“Phil Ford, a real estate appraiser and father of four in Raleigh, North Carolina, developed his sauce around 1987 while trying to copy his mother's recipe for a western North Carolina-style barbecue sauce. The resulting all natural, fat-free, fragrant blend includes: tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, molasses, mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, onions, garlic, peppers, natural hickory smoke, natural spices and salt."
"Folks kept telling him that he needed to do something with the sauce - like bottle it and sell it! People loved it when he gave it away, but Phil never thought anyone would pay for his sauce. His brother Lynn Ford and his sister-in-law, Sandi Ford, owners of Ford's Fancy Fruits & Gourmet Foods in Raleigh, had years of experience in the gourmet food business and had other thoughts, They encouraged him to no avail. Then finally in the summer of 1992, Sandi and her husband Lynn, told Phil they'd like to be his partners in bringing his sauce to market. They would find someone to make it, give it a name and sell it. While driving to Charleston, South Carolina a short time later, Sandi was preoccupied with the task of coming up with a name. She thought about how go-o-o-d it was and how it made her do something she'd never done before -- suck on the bones to get the last little bit of flavor. A name was born and the sauce was launched in November, 1992." ...Taken in part from an article by L. Harrell
They teamed up with John Quinn, a NC co-packer in the fall of 1992. Quinn’s Specialty Foods had the factory set-up and FDA certifications. This gave the Fords a jump-start in producing their sauce and could concentrate on the marketing and distribution. They placed an order with Quinn’s for 100 cases and made their first sale of the sauce in October 1992. The whole family got involved. Lynn and Sandi loaded up their car and traveled from the mountains to the coast of North Carolina selling the sauce to retailers. Vaughn, Lynn and Sandi’s oldest son, took cases of sauce to sell to stores in the mountains of NC. Patrick, their youngest son, sold to their first out-of-state customer, Virginia Smalls, Inc., a distributor on the Charleston, South Carolina Market. That meant that tourists bought and took their delicious sauce all over the USA.
Phillip and his family began traveling around North Carolina doing in-store samplings.
The rise in fame of their core product, “Bone-Suckin’ Sauce,” began when Bone Suckin’ Sauce won “the NC Battle of the Sauces” in the March 1994. 17 NC sauce producers joined forces with the NC State Farmers Market and North Carolina Department of Agriculture to put on “the NC Battle of the Sauces.” The first battle was in 1992 and continued for six years, eventually drawing crowds of more than 10,000 people. Bone Suckin’ Sauce always won “Best in Sales” placing it in the Winner’s Circle, the elite category of past 1st Place Winners.
Ford’s Gourmet Foods
Ford’s Gourmet Foods is the Prime Distributor of Bone Suckin’ Sauce products.
The origins of the business are rooted in a fourth generation produce company started in 1946. Lynn and Sandi Ford joined the family business in 1973 and expanded the business in 1986 by creating “Ford’s Fancy Fruits & Gourmet Foods,” which sold fruit baskets including NC peanuts, later expanding to open 2 retail stores carrying more than 400 NC gourmet food items from around the State.
The firm began considering exporting in the summer of 1994. The owners had been going to the NASFT (National Association of the Specialty Food Trade) International Fancy Food Show in New York City for years as buyers, looking for good packaging for their retail gourmet food stores. Then luck helped. Elberson, Singer and Shuler, a newly formed advertising company out of Charlotte and now known as Elberson Partners, offered to put together an ad campaign. The owners of Ford’s Fancy Fruits strongly believe this creative talent was essential in making their company look stable and professional. So in 1994, Ford’s went to their first International Fancy Food Show as a seller on the other side of the aisle, debuting Bone Suckin’ Sauce to 50,000 buyers from around the world. Walt Disney World became one of their first customers from the show by placing their order on the first day they returned to Orlando, FL.
At that show, foreign customers approached their small 10’ x 10’ booth, including the senior gourmet buyer from Harvey Nichols in London, a version of “Harrod’s” meant for locals. The ad campaign materials were so good that they attracted media coverage. A writer/photographer from The New York Times was impressed enough to mention “Bone Suckin’ Sauce” on the first page of the food section the second day of the show. Soon Canada’s “Bruno’s,” based out of Toronto, wanted to carry the product in four of its stores.
Today the firm exports to over 56 countries. About 15-20% of its business comes from these exports, and both their domestic and export sales are growing. With Vaughn Ford joining the company in 1993 and Patrick Ford joining the company in 1996, Ford's Gourmet Foods continues to develop gourmet foods concentrating on clean, all natural and gluten free products.