Tessemae’s Cosmic Jerry Sauce Combines Superstar Ingredients with Clean Label Demand

Cosmic Jerry Sauce 2 Alyssa Stahr

Photo Credit: Tessemae's

Developing a flagship sauce for a new shelf-stable line for Tessemae’s was perfect timing, Genevieve Vetter, chief brand officer, and Kristen Dittami, VP of new product development and executive chef, say. Cosmic Jerry Sauce, named after Grateful Dead singer Jerry Garcia, has received out of this world reviews since hitting store shelves. We spoke with Vetter and Dittami about the impact of Cosmic Jerry, the developmental stages of the sweet and spicy blend, and of course, the honey.

Tell us a little about how Tessemae’s got its start.
Genevieve: Tesse Mae had been making a honey dressing for her three boys for a number of years, and Greg Vetter, my husband, decided to bottle it. And when they bottled it, it was just a great-tasting product that didn’t have any funk or filler inside of it. Greg walked a number of store shelves and found that there was nothing clean that tasted good. We always say that we’re a flavor-forward company and we just happened to check all the boxes of being a healthy company whether it’s paleo or whatever box you’re in, we generally fit it.

You’ve worked with honey in a number of your sauces. Can you talk about how the decision to use honey as a sweetener came about?

Kristen: Our first product with honey was our original honey mustard, and the inspiration behind that product was just a clean product without fillers. We were all amazed looking at what was out there labeled as honey mustard that actually could be corn syrup with a drop of honey or some honey flavor. In our first honey mustard, all we had to do was mix honey and mustard together and there was the first product.

That education about learning about what a great product honey is and how clean it is — it just adds more than a blanket one note sweetness. Honey has that complexity of flavor that adds a little minerality, a little something extra. We also use honey in our honey poppyseed dressing and in our Jerry Garcia sauce. We don’t use any gums or thickeners, so we really have to rely on superstar ingredients that can hold their own and sometimes do double duty in terms of flavor but also giving the product the right kind of mouthfeel and consistency. For us, having honey accomplishes all of that.

Tell us about honey’s use in Cosmic Jerry.
Kristen: In the Jerry Garcia sauce, there’s honey, buffalo sauce and a little bit of fish sauce, but what gives that sauce that unctuous texture and mouthfeel is the honey. That allows us to not have to add anything else weird or funky to it, because honey serves a purpose. I can’t see a reason not to use honey — from a property standpoint it has everything that you’d want.

What are consumers saying about honey in the product, and is that making a difference in the competitive choice?
Kristen: We got some really great data back from Whole Foods about the number of bottles per week that Cosmic Jerry sold, and we have been completely blown away.

Sweet and spicy is a huge flavor combination trending this year.
Kristen: Specifically, in Cosmic Jerry, that sweet heat is something people are really looking for, and for that product in particular it was really important for that partnership to have a product that was incredibly unique. I think having that sweet and spicy flavor that’s on trend, but in this cool format — we think of it as an everything sauce or an awesome sauce. You could probably use it as a salad dressing, put it on cauliflower or wings — it’s just so versatile because of the flavor profile, and we love that the honey has that great balance, so it brings the sweetness that balances out the acidity.

Tell me about the name; Cosmic Jerry?
Genevieve: There’s a Grateful Dead song called Cosmic Charlie, and this flavor represents the word cosmic so much, meaning above average magnitude. It has this wonderful, umami flavor that is cosmic. Jerry Garcia’s likeness is on the bottle, which the family takes very seriously, and we wanted to make sure that we had superstar ingredients that match that.

Where do you get your inspiration for new flavors and how do you feel you stay competitive in this category as a flavor-forward company?
Kristen: We like to look for things that we enjoy and are missing from our tables. What are we mixing together because we can’t buy them in stores yet? Some of our most successful flavors have actually been generated from contests that we’ve run through social media and direct feedback from our customer happiness department. You’d be surprised at the number of people who may love something but can’t find a clean version of it.

For us, it’s always a question of flavor. We don’t like to chase trends or do what everyone else is doing. We do what we think is going to resonate the most with our customers and taste the best.

Genevieve: We like to hang our hat on being a flavor-forward and organic company. We have been known to be highly innovative and disruptive, and we want to make sure that we create flavors that ignite senses by combining our innovation with quality ingredients.

For more information about Cosmic Jerry and other made-with-honey sauces and dressings, visit www.tessemaes.com.