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May 12, 2009 02:20 PM

Hot sauce factories—anyone ever been to one?

A friend and I were wondering what safety precautions might be like. Anyone ever been on a tour? Are the fumes intense or...?

Sure wouldn't want to fall into a vat, I'll tell you that.

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  1. I have always wanted to go to the Tabasco factory. I believe it is on an Island off the coast of Louisiana. Can you imagine how bad your eyes must water? Has anyone been there? I would love to hear about it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: The Shepherd

      It's on Avery Island, about 90 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, and I was there in 1987 (ack - I am old). I love factory tours in general, and this one was terrific. It was a little tough to breathe, and my eyes watered some, but so cool to see those immense vats of hot sauce being slowly stirred. I don't remember any unusual safety precautions, but I do remember the tour guide yelling "Tabasco Sauce! Is made! From three! Ingredients! Vinegar! Peppers! and salt!" Everyone got a few tiny bottles of Tabasco at the end. I started keeping one in my purse - you never know when you'll be eating breakfast in a diner that doesn't have hot sauce, and need to spice up your eggs.

      The website has a pretty good audio slideshow, no goggles or facemasks needed:

      1. re: The Shepherd

        I went on the Tabasco factory "tour" in 2000 and I thought it was lame. I saw a canned tour through a museum exhibit done up like a mock factory. Video monitors show the sauce making process but I didn't get anywhere near the places where the sauce is being produced, or aged. I got to see the bottling room from behind a window. Big whoop.

        Save yourself the trip and watch the audio slideshow on the Tabasco website.

        1. re: Professor Salt

          Ah. It has changed, then. Too bad. Maybe somebody fell in a vat between your tour and mine.

          1. re: small h

            "Maybe somebody fell in a vat between your tour and mine."

            Wonder if that was a particularly piquant batch?

      2. Visited Avery Island a couple of years ago and it is quite interesting. We were separated by a glass viewing area so I really do not remember there being any fumes etc. Like a previous post said we were all given a mini-bottle of Tabasco and you could also visit a shop where they had all the many different varieties of Tabasco. They also have a sort of wildlife park/gardens you can tour which was fun. Saw many alligators.

        4 Replies
        1. re: swamp

          Same here don't remember any discomfort, only Peter Jennings and his family being on the tour with us. That was more exciting.

          1. re: swamp

            Yeah, I did Avery Island last year. I think we were there on a slow day when the bottling line wasn't even operating. But the place SMELLED AMAZING. I honestly wasn't all that into Tabasco until that trip...but the smell still haunts me - you just don't get the same effect from cooking with the stuff or putting it on your eggs. The tasting bar in the shop has all of their products, plus some that are in the test-marketing stages complete with comment forms to give feedback. They also make Tabasco soda and ice cream...these were...odd. We each got a mini-bottle of red and one of green, as well as a packet of chipotle to take home. It's really not a factory tour, but as tourist attractions go, it was fun. The gardens are beautiful, too.

            1. re: Wahooty

              Cool! What were some of the as-yet-unreleased products, do you remember offhand?

              1. re: tatamagouche

                I think they were testing some sort of raspberry chipotle concoction the day we were there. I don't really remember it all that well - I tried so many sauces and condiments, and they all start to run together after a certain point. There are so many Tabasco products I never knew existed...and will probably never find up here in the great white north.

          2. I did the tour in 1965 and it was way cool. Back then they took you into the warehouse where the sauce was aging in barrels and the intensity of the smell nearly knocked me over. They gave those nifty little bottles back thn too,

            5 Replies
            1. re: TomSwift

              Tom and small h, do you all think the reason the tour has changed has to do with keeping the public away from viewing the potential health hazards the staff might be exposed to? Or am I stretching it?

              1. re: tatamagouche

                I think it has more to do with a company protecting itself from liability in case some clueless tourist gets injured on the factory floor. And perhaps a heightened awareness that all those people traipsing through might contaminate the product with their dirty filthy germs.

                1. re: tatamagouche

                  I agree with small h, although I haven't been on the tour since the 60's so I don't know how its changed. I'm sure that liability and efficiency have much to do with it - I've done the Coor's Brewery tour in Golden, Colorado many times in the 60's and 70's, and then once last year and it changed dramatically - get you in & out fast, with many visual aids, and no actual exposure to the process. Free beer at the end, however, even if not unlimited as it used to be, was preferable to little bottles of Tobasco.

                  1. re: tatamagouche

                    Tours have changed due to OSHA and FDA regulations. I couldn't (yet) find the specifics but this started in the USA some years ago. Evidently that's why the famed Hershey's tour was replaced with that lame amusement ride. So sad. And, the regulations are spreading throughout the world.

                    One of my favorite memories is of touring the Wonder Bread/Hostess Twinkie (Continental Baking Company) as a girl scout circa 1970. Wow that was cool....

                    1. re: clamscasino

                      Two great tours I went on; one, the Kellog's tour where you got to see the corn flakes plop down onto a conveyor best (1976), the smell was horrific, couldn't eat corn flakes for years. The second tour was the Labrot and Grahm distillory outside of Lexington, KY. Very cool, very informal they let me stick my finger in the sour mash and taste it right out of the vat!

                2. Second reply here. While not specifically hot sauce I did go out of my way a couple of years ago to visit Tony Chachere's in Opelousas. Thier Cajun seasoning is a staple in my kitchen and I had picked up a brochure in the Louisiana visitors center on I-10 promoting a fascinating tour.

                  I waited in line with a few other folks and they took us in a room and showed us a brief television piece that I had already seen aired on Food Network. After that we were taken to a gift shop where we could purchase products. No tour, no plant, nothing fascinating.

                  Upon my return home I sent a letter to the company and explained my disappointment and suggested they remove the brochures from the visitors center. About a week later I received a very nice letter from the Chachere that currently runs the company with a great apology. He explained that they had installed new equipment and during that time tours were suspended, but he did not realize the employees thought it was permanent, and also apologized for not staying on top of it. He said I would be getting a package and he hoped in the future I would visit again. A few days later I received a box that had almost two of everything that Tony Chachere's made at the time. Even contained some rice products that were new and not in stores yet. It really impressed me that he took the time to personally respond in such a big way.

                  I did visit them again on another trip and found it to be a very nice tour. Even better on my way out of town I stopped and got some of the best pork cracklins I have ever had from a local stand in Opelousas.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: swamp

                    Thanks swamp! Re the second tour, could you tell me more about the original Q—did the workers wear masks/gloves, were the fumes intense, etc.?

                  2. I have been to several Heinz plants where one area was hot sauce production. This was not part of a tour. You must wear a breather mask with goggles to work in the room or even stay in the room for periods of time. The fumes are intense, but the mixer vats are closed and semi automated, not huge open wells with people stirring the sauce. I passed through the room without a breather and my eyes teared and face felt lightly burned. Clothes smelled like spices for a long time. The room required no special access. Other than the breathers, I don't think there are any special precautions beyond what you would see in any other factory.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Silverjay

                      Wow. I wonder if you can develop a tolerance by osmosis. I once met a florist who said he could no longer really smell flowers because he was around them all the time, which seemed so sad. By the same token, wonder if, say, you work in the Tabasco factory, to get any sort of kick you have to graduate to sauces made with Indian ghost chilies or something.