Ex-Thai Boxer, Renton Innes, spoke with Chilli Magazine about Rocoto’s, ring-retirement and rhubarb.
Bree Rek fired the questions.
What is your real name?
Renton Braden Innes
So that we can identify your products, can you describe your logo to us, is there a story behind it – how did it come about?
BloodShot uses a Blood Red/Dark Red Flame, along with the Rocoto’s Deep Red Colour. The font is tall and bold with the dark background bringing it back out into the light. I wanted a crisp strong image, which changes slightly with each different recipe / style / batch made.
The bottles are almost medicinal tonic looking.
Coming from a Muay Thai Boxing background, I guess I wanted to make a range of hot sauce that hits you hard, makes you fight, maybe even bleed a little; but not to ‘knock you out’, so to speak!
Our Red Rocoto strain we use is an old established 15 year old plant grown up North (north island); a Northern part of New Zealand called Kaiwaka. The seeds were originally imported illegally and around 5 plants from one original seed pod, were planted on five different sections. These strengthened by the organic environment grew unused and unchallenged in a strong organic permaculture environment. This BloodShot strain is a beautiful Tropical Fruit-tasting one with a deep dark lingering burn that is slow to deliver it’s capsaicin payload.
What were the biggest challenges you faced to get your products/brand where they are today?
Being a sauce maker isn’t something you set out to be, but become. Sourcing enough fresh pods and timing the whole preparation to make it all run perfectly/smoothly is difficult, I started with nothing and had to buy the first 12 bottles on savings… so every time I finished a batch it was making it reflect the time and love you put into every bottle. I think distractions from other people makes it hard to focus on your goals and the flavours you want your customers to experience. Doing everything by hand is hard, but fair. It is like a calm relaxing meditation type environment, where I have to be in contact with everything and be in touch with the heat, flavours and other materials I’m bonding together, so being in the right mind space and environment with all the right ingredients around you is important. Having enough capital to invest in the next stage of my business is the latest challenge, but making it evolve and grow to be able to afford a bottling machine will take us forwards faster and out of our underground scene into more retail focused and commercial arena internationally.
When did you become involved in chilli life, Renton? Where did your passion for chilli stem from?
I become more heavily involved in the chilli life after retiring from ring fighting @ 40 years old, I had a gym and students that would travel around Auckland and fight against other gyms and in competitions; after leaving that sport I needed to find something to replace that pain haha, so the change in conditioning my body with bag work and sparring; I started growing and eating chillies more and more. In Thailand I was training and living on some islands for 4 months, over that time eating the traditional thai food was so refreshing from the bland new Zealand European diet. And that grew on me slowly till now, where I have been actively setting up growers with seeds to produce enough red Rocoto to keep the business moving forwards, having a few growers already has helped, I’m not having to maintain a garden or spend all my time growing myself now; and can focus on getting samples and orders out. The first chillies I grew were a type here called Wild Fire, I didn’t realise there were so many on a bush and was making a fresh Ginger, Chilli and Soy Sauce with Manuka honey dip for Kingfish I was catching, just to get rid of them all.
I think I have a healthy fear for chillies, what they can do and how they can rough you up, thus you’ll find most my recipes are hot, but not super-hot. The tropical flavours are the thing that draws me in for sure though. The parts where you become more passionate are because everyone who eats your sauce, gains respect for chillies and haven’t tried the Rocoto taste. They ask for more and motivate you to keep on doing what you love most. Making Hot Sauce.
What major changes have taken place in the business since you started?
I think not having enough chillies and investment to keep on top of making our sauce to continue the vicious cycle is the reason I took steps to make the changes happen faster… we didn’t imagine it happening so fast or being able to manage and bring together passionate growers and all the others that are passionate about their part in business. So yeah, the supply of hot sauces drives me, us. The BloodShot team especially when we DO NOT consider ourselves as competing against other sauce makers, but keeping them up and coming and inspiring/supporting those who give it a go. We are often guided by the consumers and their needs, bbq Masters and other Chefs loving the thrill of the chilli.
How many varieties of chillies do you guys produce?
Our BloodShot family has been producing approx. three different varieties of Rocoto for our main line of Hot Sauces and three others – Cayenne, birds eye and Wild Fire – for a more milder style recipe for beginners.
Is there a species you’ve tried to produce but are yet to master?
Since we have focused on the Rocoto and have had our Bloodshot family grow hundreds since we started, it’s always a learning curve, seeing what works best and places, heat, shade, water and nutrition not to forget pest control and secret fert rituals haha.
What is the most popular product you have, Renton?
Manuka Smoked Bacon and Beer. (every Chilli-head ‘Tradies’ lunchbox staple.)
Which chillies do you enjoy yourself?
I do actually really really enjoy eating different chillies 100%, and find time to catch up with my friends to try theirs too. This is how I find what their flavours and characteristics are, they stick in my mind and when I am making new recipes or have mates over we play with ingredients we have to create some unusual infused blends; some of which become your most popular product.
Who are the people behind the company, tell us a bit about your team, who they are and what they do?
BloodShot Main Company:
Renton Innes: Currently everything.. ie Manager, Sauce Maker, Delivery Boy, Sales/Marketing/Advertising/Competitions. De-stalker/De-seeder and Cleaner.
Peter Robson (Investor/Grower)
Steve Scott (Chilli Polisher and Hot Sauce Tester)
Sharon Porter – Main Supplier (Grower)
Hass Moosbally (Grower)
Rafe Ansari (Grower)
Ryan Elliot (Grower/Sales Marketing)
Simon Karena (Grower/Transport)
Have you got any exciting plans for 2020, new campaigns, investment?
