We’ve been told by friends and family that we’re insane for wanting to make a living selling spicy condiments. To those people, all I have to say is that it’s not only about hot sauce. Owning a food business, or any business for that matter, gives you a platform to tell a much bigger story. As a business owner, it’s your obligation to those who trust and respect your brand, as well as to our planet, to make a positive, progressive change. And we expect to do just that.

Hot sauce was just a starting point for us. When we began Yellowbird Sauce we wanted to help change the way packaged foods are made and thus change what people expect from their packaged foods. We figured if we used farm fresh ingredients and nothing artificial to make a delicious, shelf stable condiment that people love, then people might expect this same quality from ALL packaged foods.

My partner, George, and I recently learned of the acquisition by General Mills of a highly loved local Austin brand, EPIC Bar — now EPIC Provisions. While we know first hand how difficult it is to run a small, local, manufactured food brand, we couldn’t be happier to hear of this acquisition. However, it’s clear that some of their devoted fans couldn’t be more disgusted at the thought of a monster like General Mills acquiring this smaller, trendier, more trustworthy local brand. To those who question the actions EPIC owners have taken, maybe ask yourself a few questions before disowning them…

What good does it do the world for these smaller, local brands to stay small and local? How can we expect to see a change in these monster brands like General Mills if they continue to follow the path they’re on: making low-quality, highly processed packaged foods that only benefit their bottom line? If you are a fan of small, local businesses on a mission to do something great for the people and for our planet, why disown them when they’ve gone so far with their mission that they’ve become a game changer in their industry? Isn’t it counterproductive to stop trusting them at this point when they’ve been given even more game changing power?

EPIC Bar is only one example of a few highly passionate people that had a dream that was bigger than themselves. And with dreams that huge, you can expect to attract attention from monster brands as well as attention from fans who claim to love you because of your mission, but then disown you when it appears you’ve sold out. To those fans, we hope you are able to understand and empathize with these small business owners, as they’ve put in ALL of the hard work to make a positive change in our world. Without support from people like you, our world would continue to be a corn syrup coated land of chemical–ridden, extract–filled, artificially colored packaged foods, engineered and monopolized by Monsanto. With the average life expectancy at a measly 78 years, ain’t nobody got time for that.

On the flip side, I know what those fans who have cried sell out and abandoned their “Wolfpack” want… it’s the same thing everyone out there wants — the truth. That is, the truth about what’s really going into the food brands they’ve latched onto and trusted so deeply. If it’s truth you want, then simply ask and confront the truth rather than run away after giving your angry two cents on big brands. Negative, destructive criticism doesn’t help anyone.    

While there are definitely lots of small business owners out there who are ONLY in it for the money/fame/fortune with hopes of one day selling out, there are also lots of business owners out there who started with an extreme passion to improve on something that’s bigger and more important than themselves. It’s the people behind these small brands that you need to get to know before immediately writing them off as sell outs and abandoning them when they need you most. Ask them questions. Find out the truth behind their actions. Don’t judge them before you know all the details of the situation they’re in. With most start-ups staffed at under 20 people, you’ll likely have the opportunity to talk to the actual owners about their brand and their plans for the future of their brand. Case in point, the phone number on our bottles is actually a direct line to George and I, and we will happily talk to you about our products and what goes into them.

We all have difficult things in our lives to deal with and being the owner of a mission–based packaged foods company doesn’t mean you’re deserving of hateful words from total strangers when a major brand has invited you into their fortress. It simply means you have even more people relying on you and your ability to stick with your mission no matter what… but hey, no pressure, right?

I personally love EPIC products and I have all the respect in the world for them and what they’re doing. They put a great product out into our world and it’s a better place with them in it. Kudos to the EPIC team. Keep on being EPIC.   

All this to say, we are just a hot sauce company, but we’re not just a hot sauce company. We have a higher mission and obligations to our community and our planet and Yellowbird has given us a podium on which to take action and make the world a better, brighter, and cleaner place. We all know how badly we’ve treated our planet and now is the time to take action.

I’ll end this with a tip on how to minimize your personal impact on our deteriorating climate. Go Solar. And then go electric (with your vehicle). There are so many options out there these days for going solar it’s got me on a rollercoaster of emotions — insanely happy that we finally have the affordable technology to make this change, and also insanely terrified that not enough humans will make the switch before we’ve pushed our planet too far.

George and I will be writing a lot more on our sustainability efforts in 2016, so stay tuned for more. Thanks for reading my thoughts and here’s to working together to make our planet healthy again!