Duluth couple builds hot sauce business from scratch – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — Jeremy and Amity Bennett’s kitchen filled with savory and smooth scents, as garlic and onion steamed and simmered on the stove.

With gloved hands, Jeremy Bennett emptied a gallon bag of ruby-red Carolina reaper puree into a stockpot. “We learned the hard way you’ve got to rinse everything with cold water, not hot water, because the steam will pepper spray you — it’s pretty brutal,” he said.

Man chops onions in kitchen

Jeremy Bennett cuts onions to use for one of his sauces for Lake Superior Spice Co.

Wyatt Buckner / Duluth Media Group

The couple behind

Lake Superior Spice Company

prepped their Fear the Reaper hot sauce ahead of this weekend’s

Festival of Trees

at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

The company’s Squeal of Approval, Devil’s Kettle and Original Red sauces line the shelves at the Little Kitchen Company in Fitger’s, Blue Heron in Dewitt Seitz and the Goat Hill Marketplace in Lincoln Park, among others.

Of their eight options, their Damn Good Mustard is easily their bread and butter, said Amity Bennett. And, if you dine in the Twin Ports, you’ve probably tried it — at 7 West Taphouse, the Breeze Inn on Jean Duluth Road or the Social House in Canal Park.

Woman stirs sauce on stove

Amity Bennett stirs sauce that is cooking on the stove.

Wyatt Buckner / Duluth Media Group

Jen Wright of Duluth experiments with the Bennetts’ products at home and at work.

She recently used the Damn Good Mustard in a slower-cooker roast, and she was more than pleased with the results.

The general manager of 7 West Taphouse’s Miller Hill location said the restaurant started offering Lake Superior Spice products in their caddies about a year ago.

Then, Wright featured the Damn Good Mustard on a coney-dog-style pizza, which was a hit with customers, she said.

Woman uses blender to mix ingredients

Amity Bennett mixes ingredients in a blender that will be added to the sauce she’s cooking.

Wyatt Buckner / Duluth Media Group

Experimenting in the kitchen is how this homegrown company got its start.

At the time, “we were using sriracha like ketchup,” recalled Jeremy Bennett.

With a fridge full of hot sauces, they watched celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse whip one up in 10 minutes with ingredients he had on hand.

The couple followed suit, playing with different seasonings and heat levels. They worked to earn their cottage food license and with three hot original sauces in hand, they attended Festival By the Lake as a vendor — and they sold out by 2 p.m.

That was the sign they had something special, he said.

While the Midwest may be known for a delicate palate, “People kept asking for hotter and hotter,” he said.

People are more adventurous here than we think, said Amity Bennett.

With the Damn Good Mustard, we’ve actually converted a few people who claim not to like heat, added her husband.

So the Bennetts added more to their repertoire, the Devil’s Kettle and their hottest, Fear the Reaper.

Sauce bottles line up counter top

Lake Superior Spice Co. sauces are displayed on a countertop Monday.

Wyatt Buckner / Duluth Media Group

“It’s a delayed heat, takes 20-30 seconds to start ramping up,” he said. “Some people start hiccuping, some start sweating, some start crying.”

And while they make it hot-hot-hot, taste is their No. 1 priority.

“There’s a lot of sauces out there where they’re putting capsaicin extract in it just for the sake of causing pain. We decided when we started, we wanted everything to taste good. We don’t want it to be a novelty,” said Jeremy Bennett.

“We want it to be a product that everyone enjoys,” he continued.

In 2022, the business became Jeremy’s full-time focus, and in the past year, they’ve doubled their wholesale sales. They researched buying their own bottling facility, but taking a tip from “Shark Tank”: “To be successful, you can lean on the people who have done it before,” he said.

Boxes of spices line up a garage wall

Lake Superior Spice Co. boxes line Jeremy and Amity Bennett’s garage wall.

Wyatt Buckner / Duluth Media Group

So, they work with Croix Valley Foods in Hudson, Wisconsin, which bottles their products that aren’t made at home.

Since they started the business, Lake Superior Spice Company added Squeal of Approval, a barbecue sauce for folks with milder palates. And, the Bennetts’ latest mad-scientist creation is the Boundary Waters Blue, a sweet and spicy blueberry habanero sauce, which debuted at Ely’s Blueberry Festival.

Quirky names are old hat in the hot sauce industry. While the Bennetts feared including a swear word in one of theirs, it hasn’t been a problem for them. (They know of one person who has refused to buy it due to its moniker.)

And from the sounds of it, theirs is tame. Across the country, there are hot sauces

Delicious Suffering


Anal Angst

, and outfits




Pepper Company.

“With hot sauces and spicy things, you can get a little whimsical with the names because it fits,” he said.

You can find more information about the company at




Festival of Trees
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, 350 Harbor Drive
Admission: $6 on Saturday; $4 on Sunday; children 12 and younger are free. Get $1 off with a donation of a non-perishable food item for Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank
Parking: $10 per vehicle (ticket for re-entry is valid until midnight)
More info:


Great Hall Marketplace
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 16
Where: The Depot, 506 W. Michigan St.
Admission: Free
More info:


Melinda Lavine

Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 17 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014 as its features editor, and today, she writes about the people, the heartbeat of the community.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

In 2006, she earned bachelor’s degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota, and that summer, she started her career as a copy editor and page designer at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, a Forum Communications Co. sister publication. In 2012, she helped launch the Herald’s features section, as the editor, before moving east to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.

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