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Grim Reaper Foods: our favourite chilli product makers

As part of our 'olive loves small-scale producers' season, we talk to Hemel Hempstead-based Grim Reaper Foods, who make specialist chilli products.

Visiting a chilli festival inspired chef Russell Williams to start experimenting with his own sauces. Realising that many products on the market either had very little flavour and too much heat, or bags of flavour and no heat, he set out to make something with both. He works closely with other British producers, buying his chillies from Bedford, Dorset and Wiltshire and has support from many of the ‘chilli heads’ in what he describes as the ‘close-knit chilli community’.

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Growing up, Russell liked ‘Metallica, Megadeth… even Iron Maiden’ and when creating the Grim Reaper product range used images and names inspired by the music. He wanted something ‘in-your-face, not farm-shop style, all pretty with  a beautiful label’. A friend came up with the cloaked reaper image along with the tagline ‘heat that comes to you’.

Driven by desire for perfection, Russell admits that he enters all the competitions going and uses the feedback to monitor the success of his product range. He says it’s a bit like the regular appraisals he used to get in his previous career. At a crucial point in the development of The Grim Reaper, he excitedly recalls: ‘I entered The Evil One, a chilli sauce containing scotch bonnet, and won the competition’.

Redundancy in 2012 gave Russell ‘the kick he really needed to take the business forward’. The brand now includes sauces, extracts, mustard, syrup, beer, chocolate and rubs. Don’t miss Alchemy; a fantastic sweet chilli sauce with cognac, or Rookie Goblin ‘mischeviously mild’ and made with jalapeño. grimreaperfoods.com


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