For 2020 It would be great to build up our plant (filling machine, labelling machine and our own printed boxes and suppliers for labels). Gearing up for international orders legally would be nice too, but having enough Rocoto Chillies to sustain orders and markets would be enough to keep me busy for some time. I would love to do some fast-food chain recipes and design some sauces for our own line of products, like Dried Jerky, Dumplings, Pies, Hot Chips that are infused with BloodShot hot chilli sauce or ketchup. So yes, an investor would be something we will need to look at in the near future to help us grow and maintain our customer base we’ve built up.
Other than chilli, what’s your favourite ingredient to work with?
Fruit. Yeah, making hot fruit sauces is so enthralling, making Deserts, Cakes and Pies infused with the tropical flavour and heat of the Rocoto. *Apple Crumble, Ice Cream, BloodShot Wildberry hot sauce… that’s a great mix with cinnamon and rhubarb where possible.
Have you got any funny chilli stories?
If you can imagine one of the toughest, staunch and macho guys you can imagine coming over and grabbing a super hot chilli me and my friend were about to review and chewing it up like a champ, well it was a ghost pepper; and this bloke didn’t know what had hit him; his eyes lit up and started dribbling and curling his toes up leaning over a balcony making strange noises and spitting out red hot saliva… I would go on but we all know how that goes… he is now a big fan of BloodShot and is addicted to our hottest batches, next day Josh Shotter, a New Zealand past Chilli-eating champ came over to this blokes place and eaten a teaspoon of Daves 3am extract; but the power went off and our live feed shut down, so we had to do it again and Josh had to do a second teaspoon full… that was a bit of a turbulent nights sleep listening to him on the couch making little grumbles and turning back and forth to make the lava hurry through the intestines.
What was the last thing you ate that blew your head off?
originally grown by Clint Meyer from Fire Dragon Chillies. NZ
I cried, hiccups and nose ran like a tap. Loved it.
There’s loads of amazing artisan chilli sauces out there (and some real mass-produced crap), which ones do you like and why?
I Like the maker from NgaPuhi Road’s “Smoky BBQ sauce”, “Big Black Taniwha” by Fire Dragon Chillies and Wild West Worchester’s Black Sauce range in New Zealand all from the top of the North Island. Everything they do is magic and is tested by the rugged locals there on wild food from the land and sea.
Have you fulfilled your chilli dream or are there more things you want from your products?
I am living that dream, hey not saying every day or batch is great, sometimes I have burnt a batch and felt like throwing in the towel; just ruined some amazing chillies and rushed or missing something that makes what I’m doing taste right and that reality deflates my dreams, but my friends and family are there on standby and even though I’m not the best at delegating stuff out, they do the things I can’t do or get time to do to get everything looking and tasting exactly how it was designed.
Do you have other flavours or ideas in the pipeline?
YES, I’m waiting to make a THC/CBD Hot Sauce when that time comes and it’s legal here in New Zealand. But our BloodShot Wildberry Hot Sauce in an Ice Cream which is in R&D would be a nice breakthrough. A Fruity Chilli Fizzy Drink infused with Pomegranate, a new Rocoto, Mushroom and Red Wine Hot Sauce, a Rocoto and Oyster Hot Sauce and lately I’d like to source a BloodShot Beef Jerky type product to retail in New Zealand eventually.
Briefly, where can we find your product?
Do you visit any chilli festivals? Which chilli event is your favourite?
The New Zealand Hot Sauce Festival, Chilli Chompers Global Awards and Mexican Festival in Auckland. I have been to a League of Fire event, best one was run by Fire Dragon Chillies; Clint Meyer.
What advice could you offer someone wanting to make their own sauces?
I think my best advice would be don’t over do it, or over think it. Keep it (the recipe) simple and let the flavour of the chilli influence the sauce, more than all the other things people try and stuff in to make it “better” or more original… using fresh rather than dried gives you a reality check and all the carrot juices, apple juices, vinegars etc don’t have to be gourmet to make it palatable and compliment a food group/style you wish to target.
Has anyone famous ever tried your products, where did it happen and what did they think?
I just saw a review by Johnny Scoville, YEAH!! when he was here I had a great conversation with him during the last festival and I gave him some samples to take home… well, he reviewed in on YouTube from the USA and for someone like him to give me such a great review almost made me cry, it feels so amazing to have people appreciate your work and recipes. I was a little shocked but it made me feel so proud. The truth is, I like to know if its not right as well, just don’t tell me it’s shit though haha – you prob like coriander too and in that case my hot sauce can’t save you from that overwhelming taste LMAO… but seriously, being honest keeps us adapting to ensure its going to work better and give you pleasurable dynamics.
Drink of choice? Steinlager Beer Classic
Fav meal? KFC Zinger Works/Hawaiian Burger
Fav sauce? NgaPuhi Road Smokey Honey BBQ
Fav Band? Prodigy
Fav Chilli? Orange Rocoto (Peach)
Holiday destination? Tairua, Coromandel. NZ.
Any other hobbies? Protein Folding – Molecular Biology – Drug Design – 11 Years Study
Fav saying/quote/motto? What doesn’t kill you can only make your stronger, or maim ya.
Food festival or music festival? MEATSTOCK – New Zealand BBQ Masters
Finally, if you could cook for anyone who would it be and what would you make for them?
I would like to cook for Robb Dunn, Australian Extreme Chilli Condiments and Neil Smith, The Hippy Seed Bank (along with their Partners). I love seafood, Paua, Crayfish, KingFish and Scollops, although I’m not sure if they like that, so I would have to do a smoked chilli and garlic infused brisket, low and slow bbq charcoal style with a fresh greek salad and tapas to start with on sour dough bread.