after loyal fans across the world ponied up around $500,000 within days to buy a stake in her company - before the equity raise was even made public.
The funds from her latest capital raise will go towards ramping up production, launching new products and expanding further in to Asia and Europe, after having successfully conquered America and Canada.
"We never actually approached Coles and Woolies because we knew they wouldn't stock our products and it would be a waste of time - they wouldn't want old ladies fainting in the aisles doing their shopping," Ms Bunster told news.com.au.
"From the start we realised our name would prohibit stock from getting into shops so we doubled down and went hard by shipping online with really good distribution channels.
"When COVID-19 happened other businesses were chasing their tails and scrambling after lockdown but it was just another day for us and sales actually boomed. The same naughty name that stopped us from getting into Coles and Woolies actually made us a COVID winner, so who is laughing now?"
Ms Bunster said when she first launched her range, she went to her local supermarkets to check out other hot sauce brands and was shocked to find most were made overseas.
She said she would like to see Australia's major grocery chains do more to help small Australian businesses get their start.
"The sentiment right now is that people want to support Australian-made products and ingredients, and coronavirus made everyone realise we need to support Australian-made food - people are prepared to pay a little bit more for it," she said.
"Supporting Australian business at a time like this will help get our economy back on its feet faster.
"(The major supermarkets) should either take more of a chance on small Australian businesses or miss this golden opportunity."
Ms Bunster said she initially hoped the public equity raise would net $100,000, and that she had been "blown away" when it climbed to more than $300,000 within a week.
"We didn't realise we'd triple that amount in a week just from out fans," she said.
"My customers are my friends - I feel like I have 80,000 friends right now which is amazing, and we've gotten so many messages from people saying they've never invested in anything before, but they saw this and knew they had to.
"It's an exciting chance for everyday Aussies to own a piece of a great Australian export success story and I feel really motivated every day to make it a massive success."
Sh*t the Bed Hot sauce is regularly the top-selling hot sauce on Amazon USA and has been enjoyed by a range of celebrities including Natalie Portman, Wiz Kaleefa, Jeff Goldblum and Johnny Knoxville who all ate it on YouTube talk show hit Hot Ones.
View this post on Instagram
Hi I'm Renae Bunster and I make Bunsters hot sauce. Welcome to all the new followers who've joined us recently. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ If you like good hot sauce combined with toilet humour you're in the right place. I'm happy to serve you both. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I'm from Perth in Western Australia. We have quokkas and Shit the Bed hot sauce. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Where are you from and what do you have there?
Meanwhile, a Woolworths spokesman told news.com.au it was proud to stock items from many small Aussie businesses.
"At Woolworths, we're proud to champion the products of more than 2000 small suppliers across our Australian store network," the spokesman said.
"Our Local Sourcing Program offers small suppliers an entry point onto our shelves, without asking them to ramp up production to a national level. The program currently supports 300 suppliers - offering our customers access to more than 2200 high quality and locally relevant products in different parts of Australia.
"Several brands in our local sourcing program have grown from small beginnings in a few stores to being ranged nationwide. Others have chosen to stay in a handful of stores in a regional area."
Originally published as Product 'too naughty' for Coles, Woolies