Do you love spicy foods?
Then let me introduce you to The Grumpy Man salsa. This unique family recipe uses the datil pepper, as opposed to the traditional jalapeno pepper. The datil pepper has a hot taste that is similar to the habanero pepper but its flavor is fruitier and sweeter.
“We give credit to my grandad for discovering the datil pepper. My mom and dad came up with the salsa recipe. We are called The Grumpy Man, because my grandad was, well, grumpy,” says Nathan Sanford of Purvis, who owns the business with his mother, Donna, and his father, Darrell. “Grandad had very high expectations for the people he employed and very little patience for laziness. He expected his employees to arrive at work 15 minutes early and stay overtime.”
The Sanfords grow some of their datil peppers themselves, but buy a majority of them from farmers in the St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida, areas.
“I take a bite out of one pepper in every batch, just to ensure that the quality is there,” Nathan said with a grin. “I have learned to immediately spit it out and not swallow it.”
Nathan says texture also sets The Grumpy Man salsa apart from its competitors. He and his father process their tomatoes to a finer consistency.
“Our texture is better,” he said. “Our salsa doesn’t have the tomato chunks that other salsas have.”
Nathan’s father came up with the idea of selling the family salsa in 2013. It has been produced commercially ever since. Along the way, father and son have tweaked the recipe some, and you may now find mild, medium and hot versions.
“My dad is a visionary who enjoys sharing something he loves with others,” Nathan says. “The picture we use on the label is kind of a composite of my dad and granddad. We are looking at doing a new Grumpy Man drawing. Our product is on the higher end of most price points, so we want to convey more of that in our packaging.”
In the beginning, the Sanfords rented a commercial kitchen at a local restaurant in Purvis. From there, they moved into a larger facility. Their cooking and packing facilities are certified by the Mississippi Department of Health. The Sanfords work on the salsa one day a week, producing approximately 450 jars each time.
Nathan says he and his father don’t warehouse large volumes of foods, so it is usually only a matter of a few days between the time their products leave their kettle and land on store shelves.
“This guarantees our customers a fresher, more flavorful tasting experience than the big national companies can offer,” he said. “Also, as a small family-owned business, we are intimately involved in every step, from purchasing ingredients, cooking, filling and quality control. We have our hands on the wheel the whole time.”
The Sanfords are working on a salsa verde (green salsa), which uses tomatillos instead of traditional tomatoes. In addition to the salsa, they sell a pepper jelly. Future plans are to offer a bigger variety of pepper jellies seasonally, including blueberry, pineapple, mint and cranberry. They also plan to offer a meat glaze.
“We are growing organically, and I believe that is the best way to approach this type of business,” Nathan said. “We are trying to add more stores and more products as we can.”
The Grumpy Man salsa is sold to a few local restaurants. Products can also be found in close to 100 stores in Mississippi and across the Gulf Coast – from New Orleans to Destin. Some of the stores include select Rameys, Winn Dixies, Sunflowers, Corner Groceries, Grocery Depots and specialty stores. In the Jackson area, you will find The Grumpy Man at Donna’s #6 on Highway 49 between Florence and Star and at Rainbow Co-op and the McDade’s stores in Jackson.
The Sanfords started out selling their products at farmers markets on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in Hattiesburg, and they try to stay in touch with a few of those markets today. Nathan wants to eventually do more internet sales.
The Grumpy Man has a website, Facebook page and Instagram account. For more information, call (601) 606-8683. You may email Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the Facebook page or visit the website at grumpymanfoods.com.
Nathan has a degree in economics from the University of Southern Mississippi. Darrell is a pastor. The Sanfords are Lamar County Farm Bureau members.