When I think of Minnesota, barbecue isn’t the first dish that comes to mind. But Triple Crown BBQ Sauces are bringing northern heat to a southern comfort category.
Triple Crown recently introduced its Classic Limited Harvest Edition BBQ Sauce made with 100 percent Minnesota organic tomatoes, processed in Minneapolis.
“You can’t get fresher or more local than that,” said Andy Wright, owner of Triple Crown.
Wright has a long history in organic food as a grower, student, distributor and now producer. Years ago, he worked at the Red Cardinal Farm in Stillwater, the area’s first community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm. Then, at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, he studied policies related to farming, land use and the environment.
“I’d become interested in the economic, social and public health benefits of small organic farms,” Wright said. “And so I’ve been committed to organic practices ever since.”
In 2012, after working for Organic Valley of La Crosse, Wis., and then for Co-op Partners in Minneapolis (the wholesale distributor for Twin Cities food co-ops), Wright met Triple Crown’s creator, Rich Schaaf, whose sauce had won blue ribbons at the Minnesota State Fair three years in a row (hence the name).
“I love the product,” Wright said. “It’s a beautifully balanced blend of smoke, heat and tangy flavors.”
When Schaaf decided to retire, Wright took took over. “We kept his winning recipe while transforming it into a certified organic product. This meant tweaking a few things such as changing the beet sugar to natural cane sugar, for example,” said Wright.
“It’s been important for us to keep this sauce, both the limited harvest edition as well as the traditional sauces, affordable. These are not boutique products, but everyday sauces,” he said. “We’re proud of this special Minnesota edition made with local tomatoes, released once a year after the harvest. Our tomatoes are as good, if not better, than those from anyplace else.”
Available in more than 300 stores across the region and in New York City, Triple Crown is also sold in Sweden, Denmark and, soon, Dubai. Wright sees continued growth for organic American products overseas.
“Denmark, especially, values organic; people opt for quality over price,” Wright said. “The biggest challenge is meeting the different countries’ label requirements. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture provides terrific support for small food companies doing business overseas with a variety of really helpful programs.”
Triple Crown Classic Limited Harvest Edition BBQ, Triple Crown Classic and Triple Crown Cayenne sauces are available across the Midwest, including Lunds & Byerlys, Whole Foods and local co-ops, and online for about $5 per 14-ounce bottle. triplecrownbbqsauce.com.