Photo courtesy Bitchin Sauce
Several flavors of Bitchin Sauce, made in San Diego, available nationwide.
About ten years ago, young mom and aspiring personal chef Starr Edwards started bringing her food samples to farmers markets in Leucadia and San Marcos, hoping to drum up business.
The Bitchin name took off, and though Starr Edwards allows the SoCal slang probably bemuses a few folks around the East Coast and Midwest, it doesn’t seem to have hindered sales.
Photograph by Miller Hawkins
Among her samples was a creamy, almond based sauce she’d come up as a 16- year-old trying to make her vegan diet more appealing. She blended raw almonds with garlic, lemon, tamari, grapeseed oil, and nutritional yeast. At home, she liked to cook with it, use it as a salad dressing, or to spruce up a bowl of beans and rice. But the easiest way to share with farmers market customers was to serve it with tortilla chips. “When we went to the farmers market, that was the first time it was used as a dip,” Edwards recalls.
She didn’t get any work as a personal chef, but she got a lot of people clamoring for that dip. Within six months, she was selling it at 25 farmers markets around Southern California. By the end of that first year, she’d sold about 100,000 tubs of the addictive almond dip she began to market as Bitchin Sauce.
And this year, the company she built around Bitchin Sauce expects to sell somewhere in the range of nine million tubs. Not just in San Diego, but in nearly 7,500 stores nationwide, not just natural food stores, but large chains including Whole Foods, Costco, Albertsons, Vons, Safeway, 7/11, Target, and as of this month, Sprouts. Meanwhile, food bloggers around the country have spent hours developing copycat recipes to share with their readers.
For most of the 20-teens, Bitchin Sauce was a weekly fixture of San Diego farmers markets, emerging as one of the community’s greatest success stories.
Starr Edwards and husband and co-founder L.A. Edwards selling Bitchin Sauce at a local farmers market.
Photo courtesy Bitchin Sauce
Though it bears a passing resemblance to hummus, the less pasty, almond-based sauce doesn’t really belong to any existing condiment tradition. So Edwards had to give it a name. She wanted to convey wholesome branding, that also reflected her beachy, SoCal roots.
“I was trying to find a word that could communicate that,” she tells me. “I googled awesome sauce, but it was taken.” Instead, the Bitchin name took off, and though Edwards allows the SoCal slang probably bemuses a few folks around the East Coast and Midwest, it doesn’t seem to have hindered sales.
The original, addictive, savory flavor has expanded to an entire product line, including sweet and savory options ranging from chipotle, pesto, and cilantro chili to chocolate and salted caramel. A line made with organic almonds includes spinach artichoke and Buffalo sauce. A “Snacker” line packages the stuff with tortilla chips or carrots for single serve dipping.
A lot of the people who buy Bitchin Sauce probably don’t care that it’s vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and kosher. And they probably don’t give much notice that it’s made in Carlsbad. But around here, we can appreciate the homegrown business, launched by a 21-year-old, now operates with 77 employees, with on-site child care (“Bitchin Kids”), and the potential to make Bitchin Sauce a household name along the lines of A1 Sauce or Ranch Dressing.
“Our end goal,” says Edwards, “would be to have a trademark for Bitchin Sauce, so you just always know” that’s that almond dip from Southern California!”