Call him a perfectionist, but Trey Bacon didn’t rush his barbecue sauce formula.
“I started messing with it, and it took me about seven or eight years until I got it right,” the 27-year-old Baton Rouge entrepreneur said.
The result is Tres Bien Que Original BBQ Sauce and its Smokehouse Bacon variation. With that last name, how could he not have a bacon flavor?
With the myriad sauces out there, though, Bacon had to make his original sauce stand out. That’s when something sweet emerged.
“It was an idea that I found in a cookbook, and if you’re going to get into the barbecue sauce business, or any business that’s super-saturated and has a whole bunch of options, you’ve gotta have something that sets you apart,” Bacon said. “And the sweet tea, no one is putting sweet tea in barbecue sauce right now, or if they are, they’re not selling it down here or anywhere else in the South as far as I’ve seen.
“So we knew because it was so different in that respect, it would be something that’s attention grabbing and it tastes really good. Yeah, it’s cool to have sweet tea in your barbecue sauce, but if it doesn’t taste good, it’s not worth anything.”
Shoppers at the weekly Red Stick Farmers Market in Baton Rouge have probably seen the Baconation Foods booth, and met Bacon’s business partner and mom, Karen Bacon.
“You ask people, ‘Would you like to try our barbecue sauce?’ and they say, ‘No thank you,’” Karen Bacon said. “But if you say, ‘Would you like to try our barbecue sauce made with sweet tea?’ they will stop and do a double take and they’ll say, ‘What did you just say?’ And it’s a hook, it draws ’em in, it’s great.”
Their barbecue sauce business is a family affair, with dad Norman Bacon Jr. and Trey’s brother, Garrett, pitching in as needed and Trey’s fiancée, Courtney Dickinson, handling Baconation’s social media.
Trey Bacon said he has enjoyed cooking since learning the basics in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Barbecue just turned out to be something that he enjoys more than anything else, he said, adding that his food truck, Red, White and Que, goes hand in hand with the sauce business.
Around 3,200 bottles of the original sauce have been sold, Trey Bacon said. The bacon version hit the market just last month.
The sauces are produced at the Louisiana Business & Technology Center Business Incubator at the Bacons’ alma mater, LSU.
“They’ve just been a fabulous resource,” Karen Bacon said.
In addition to renting kitchen space and use of a 60-gallon kettle, the Bacons are guided by a food scientist, who assists with nutritional analysis, development of new flavors and gluten testing to qualify the sauces for a “gluten-free” label. With about 85 percent of ingredients coming from within the state, the jars also carry a “certified Louisiana product” designation. The company has been an incubator tenant for two years.
What’s next? Expansion into New Orleans, the northshore and Acadiana, and a spicy sauce, maybe by Christmas, Trey Bacon said.