Talking To…Krakin

Chattin’ Surf, Sauce and Tatts with the man behind the brand.

What is your real name?

Jason Packer

Can you describe your logo to us, is there a story behind it – how did it come about?

We kept to logo itself very basic so at a glance you can tell what we are all about. Having the word chillies and chilli image kind of speaks for itself. The word Krakin comes from my time surfing in Australia. When the waves were really good everyone would say the waves are Cracking! So to me Krakin = Really good!! Not many people would read it that way but hey… you have to name your business something right!  Our first two sauces we’re named and designed in honour of our dogs.

So what challenges did you face to get your products where they are today?

By far the biggest challenge is scaling up the recipes. I used to only make 10 bottles at a time and I had the recipes perfect. When I needed to up scale I just thought I’d multiply the recipe by 3 or 4 and it would all turn out the same? Wrong! The flavour and heat was always fine but the consistency always seemed to take the hit. Too runny… too thick. Every time I scaled up it took more and more trials to get the recipe consistency back to where it needs to be. I’m sure this will still be an on-going issue due to scaling again as we go, but at least I know how to deal with it from past experience.

Where did your passion for chilli come from, and what did you do before?

My passion for chillies came from the plant itself rather than the pods. Years ago I happened to watch a short video of a guy trimming his chilli plant down for the winter. He was so aggressive with it and it ended up looking like a dead stump with 2 or 3 leaves left. It showed the progress into the next summer and that plant grew back to be huge! It blew my mind that a plant cut down to a stump could even grow again. My partner (now wife) had 3 chilli plants at the time so I promptly took to them like the guy in the video and it was all on! In the years after that I just grew lots of different strains and fell in love with the heat. Hooked for life!

A good friend of mine, Scott Brannigan who is an amazing chef at Bread In Common in Fremantle showed me the fundamentals of making hot sauce. After about a year of giving away all the hot sauce I made people wanted to pay for it… and so Krakin Chillies was born.

I’ve been a cheese maker for the last 14 years but hopefully in the next year or two I’ll be able to give that up and work full time in the chilli garden.

Have you had to adapt much since you started out?

Nothing too major really, but immediately there was commercial demand for our sauce which we weren’t quite equipped to deal with, and we weren’t sure how many we could wholesale initially just due to being able to keep up with making enough sauce for customers, and having enough chillies to last out the year – but we’ve crossed that hurdle now and have a few good core stockists we love working with. 

We are always learning to perfect our gardening techniques and natural pest-management as we go so there are always ecological and environmental aspects to learn about along the way.

Do you know how many varieties of chillies have you guys produced this year?

We’ve limited ourselves to 10 varieties this year. Just our heavy producers

Red Savina

The Bhutlah (our 1st season growing this)

The Krakin Chillies Fire Lemon

The Trinidad Scorpion (another 1st this season)

Big Black Mama

The Carolina Reaper

7 Pot Barrackpore ( hottest pod ive ever tasted)

Peach Ghost

White Habanero (nicest flavoured pod hands down…ever)

7 pot douglah

As for units sold. We are approaching our 1 year anniversary in a week and without going into too much detail we make at least 2 batches of sauce a week of various flavours.

Is there a species you’ve tried to produce but are yet to master?

Yip. The Carolina Reaper! The strain I was given years ago always turns out to be very small plants with small pods. Still very, very, hot. I’ve tried growing it in different spots, more shade, less shade etc but they always turn out the same. I think I need to source some different seeds. The reaper plants I have this year are probably the best I’ve ever grown but still very small plants and pods.

What is the most popular product you have?

The most popular product is our Smokin Donkey Hot Sauce. It’s an apple and smoked capsicum sauce and was the 1st hot sauce that Scott and I created years ago.  It has such a distinct flavour, it’s a real winning recipe amongst our customers.

Do you enjoy chilli yourself?

I was never a spice person. The Jalapeno at Subway would kill me!!  But I’ve learnt to love it now. Our favourite to both grow and eat is the White Habanero. It doesn’t have to much of a floral taste, which is an aspect of the super hots I’m not fond of. The White Haba are very fruity with a hint of capsicum, and they are about the size of a jelly bean with a good blast of heat. I had a small plant one year, not even a foot high and it produced well over 1000 pods!  These are incredible on anything, especially cheese and crackers!

