A Silver Lining, My Autoimmune Disease Led Me to Create Sauce Bae Hot Sauce

My name is Kevin Carbone, I’m 29, and I am the creator of Sauce Bae. 

What is Sauce Bae? It’s a pineapple habanero hot sauce made with turmeric. To top it off, It’s low sodium and completely all-natural. Aside from its unique formula and health benefits, it genuinely tastes amazing, which is partly why it’s been exploding in popularity. 


Maybe you’ve already seen Sauce Bae while watching “Hot Ones” (season 9), or perhaps you’ve seen it while walking down the aisles of one of your favorite retailers. Or you may have even seen it while merely browsing the internet — we have over 600 reviews on Amazon alone.


Like most entrepreneurs, I have a unique story — one that led me down this spicy path. When I was 21, during my final year at college, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis. Before being diagnosed, I already knew that something was wrong, but I ignored all of the signs for months until I became so sick that I eventually had to go to the hospital. I was diagnosed soon after that hospital visit, where I also learned there isn’t a cure.


Without a doubt, that diagnosis was the most life-altering thing to ever happen to me. I became so sick at one point that I hardly left my room for a couple of months, and at the age of 21, I wondered if this was what the rest of my life would look like. I was on all the recommended medications and, although for a short while I did start to get better, soon my health plummeted to its worst, leaving me feeling both helpless and broken. 


Doctors told me that diet had minimal impact on the disease, but I refused to accept that, mainly because I could no longer rely solely on medication. Determined to gain back control of my life, I set out on a journey towards better health. I wanted to explore the impact that diet had on my disease. While on this journey, I came to a couple of realizations that allowed me to take back control of my health which then led me to create Sauce Bae.


I arrived at three significant realizations. 


First, just because a food product is marketed as healthy does not mean that it is. Too often, we fall for buzzwords without checking the ingredients to find out the truth. There are plenty of items marketed as “all-natural” even though their ingredient list suggests otherwise. Brands aren’t going to advertise their product’s faults on the front of the packaging, so you have to check the ingredients.


Second, we need to focus less on how much fat or sugar a product has and more on the quality of the ingredients. Fats and sugars are not the enemies when coming from wholesome ingredients; however, additives and artificial ingredients are things we should be avoiding. We should focus on eating real, whole foods in their natural forms and products made with real ingredients only — you know, the stuff you can actually pronounce. 


Lastly, some foods may naturally help fight against inflammation, like turmeric, and should be incorporated into our diet. Ulcerative Colitis, like most autoimmune diseases, causes inflammation in the body. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into our diet is a natural way to combat unwanted inflammation.


These findings sparked my desire to create a product that used turmeric and held true to being all-natural. After a lot of thought, I realized the hot sauce category presented the perfect opportunity, so I seized on it. Most hot sauces on the market were loaded with sodium, and contained either artificial preservatives or fake thickeners like Xanthan Gum. I was ready to change that. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, not only because I was setting out to create something that didn’t exist, but because I had zero culinary background. 


For four months straight, I made hot sauce every day until I had my “Aha!” moment. 


Do you know what it’s like to make hot sauce for two months every single day and hate every single batch? I spent countless hours making sauces that I ultimately threw away because of how inedible it was, just to wake up and do it all over again. That’s pretty much what I went through during the first half of my journey. But persistence is the name of the game, and eventually, one night in 2017, I got there. That same night, I went to my buddy’s house for a get-together and brought samples of the sauce. My friend, Joe Anicic, loved it so much that he literally drank half of the bottle (he was a little tipsy). Joe’s hilarious chug, along with everyone else’s praise, affirmed for me that I finally accomplished what I set out to do — I had created the Sauce Bae recipe. 


None of that would have ever happened if I had not been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in college.  


At one point in time, I would have said my autoimmune disease was the worst thing that had ever happened to me, but looking back, it changed my life in positive ways that I would have never imagined. Having this disease has single-handedly prepared me to become the ultimate entrepreneur because when you spend years dealing with the daily stress and uncertainties that a lifelong disease brings, you become a master at managing stress and dealing with surprises, simply because you kind of have to. 


As an entrepreneur, you face unimaginable roadblocks, stuff goes terribly wrong, you lose hope at times, and all while having an infinite list of things to do. 


I can’t count how many times I went from feeling euphoric to feeling like I got sucker-punched in the stomach because a bomb was dropped on my lap moments after achieving an incredible milestone. While many people can’t handle such drastic situations that go from great to terrible at the drop of a hat, my autoimmune disease conditioned me to thrive in them. 


This disease humbled me. I learned to appreciate the simple things in life, just waking up healthy or spending time with my dog is a beautiful day. This disease also made me compassionate. When my health was at its worst, I was still in amazing physical shape so only my close friends knew what was going on in my life. This made me realize that many of us struggle without displaying any physical signs on the outside, so you never know what others are really going through.


No matter how bad your struggle gets, you have to stay optimistic because there is a silver lining in every struggle, sometimes it finds you, but often times you have to either find it or create one yourself. This is why being optimistic is key, because otherwise you’ll miss that silver lining if you’re not in the right mindset.  


Now, Sauce Bae is available at over 350 retail locations — it can be found nationally at World Market and select GNC stores in the tri-state area. Sauce Bae is also making its first major debut into the grocery channel thanks to Nugget Markets in California. Many would consider Sauce Bae to be a huge success already, but I won’t stop pushing until I achieve the goal that I set for myself on Day One — to see Sauce Bae on the shelves of every major grocery store. Now that Sauce Bae is available through UNFI, a major wholesaler, that objective is not very far out of reach. 


I have a genuine driving force behind me, and it’s much bigger than hot sauce. I’m on a mission to make an impactful change in the food industry, and hot sauce is just a stepping stone for me.


I already have my next food idea, and it’s not hot sauce, so stay tuned!


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