The Panola Pepper Company in northeast Louisiana has been turning out its spicy blend of hot sauces for nearly forty years. In addition to adding heat to the dinner table, Grandma’s secret recipe is also adding jobs for this Louisiana delta farm community.
For years, Katie Coullard’s grandmother would spend time stirring her spicy Louisiana hot sauce on the kitchen stove. “She was a fabulous cook”, Coullard says. “She made hot sauce at home and everyone always wanted it.” She passed that tradition on to her son, Grady “Bubber” Brown. He ran a large farming operation north of the town of Lake Providence. At times, this area has had the highest unemployment in the state. But in the winter of 1983, instead of laying off his seasonal workforce, Brown gave them new jobs. The farm hands went to work cooking and bottling his mother’s hot sauce. The hot sauce was a hit, and sold out within three months. Panola Pepper Corporation was born.
Louisiana hot sauce brings more jobs
In addition to the original family recipe, Panola now cooks and bottles a variety of flavors. Hot sauce is a hot commodity. According to Coullard, “Ketchup used to be the number one condiment in America. Now it’s hot sauce”. Panola Pepper has expanded far beyond its own Louisiana hot sauces. Now the company manufactures a number of different hot sauces and barbecue sauces for other brands. And that growth allows Panola to keep 40 employees year-round. That number swells to more than 80 workers during the busy season.
As Panola Pepper has grown its business, Coullard says the company has tried to strike a balance between mechanizing its operations and saving jobs. That approach is in line with her father’s original goal of providing more employment opportunities to the local farming economy. “He wasn’t looking to make a killing on hot sauce,” Coullard says. “He literally was doing this for the community.” You can stop by the company office north of Lake Providence and but a variety of hot sauces from the gift shop. But there are currently no tours of the manufacturing plant.