Thinking outside the box while sometimes playing homage to some traditional sauces is what Lucky Dog Hot Sauce brings to the table.
Lucky Dog Hot Sauce owner Scott Zalkind has been a fiery foods enthusiast his entire life. About 13 years ago, he began experimenting with his own recipes. After years and a lot of trial and error, he knew he was getting somewhere when people began asking if they could buy his hot sauces and suggested he open his own company in California. He has since received 72 national awards for his hot sauces, which are available at lucky-dog-hot-sauce.myshopify.com.
“Eight years of experimentation, I had a stack of recipes that you wouldn’t believe,” he said. “I never throw away a recipe. When I launched, I had three really solid recipes, and I thought I’d go mild, medium and have a fire-roasted product line, and then I decided to release smoked sauces.”
The brand not only stands out for its unique flavor options but also its labeling, particularly its Year of the Dog and Día del Perro packaging.
Zalkind commissioned artist Robin Case to paint a Día de los Muertos version of his traditional hot sauce label, which features a dog in the center surrounded by a horseshoe. Case transformed the dog into a sugar skull and gave it sunflower eyes for Zalkind’s fondness of the flower. It was the beginning of other label art, which has been recognized with five national marketing awards, according to Zalkind.
“I’m a huge fan of Mexican culture,” Zalkind said. “… I always feel that I don’t want to go over that line, especially if I am doing an effigy of an animal instead of a human as a painting. I wanted to make sure it was respectful, so I talked to some Latin friends who said, yeah, most Día de los Muertos stuff is done with a wink and smile. That’s the whole idea, is not being so depressed over death, you’re celebrating the lives of the people and remembering them, so there’s always humor to it.”
Zalkind developed Year of the Dog, a Thai chile pineapple hot sauce that also features ginger and honey. Case designed the label to include the plants and flowers that are ingredients in the sauce such as mustard flower, ginger flower and a honeybee to represent the honey.
“If the sauce is good on the inside, the label should be pretty on the outside,” Zalkind said.
Case’s art also can be seen on Día del Perro, a Latin-style hot sauce inspired by taquería salsas.
As a tribute, Zalkind created Día del Perro, an alder-wood-smoked serrano sauce with tomatillo, toasted onion and roasted garlic with chiltepin and habanero-infused sea salt.
“By blending the multiple peppers, you get different layers of flavors for the peppers and different burns,” Zalkind said. “And the alder-wood smoke is very subtle. It’s the most subtle of all the smokes, so using the alder-wood smoked salts, it gives it this finishing note of a little bit of rich, smoky flavor that adds another layer to that tomatillo profile.”