Ford’s Gourmet Foods to be honored as first N.C. Exporter of the Year
Speeches Page

North Carolina Exporter of the Year Award
(left to right) Lynn, Sandi, and Patrick Ford

Patrick Ford's Acceptance Speech - North Carolina's First Ever Exporter of the Year

Good afternoon. My name is Patrick Ford; I am the international marketing director of Ford’s Gourmet Foods and Sandi’s youngest son. I am honored to have been nominated for this by Bob Sutter and then selected by the North Carolina Agriculture Department toPatrick Fords Acceptance Speech - North Carolina Exporter of the Year receive this prestigious award and allowing me to speak to you today. Thank you Bob and Thank you NCDA.

Let me say that I am proud of my family, our company, our brands and our great state. I am happy to share some of our story. This story if filled with successes and failures, insights, good business, research and unimaginable breakthroughs. There has been a lot of laughter, cooking, travel, and friends. It is a story that spans 4 generations of Ford family, a brand all its own.

My family has been in the food business for many years. My great-grandfather, Andrew J. Ford and his sons Connie Mac (my grandfather) and Carl had a small farm outside of Raleigh back in the late 1930s. With a small crop surplus to sell one year, they founded Ford’s Produce. My parents, Lynn and Sandi Ford took over the business from my grandfather who retired in 1985. My mother began a new division, Ford’s Fancy Fruits , a fruit basket company.

My uncle, Phillip Ford, developed, what is known today as, Bone Suckin’ Sauce in 1987 while trying to perfect his mother’s recipe for western North Carolina style barbecue sauce. Family and friends kept telling him that he needed to bottle and sell his sauce. People loved it when he gave it away, they would go nuts, but Phil never thought anyone would pay for his family’s sauce. My mom, his sister-in-law, had years of experience in the gourmet food business and she had other ideas, as successful business people often do. After 5 years of talk, in September 1992, Mom and Dad told Uncle Phil they’d like to be his partners in bringing his sauce to market. The deal was; he’d make it and they’d give it a name and sell it. While driving to Charleston, South Carolina, Mom was preoccupied with the task of coming up with a name. She thought about how good it was and how it made her mother do something she’d never done before – suck on the bones to get every last little bit of flavor. A name was born and the sauce launched in November, 1992. I was 19 years old attending the College of Charleston, and I started selling sauce store by store. I used to drop off a jar for the owner or buyer to sample and tell them that I would be back the next week to get their order. And there I was the next week, order pad in hand. I graduated and re-joined the family business with my mother, father and my brother Vaughn in 1997. We represent the small family business. We get up early, stay late, and don’t take days off. We do this to be able to seize opportunities. I work alongside the rest of my family. My dad takes care of all of the production; my brother is in charge of picking up the sauce from the plant in Dunn and bringing it into our warehouse at the state farmer’s market in Raleigh. My mom is the organizational one and I am in charge of the sales.

It is important for us, at Ford’s, to revisit this history because it guides decisions we make about our brand. Our history is one of our brand pillars.

Although our company’s growth in recent years into an internationally recognized gourmet food company has been the highlight of my career thus far it has not been without constant hard work, persistence and insight.

Breaking into a foreign market doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of building familiarity by having a presence at trade shows, sending samples, advertising, in-store sampling, and building relationships with buyers to make a product successful on foreign soil.

