Awassi Products makes Ebesse Zozo West African Hot Sauces
Hailing from Togo, Edmond Segbeaya brought with him a love of spicy food and an old family hot sauce recipe. His affinity for spice was soon apparent to Co-op staff, who marveled at the volume of habaneros Edmond purchased week after week. Upon tasting his traditional family recipe, the Kootenay Co-op pushed this Nelson immigrant to turn his love of hot sauce into a business!
Read on to learn how the Kootenay Co-op helped inspire this True Local business.
So Edmond, what do you make?
I manufacture Ebesse Zozo West African Hot Sauces, and at the moment, we have 8 products in our line.
Based on an old family recipe from Togo, West Africa, Ebesse Zozo Hot Sauce is definitively a BC product. The main ingredient is habanero pepper and all the ingredients are locally grown in BC (Grand Forks, Cawston, Keremeos, Oliver). The products are all made right here in Nelson, BC!
Can you describe your True Local product?
My extra mild variety is considered at least “five times hotter than Tabasco,” so you know, Ebesse Zozo is considered extremely hot! “Ebesse Zozo” is Togolese for hot pepper and gets its fiery heat from the Habanero pepper, which is native to Africa and abundant in Togo. The people of Togo eat hot foods at every meal… it just wouldn’t be the same without hot sauce.
You’ve been making Ebesse Zozo hot sauce since 2002. Tell me a little about what inspired you to start this business and how the Co-op was involved.
The idea for the business spawned from one of my family’s routine visits to the Kootenay Co-op. Our love for hot foods certainly caught the attention of a manager there, who wanted to know why we were purchasing entire crates of habaneros while most of the other customers could tolerate no more than one or two. After explaining to Ken Lister, then assistant produce manager, about our culture and how we grew up eating hot foods at every meal, he inspired and motivated me to promote, sell, and distribute Ebesse Zozo to as many places as possible. So I decided to start up Awassi as my company to promote my spicy product, and as you now know, the rest is history.
History in the making! Your hot sauce is touted as award-winning… What awards have you won?
2007 Scovie Awards
2nd Place in the Beverage category for Ebesse Zozo Cayenne Tincture
2006 America Best Zesty Professional Foods Contest
1st Place – Hot Sauce XXX no extract
2006 Fiery Food Challenge
3rd Place – BBQ Sauce Specialty category Ebesse Zozo Dipping Sauce
2006 Scovie Awards
2nd Place Hot Sauce Habanero base category
2005 Fiery Food Challenge
3rd Place – Condiment Dipping Sauce Category
2004 International Zesty Foods
1st Place – People’s Preference Award Category
2004 Fiery Food Challenge
2nd Place- Hot Sauce XXX, no extract (and that was also for the Medium strength!)
2004 Fiery Food Challenge
3rd Place – Hot Sauce XXX, no extract (and that was also for the Medium strength!)
Wow, that’s an impressive list! And you’ve been in Canadian media a number of times, too.
I was featured on many TV shows, and in newspapers, journals and magazines. In 2009, I was honoured to be included on CBC’s reality TV show, The Dragon’s Den. I didn’t win, but it was great exposure for me and my line of fiery hot sauce!
That host’s face when he tries the cayenne extract is priceless! What is your vision for your hot sauce business?
To have my Ebesse Zozo Hot Sauces listed in all kinds of stores across Canada and world wide.
Why is local important to you?
Because it brings local products to the community and also it’s another way to promote what’s good in our community to people from around the world.
If you could deliver a message directly to Co-op members, what would it be?
I’m very proud to be part of Co-op World. I’m a maker of hot sauces because of the opportunities that the Co-op gave me. Keep up the good work and thank you!