“Bone Suckin’ Success”
“Raleigh company’s barbecue sauce has made big impression with memorable name”

Honey and molasses give western N.C.-style sauce sweeter taste”
“Raleigh company’s barbecue sauce has made big impression with memorable name”

“Raleigh — Let’s face it: When you name a product “Bone Suckin’ Sauce”, you’re making quite a statement.

You’re saying that the sauce is so good that people literally will want to eat every last drop - a pretty bold assertion given how picky barbecue aficionados can be about their sauces. You’re also saying that you’re a company that’s willing to take chances, unafraid that the name will be seen simply as a gimmick that overshadows the product itself.

And you’re not afraid of a potential controversy either, like when the label maker warns you that the moniker “Bone Suckin’ Sauce” is too, umm, colorful for the Bible Belt. But when you’re Sandi Ford, you also know to trust your gut that the name is a keeper.
“It sounded like there was something good in that jar,” says Ford, the matriarch of several family-owned companies that sell food products from a base at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. One of those products is the aforementioned barbecue sauce, whose name was Ford’s idea. Ford’s inspiration was her own mother, Mae, who was known to suck barbecue sauce off the bones of food so she could savor every last drop of flavor.

The name stuck, and food critics and casual barbecue lovers have been stuck on the sauce ever since. The sauce is available all over the United States, and also is sold in 26 countries around the world.

“The name’s catchy,” says Alan Bundy, the owner of B & B Pecan Processor, a Turkey, N.C.-based company that is one of the sauce’s many distributors. “That’s the first thing people look at and laugh about.”

Despite the name, it’s a high-end sauce, says Bundy. The product costs more than some, but the taste keeps people coming back, making it one of Bundy’s best sellers.

In addition to a whole line of sauces, the Ford family’s companies – Ford’s Produce, Ford’s Gourmet Foods and Ford’s Foods – also sell produce and snacks. It’s quite a change from the family business’ humble origins. (Founders were A.J., and sons Carl and Connie Mac Ford. They first started selling produce from A.J.‘s farm outside Clayton in the back of a truck owned by his son Connie Mac in 1946. Connie Mac and Carl’s sister, Annie Laurie Black, currently works at Ford’s Gourmet Foods.) The various companies that have sprung from that entrepreneurial endeavor now employ about 70 people.

Lynn Ford, who is Connie Mac Ford’s son, and his wife, Sandi, own Ford’s Produce and Ford’s Gourmet Foods along with their sons, Vaughn and Patrick. Ford’s Foods is owned by Sandi, Lynn and Lynn’s older brother Philip. It was Philip who first developed the Bone Suckin’ Sauce recipe while trying to copy an old recipe that his mother had used.
The sauce, which first hit the market in 1992, is a western North Carolina-style barbecue sauce in that it is a red sauce with a tomato-paste base.. The sauce also uses honey and molasses to give it a sweeter taste than eastern North Carolina sauces, which traditionally are vinegar-based, or a South Carolina-style sauce that uses a mustard base.

While North Carolinians often prefer the sauce on ribs or chicken, people in the Northeastern United States use it on steaks. Overseas customers also like the sauce with fish dishes.
The United Kingdom is one of the biggest overseas customers, with the Ford family selling 300,000 to 400,000 units of products such as barbecue sauce, nuts and other foods there each year.

How does a local firm break into over seas markets like that? Patrick Ford says that the company starts by researching trade shows to find out which ones are the best to attend, and also identifies the potential customers that he wants to meet there. He obtains information on the country and its economy – particularly in the sector he’s trying to penetrate – from U.S. Embassies.

“I read that before I book a trip to make sure I’m going to the right place,” Patrick Ford says. He advises keeping a trade booth display simple: a table with a sign and product samples. Another important component: third-party literature that can validate your product in the eyes of discriminating customers. Finally, it’s important to follow up with contacts you meet at trade shows as soon as possible – while the meeting is still fresh in their minds for maximum results, Patrick Ford says.”

“Business focus:
Three companies, Ford’s Food, Ford’s Produce and Ford’s Gourmet Foods, sell produce, sauces and snacks”
“Founded: 1946” “Employees: 70. Owners: Lynn and Sandi Ford and other relatives”
“Location: The State Farmers Market in Raleigh” Back