Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Written by Morgan Forde Contributing reporting from Shaakira DeLoatch
One of the first, and perhaps most enduring, legacies immigrant families bring to a new country is their food. Recipes passed down through generations can connect children and grandchildren with their heritage and help forge new connections across communities. For Mikail and Mustafa Mannan, Chief of Sales and CEO respectively of the Trini Pepper Sauce brand, their grandmother’s fiery ‘peppa sauce’ recipe connected them to their home country of Trinidad and was an element of their own culture that they eagerly shared with their friends in the United States. “Ever since I was a child I would go to Trinidad and Tobago, where my family is from, and my grandma would make this Trini sauce,” Mikail Mannan said. “I would eat spoonfuls of it until I couldn’t eat any more.”
When he would return to the United States, Mikail said, he could find nothing like it. He and his brother would share the sauce with friends through dishes his parents would serve. Mikail recalls, “My friends would say, ‘This is delicious! This is the best sauce ever. "Why aren’t you guys selling this?’”
It wasn’t until 2016 that the brothers went into business. Mustafa Mannan and a group of friends, all alumni of North Carolina State University, launched a KickStarter campaign that raised $32,000 to launch the Trini Pepper Sauce brand. “They organized everything, like how they were going to transport the [Scotch Bonnet and Scorpion] peppers from Trinidad to here,” Mikail said of his brother and the team. “I was more like an organizer, and they were bringing it to fruition with the design work and the sources.” The key ingredient to all of this remained their grandmother’s original recipe, passed down to her from her mother, who immigrated to Trinidad from India. “All these families have their own types of sauces,” Mikail said. “Everyone uses the same peppers, but they all add little things to it. I think my grandma’s was the most unique, because it has more heat, and it is more flavourful than anyone else’s.” According to the family recipe, the secret to this heat and the sauce’s unique, slightly sweet flavour is keeping the peppers fresh, raw, and never frozen. This way the peppers, some of the world’s hottest, retain all of their heat and flavour
.When asked about customers’ reactions to Trini Pepper Sauce, Mannan replied, “Number one I would say like seventy percent of people are like ‘oh my god it’s so hot but I love it.’ The minority, say one third of people, are like unfazed (by the heat). I enjoy that spice. It’s euphoric.”
Today the Trini Pepper Sauce brand continues to grow--expanding from it’s home-base in Raleigh, North Carolina to two stores in Washington, D.C., Odd Provisions and Toli Moli, and various regional pop-up events.
When asked about his advice for current or aspiring entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry, Mannan says networking with your community, communication with the business team, and staying on top of sales and finances are key for any start-up. The Trini Pepper Sauce team is currently four people (including the Mannan brothers), so everyone works together wearing multiple hats. If you’re looking to try Trini Pepper Sauce for yourself, visit their website at trinipeppersauce.co or visit Odd Provisions (3301 11th St. NW) or Toli Moli (1309 5th St. NE) in Washington, D.C.