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WAO Partner Profile: Char Man

By on September 2, 2016 in Featured, News, Wild About Ojai

ChrisSuttonChar Man BrandWild About Ojai Partner

Owner: Chris Sutton

Profile by OVLC member, Lisa Aronson


Growing up in Ojai, you could not pull me out of the riverbottom  -Chris Sutton

Chris Sutton was raised in Meiners Oaks on Rice Road, across from the “riverbottom.” The riverbottom was his paradise, where, with friends and on his own, he built forts, swam in the river and ranged through orange groves and grape vines. He is thrilled that now much of the riverbottom is designated as the Ventura River Preserve and, as such, protected for public use by the Ojai Land Conservancy. “To me it was a no brainer to contribute to become a Wild About Ojai Partner.”

By the time Chris was 24, he had a collection of 300 bottles of hot sauces from all over the world lining the shelves of his living room. He pursued his sweet and savory passion and, twelve years ago, developed the original Char Man hot sauce recipe. This hot sauce was a favorite at his family’s restaurants, Seafresh (Ojai and Oxnard). With a critical mass of interest in his hot sauce at Seafresh, Chris developed his brand, Char Man, and company, Highway 33 Foods, and began bottling and marketing his hot sauces. With his wife’s green light to plunge into the hot sauce business full time in 2006, Chris created a growing business, expanding to three sweet and savory hot sauces: Original Hot Sauce, Verde Hot Sauce and Caribbean Hot Sauce.

3facesBeginning by hand roasting chiles over a barbeque with a set of tongs, he is now equipped with an industrial roaster, jacketed steam kettle and bottling and labeling equipment. Because “chiles love the heat,” Chris is expanding into growing his own chiles in Ojai soil and some agricultural land has been tentatively offered from enthusiastic lifetime friends. As Chris says, “It takes a village to raise a hot sauce company.”

Chris’s hot sauce gusto and hearty playfulness have generated his creative marketing strategy. Each hot sauce has an associated myth. His Original Hot Sauce and brand is Char Man, a charred ghost roaming the Ojai Valley since 1948. His Verde Hot sauce is associated with Billiwhack, a half human/half goat said to roam the Aliso Canyon area of Ventura County. His Carribean Hot Sauce is associated with Loogaroo, a glowing vampire that stalks through the night. Envisioning playful and dramatic labels for his hot sauce creations, Chris noticed that beer labels are head and shoulders above hot sauce labeling. He tracked down Blind Tiger Design, a leader in label design in the craft beer industry, to collaborate with on Char Man brand label designs.

The entire product is wonderful from inside out.

Chris Sutton – owner of Char Man Brand – shares his love of the outdoors with his family.

Chris_fam2 Chris_fam3Chris_fam1

Wild About Ojai Partner

Who We Are
The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC) owns and maintains about 2,000 acres of open space in the Ojai Valley–protecting the views, trails, water and wildlife for all to enjoy. If you’re a hiker, mountain biker, trail runner or equestrian, you’ve probably been on our trails in the Valley View, Ventura River and Ojai Meadows preserves. As a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, we depend on your donations to help us protect these amazing open spaces. We can’t do it without you.

How Wild About Ojai Works
As a member of Wild About Ojai, Char Man Brand Hot Sauce is donating 1% of its sales to the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy to protect and maintain Ojai Valley open space for your use and enjoyment.

How The Money Is Used
It costs over $100,000 a year to maintain OVLC preserves. This includes keeping them clean and patrolled, building and maintaining trails, and providing parking and informational signage. Funds raised through Wild About Ojai help to offset some of these costs.

 Who Participates
Businesses of any kind are strongly encouraged to participate. If you sell a product or service to a customer or client, we hope you’ll join the program.


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