Jason Grant and John Killawee have created jellies, chutney and syrup that they sell under the PepperHead brand.
Grant said that they use dehydrated peppers to create a heat that stops at the back of the throat and doesn’t cause gastrointestinal problems.
“The heat is more like that from a campfire, not a volcano,” said Killawee.
While completing a bachelor of science in agriculture at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Grant worked summers tending the demonstration garden on campus. It was then when hot peppers grabbed his attention. He did his undergrad thesis on the habanero pepper, trying to grow them in the Nova Scotia climate.
“They’re usually grown in hot climates but I found they do well when grown out of the wind in containers,” he said.
In 2008, Grant met John Killawee, who developed a taste for spicy food while working at restaurants during his university years in Halifax. Both men are musicians and they began writing, playing, and recording music together. They found they also shared a common interest in spicy food and began experimenting.
In the summer of 2011 they picked chokecherries and made a jelly they called “Haba-Choke-a-Lemon-ero.”
The men admit that there were some disasters in the kitchen but they eventually developed a line of four products they felt were exceptional. They are, from mildest to hottest, Wild Blueberry Maple Habanero Jelly, Cranberry Lemon Habanero Jelly, Bengali Bluenoser Chutney and Maple Habanero Syrup.
“We developed our palates,” said Grant. “We would go through about 100 tests to get some things perfect and because the palate adjusts quickly to heat we would call our wives in to taste things at times.
“Our goal was to use local fruits to create a product that would have heat and sweet. We did trials with other peppers but nothing compared to the habanero.”
PepperHead was incorporated in September 2014 and began selling products about eight months ago.
“Things have gone phenomenally well,” said Killawee. “We’ve had no negative reviews and people have told us they can’t believe how fast we’re progressing.
“We’re huge spice heads but our goal was never to blow the top off someone’s head. We want products that taste exceptional and include habanero and we never have any guilt about standing behind our products.”
Grant said his advice to anyone starting up his or her own business would be to start small.
“There are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes and if you’re not too big you can fix those mistakes easier.
“The largest hurdle directly sales wise is educating the public. We have to let people know what is available.”
He is now taking an e-commerce course to learn more about promoting the business.
The spicy PepperHead creations are available locally at Sunspun Natural Foods, Masstown Market and the Truro Farmers’ Market and are also being sold at outlets in Halifax and Charlottetown. They can also be purchased online at http://pepperheadpower.ca .