It is important to understand the many things that can affect your business and to be prepared for anything and everything to get thrown in your direction. Just when you think everything is going in the right direction get ready to duck, because here comes the kitchen sink. In one of our best examples we had the opportunity to learn about DEFRA? DEFRA is the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Exporter of the Year Picture with NCDAFood and Rural Affairs. We became very familiar with them a couple of years ago. One of our largest customers in the UK had us overnight a pallet of sauce on an AA flight from Raleigh to London because it was Christmas and they were almost out of sauce. The next day our customer calls us and can’t find the product. My office tracks the shipment and we discover that the pallet was sitting at customs at Gatwick airport. Upon arrival, they had questions about honey in the sauce. Evidentially, they were interpreting a law in such a way that the percentage of honey in the sauce qualified the sauce as containing animal byproduct. We were then asked to provide an Apiary certificate. A WHAT? We were then told that if we could not produce an apiary certificate that the shipment would be destroyed at our cost, and that the two containers in the water we had on the way to the UK would be destroyed when they reached the shore. I was on my way to a wedding when Darlene, our office manager called and let me know what was going on. I called the FDA they said “we don’t do Apiary certificates”. So then I called the National Honey board and they said they had never heard of an apiary certificate. I called the North Carolina Department of Agriculture who sprung into action finding out all that they could about UK DEFRA laws. They told me to talk to the Chief Veterinary Surgeon in the UK who then told us to contact the man who wrote the UK law. 2 Days later, after speaking with over eight different sources and finally Chris Williamson, the man who had written the DEFRA law, we found out that the law was not intended for us it was written for bee’s WAX. So customs released our sauce and Christmas was saved! Interestingly enough we found out that each port of entry in the UK is allowed to interpret the laws as they see fit. We had been shipping only by boat and never by air. Moral of the story: nothing is a done deal, be prepared for problems and know who to call.

Nobody thought we should make Bone Suckin’ Sauce.

My mom and dad went to the label maker to make the first label. He told them that another barbecue sauce was ridiculous and no one would buy Bone Suckin’ Sauce, especially in the south. My parents pressed on and ordered the first labels.

Then my dad ordered the first pallet from our bottler and after receiving ½ of his ordered my dad called him to inquire. Our bottler told my dad that he appreciated his enthusiasm but he had seen so many people try and fail that he only thought he should make a small run. Dad told him that he needed the whole pallet please.

We still work with the same bottler and label maker to this date. Our orders are taken a little more seriously now. Thank goodness. Sometimes it pays to go against the grain. It also pays to have a strong relationship with your suppliers and vendors. We work very closely now with our suppliers to forecast and produce consistently good products that are able to withstand the overseas shipping requirements.

Bone Suckin’ Sauce is second to none in its category and once people try the sauce they are convinced of the same. The name is the #1 reason people pick up a jar of Bone Suckin' Sauce! The flavor brings them back for more. So our biggest challenge is getting samples of sauce out there. We have found that international trade shows, contests, and in-store demonstrations are the best ways to really get sauce in people’s hands.

I remember watching one of our customers, Mrs. Virginia Smalls, sell sauce in the Charleston, South Carolina market. Curious to what made this woman stand out in a market full of very persuasive business people. I noticed something really funny. She was selling Hot Bone Suckin’ Sauce.Exporter of the Year Award with Peter Thornton, Sandi Ford, Patrick Ford But we didn’t have a Hot Bone Suckin’ Sauce yet. She found that she could sell 2 jars to the same customer if one was regular and one was “hot.” We came out with Hot Bone Suckin’ Sauce within six months. It is now one of our top sellers.

I learned a lot from Mrs. Smalls that I definitely still use today. I used to go to the market and just watch her interaction with customers. She was a true sales person. Her livelihood depended on it. My parents came to visit me one time in Charleston and we went to visit Mrs. Smalls. After all she was our only out of state customer back in 1993. She taught us to read the customer. In her many, many years of selling she had figured people out. If a person had their hands in their pocket they were not going to buy. If they had their hands out of the pockets handling products they were a buyer. My dad had his hands in his pockets and my mom was wide open and ready to shop. We all laughed. Mrs. Smalls also figured out that she could stay and work if I would take her kids to their dentist appointments. But that’s a different story.

Finally, use your resources. There are organizations both business and government out there to help you. They want to support your business and many times they may have funds to help you along. We have be fortunate to work with: The North Carolina Department of Agriculture, SUSTA, Foreign Agriculture Service, NC Peanut Council, US Peanut Council, National Honey Board, Food and Drug Administration, The US Department of Commerce, and the list could go on and on.

The NCDA is currently helping us put together a marketing plan for Japan for 2009. NCDA are professionals, waiting to help you with your marketing plans, funding, labeling laws, trademarks and whatever else you can think of, they can usually point you in the right direction or refer you to someone who can. We are so appreciative to Commissioner Troxler and his staff. Thank you.