Who are the people behind the company, tell us a bit about your team, who they are and what they do.

Me! Jason Packer – Chilli grower, sauce maker, systems, processes and social media.

Abby Packer – Branding design, Web design, Shipping, business partner, motivation, business advice, accounting, pretty much all thing computer and technical.

Scott Brannigan -. Recipe, support and motivation!

Have you got any exciting plans for 2020, new campaigns, investment

From 2021 Krakin Chillies will be holding the 1st ever Taranaki heat of the NZ chilli-eating champs with the winner getting a seat in the finals in Auckland. So this year we have two smaller events. On March 1st we have a hot pizza competition with the local craft beer and pizza joint in town and in June we have another chilli eating comp as part of the NZ man expo held locally. These two smaller events are going to be a great way to recruit talent for the big event next year. Can’t wait!

Other than chilli, what’s your favourite ingredient to work with?

Apples. We have apples in 3 of our sauces as they make a great base for any sauce. Apples have a great flavour, and are easy the wash and cut – a pleasure to work with.

Have you got any funny chilli stories?

My wife and I are always laughing about how she gets burnt from touching the jug, door knob, cups, pen and pretty much anything I’ve touched after de-seeding.

What was the last thing you ate that blew your head off?

A piece of 7-Pot-Barrackpore that I ate yesterday after a little harvest in the garden. I tried to have a drink of water from my wife’s water bottle but got told off… she knows what would happen if my mouth had touched her bottle haha she would have felt the burn as well when least expecting it!!

There’s loads of amazing artisan chilli sauces out there, which ones do you like and why?

Since we’ve been in business I’ve realised just how many artisan chilli sauces there are out there. Just to name a couple: Jimmy’s craft food. I really like his sauces because they are a mildly spiced sauce and he packs so many beautiful flavours in them. They just go with everything.

Fire Dragon Chillies – Clint’s sauces are mostly on the upper end of the heat scale and he does an awesome job of creating very hot sauces that still have lots of flavour and I think that’s a really hard thing to do.

So as your can tell its all about the flavours for me and the heat is second –and that’s the angle we’ve approached our sauces from too.

Have you fulfilled your chilli dream or are there more things you want from your products?

My chilli dream is to leave my cheese-making job and just be able to wake up in the morning and work in the kitchen and the garden with surfing and fishing in between.

Do you have other flavours or ideas in the pipeline?

Yip we sure do. Currently in the pipeline is a collaboration with a local chocolate-maker to product our own range of chilli chocolate – which will be like nothing else currently on the market at all. And, next time my friend Scott is over from Perth we are going to do a collaboration sauce. I have a few ideas and so does Scott, so I can’t wait to see what comes out in the end. All I can say is that it will be targeted at a particular audience.

Briefly, where can we find your product?

Apart from our Website we are stocked at a few local businesses here in Taranaki and they are all listed on our website. We will be taking on a few more stockists this year so folks will be able to find some a bit closer to their home perhaps!

Which chilli event is your favourite?

Best event by far is the NZ Chilli Eating Champ finals held in Auckland every year. Clint Meyer does an awesome job every year and it’s only getting bigger and bigger

What advice could you offer someone wanting to make their own sauces?

I don’t offer advice on flavours or heat etc because everyone’s taste and heat tolerance is different so my advice is on the process. Write down your process from the very beginning even if you are only making a few bottles. It’s the only way to get consistency. Tweak the process as you go to suit, but always write the changes down and alter the recipe.

Has anyone famous ever tried your products, where did it happen and what did they think?

No Big celebrity’s or anything like that but hopefully that’s on the cards in the future!  The World Chilli Eating Champ, Justin Rummel is certainly a fan of our sauces, so he’s our most famous for now haha  

Quick-fire questions:

Drink of choice?  Coffee

Fav meal? Anything seafood

Fav sauce? BBQ

Fav Band? Queens Of The Stone Age

Fav Chilli? White Habanero

Holiday destination? Chilling at home

Any other hobbies?  Surfing, fishing and getting tattooed  

Food festival or music festival?  Music Festival