A New Spin on Sauce

Bringing a product to market

Fifty years ago, you didn’t buy spaghetti sauce at the grocery store; it was made only by Italian grandmothers. Thirty years ago, many knew salsa only as a dance and Frank’s RedHot was used only on chicken wings and only in Buffalo. Today, you probably have a jar of each in your kitchen. Enter the white sauce, ubiquitous condiment of New York City food carts and a favorite at Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants.

Jamal Rasoully ’11 saw potential in the sauce that he and his family made for their New York City restaurants. He had long envisioned taking their white sauce to market. He said, “I was upset at the lack of consistency and quality of other restaurants’ white sauce. I wanted everyone to enjoy the same great taste that I had grown to love. I realized I could change the condiment landscape.” The Afghan Pashto word for “white” sounds like “spin.” Rasoully said, “The word Speen means white. So Spin means white and worked perfectly because the condiment is a dressing with a spin on it and adds a spin to any meal.”

The route to market was not simple. Friends and family tried to dissuade him, citing the “millions of sauces” currently on the market. Rasoully knew that he knew nothing and had to learn everything. He had no experience producing a product, so he researched. And researched. And researched. The condiment industry. The competition. The regulations.

Encouraged by what he found, including data showing 33% annual growth in the condiment industry, an 11% increase in consumers eating Mediterranean cuisine in 2016 and sales of Halal foods up one-third by 2010, Rasoully moved ahead. He needed to create a formula that could be replicated and commercialized, more specific than his family’s recipe of “a little of this, a pinch of that.”
Like grandma’s spaghetti sauce, white sauce varies by who is making it – some are yogurt-based, others are mayo-based. Rasoully was determined to create the standard of white sauce, a consistent flavor that would appeal to many tastes and could be used on a variety of food.

Rasoully said, “I was dependent on my taste buds and mood when creating batches for our restaurants. I told customers that it was so tasty because I made it with love. Through my research I quickly learned that you can’t easily convert love to measurements. I taught myself the proper way to weigh food. I bought a scale and measurement tools and documented each batch using best practices I learned through my research.”
He noted, “R and D runs are at your own cost. We ran several trials. There were setbacks.” After researching and interviewing producers, he chose the closest one to minimize shipping expenses. The factory created a sample batch that met Rasoully’s expectations. When the larger-scale run did not match it was “tough luck.” He ate the cost. Maybe literally.

Rasoully hit the reset button, researched dozens of manufacturers and ultimately created a list of questions to ensure that production met his short and long term goals. He said, “It wasn’t easy to find a company that was flexible enough to work with a startup and comfortable with my ambitions to take market share from Kraft. I chose the company based on clearly documented objectives and setting realistic deliverables.”

Spin Sauce was on its way, boosted by some amazing publicity. The New York Times, epicurean authority for foodies everywhere, wrote about Rasoully’s “white sauce drizzled on everything.”
The mention was not by chance. He hounded New York Times food editors to cover his product.

This winter, Schenectady-based Market 32, formerly known as Price Chopper, will join the Patel Brothers Indian grocery chain, Kalustyan’s in Manhattan and his family’s Capital Region restaurant, Ariana, in selling Spin Sauce. The condiment will be in 200 stores by the end of the year and may soon appear next to the jar of salsa in your pantry.