Sandi Ford's Acceptance Speech - North Carolina Exporter of the Year

Thank You Peter, Tom and Myrtle and the Department of Agriculture.
This is truly an honor.

Our international success comes from having the right people working with us.
In 1994 we got our first foreign order from the Fakta chain of stores in Denmark for 700 cases of Bone Suckin’ Sauce. Our biggest order before that had been 10 cases.

I lost many hours of sleep from the excitement and the fear of that order.

I lost sleep over filling out my first letter of credit - reading all that fine print
Making sure I crossed every T and dotted every I.
I’d heard horror stories about your payments being held up for month because of little typos in the form.

I lost sleep when I had to fill out the custom documents and learn about their foreign currency.

I lost more sleep when I realized our product still belonged to us and was traveling by boat over the ocean.

After calling the Dept. of Agriculture and asking for help. Their International Marketing Dept Team Wayne Miller and Britt Cobb told me about Wayne Loot’s Wake Tech class on World Trade.

How wonderful it was to found out about prepaid wires and making sure you do not offend your potential customer when you require the talks to be in a language you understand – English..

I’m not afraid of foreign trade when we talk in US Dollars.

Don’t ever think your company is too small to export. You have the staff and resources in NC to do it.

Every business strives to have the right people in the right jobs at the right time when the opportunity for international trade knocks.

Our division, Ford’s Gourmet Foods, works with a staff of 12 including Patrick & myself. 10 dependable, loyal warehouse and office people – ages range from 20 to 79.
Patrick, my youngest son, handles our marketing and sales. He studies the international markets - the country, their customs, the stores, the customers. Patrick makes the contacts and follows up. You have to follow up.
Lynn, my husband, our wise mentor, quality control and budget setter, runs our parent company, Ford’s Produce.
Vaughn, my oldest son, handles our freight of incoming product.

And our extended staff:
Our 4 quality sauce and nut co-packers, our suppliers and distributors
Stores owners that work 60 + hours a week that romance our products
Our family, friends and repeat customers that honor us buying our products

AND our extended organization promoters:
The NC Dept of Agriculture, The Got To Be NC Program,
Wake Tech’s World Trade Center, NCSU and Dr. John Rushing,
The US Peanut Council, NASFT, NC Specialty Food Association,
And SUSTA … who support us with marketing funds and have taken the fear out of foreign trade

By my estimation, our small North Carolina business of 12 has one of the largest extended staffs of the best qualified people in the right jobs in the whole USA,
working with us to export our North Carolina sauces and nuts.

A few month’s ago I made a promise to Patrick.
I promised not say “Gosh, we’re so lucky” again.
Patrick said “Mom, we’re not lucky – we work hard.”

I’ve looked for another word to describe how fortunate I feel to be succeeding in this competitive business. Couldn’t find one.
But now I will say “We’re worked hard at being lucky” and having all these qualified people working with our company everyday.
On behalf of all of us at Ford’s Gourmet Foods, we thank you for this award !


Press Releases: North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Ford's Gourmet Foods
Speeches: Patrick Ford, Sandi Ford

Bone Suckin' Sauce is true to it's name! For Recipes Click Here
The serious barbecue, grilling & marinating sauce for land
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Bone Suckin' Sauce is the best tasting barbecue sauce and marinade!  On top of being the best tasting it is all natural, no high fructose corn syrup, fat free, gluten free, and certified kosher.
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"We love that it’s naturally sweetened with honey and molasses, and packed with flavor from apple cider vinegar, horse-radish, and mustard. With all this and a hint of smoke, Bone Suckin’ Sauce is great for grilling and dipping. Grade A+" Health Magazine
"There are a million barbecue sauces, but we fell for the Ford family's... The sauce rocks." Newsweek
Fox News "How To Cook Bone Suckin' Ribs"
"As a transplanted South Carolinian, I LOVE the Bone Suckin' Mustard! It is my family's favorite.  I use it on pulled pork, chicken, and as a condiment for grilled veggies." Liz
"I think all of your products rock.  I use the Bone Suckin Sauce on everthing from eggs to fish to chicken to rice to steak.  It is by far the best tasting sauce on the market." Todd