About Cajun Blast
TWILA TV’s Melanie Ohmes travels to Crowley, LA to show us how two brothers in the grocery business turned a customers part-time hobby into a full-time blast of flavor.
Brian Boulet, one of the Crowley company’s owners, could barely keep up with the demand as he ran between the booth and his outdoor barbecue pit, sheltered from steadily drizzling rain under a tent he’d snuggled close to the River Center near River Road.
His stint at the Baton Rouge holiday market event wasn’t unusual. Boulet, president of family-owned Quality Sales Inc., the manufacturer of Cajun Blast products, attends many food shows, trade shows and golf tournaments where he entices potential customers with the aroma of meat flavored with his company’s unique barbecue basting sauce. One taste, he said, and he’s got them.
Boulet, along with his mother, Betty Boulet, and his older brother, William E. “Rusty” Boulet Jr., are the major owners of Quality Sales Inc., which makes Cajun Blast Basting Sauce, its top selling product, in three flavors; Cajun Blast BBQ Sauce; Cajun Blast Creole Seasoning; Cajun Blast Seasoned Rub; and a steak seasoning introduced a few months ago.
The Boulet family has been manufacturing barbecue sauces for at least 10 years, but it was only 2 1/2 years ago that they expanded into the basting sauce and seasonings market.
The small company’s sales exceeded $400,000 this year, and the Boulets project next year’s sales will reach $600,000.
“We had a 30 percent growth from last year to this year at a time when most everyone else was stagnant,” Brian Boulet noted.
Quality Sales and the Boulets’ barbecue sauce manufacturing came about when a new Wal-Mart opened and cut into their family’s Super Foods Inc. grocery store business, the two brothers explained.
Rusty Boulet, president of Super Foods, and Brian Boulet said that to offset the drop in grocery sales they started processing products, including roux, for other people in Super Foods.
“A lot of people who make roux also make barbecue sauce,” Brian Boulet said. “It’s a seasonal thing.”
He estimated that at the time about 15 to 20 barbecue sauces were being made in their area, which includes Acadia, Jeff Davis, St. Landry and Evangeline parishes.
Soon, they were manufacturing products under five or six labels, and their business outgrew the grocery store’s processing capabilities. The Boulets moved the manufacturing to a nearby empty building where their late father, William E. Boulet Sr., had once operated a farm implement business, Southwestern Equipment Co.
“The profit in roux just wasn’t there, so we phased out the roux and were just doing barbecue sauce,” Brian Boulet continued. “In the process of manufacturing barbecue sauce in this area, a lot of onions and bell pepper are used in these sauces. That requires a lot of vegetable oil to sauté the vegetables down. Spices and tomato products are added, and the sauce continues cooking. In the process, the sautéing oil rises to the top. Soybean oil soaks up flavor. The oil that rises to the top, that’s the basting sauce.”
Rusty Boulet added, “Basting sauce is a byproduct of the cooking process we were selling. Every one of our customers had a barbecue sauce and a basting sauce.”
“You get 15 percent basting sauce to 85 percent barbecue sauce,” Brian Boulet explained. “In grocery stores around the area, you find the two products next to each other. There never was enough basting sauce on the shelves to sell outside the area. That’s where we got the idea for our sauce.”
“There was always a shortage of basting oil,” Rusty Boulet added.
“About four or five years ago, we saw a market that could be expanded on,” Brian Boulet said. “We figured out how to make it a product rather than a byproduct and when we gave it to our customers … their sales doubled.
Thinking basting sauce was a good product to market outside Louisiana’s Acadiana area, they went to the manufacturers of Jack Miller Bar-B-Q Sauce and offered to make basting sauce for that company. When their offer was declined, they decided to try to market their own basting sauce.
But, the brothers realized they needed more than a good tasting basting sauce to appeal to consumers outside the Crowley area.
“More people mop food as they grill,” but that method of applying sauce to meats wastes the product, Rusty Boulet said. “We wanted to have an easier way to use the oil.”
They hit upon the idea of a spray bottle, which they market as a clean, quick and easy method of applying the sauce. They also put their basting sauce in a plastic container to make it lighter and easier to handle, and they point out that using basting sauce helps keep food from sticking to the cooking surface.
The spray bottle inspired the name, Cajun Blast, a suggestion from a friend, they said. They also changed the name of their own Cajun Heritage Barbecue Sauce to Cajun Blast.
“We’re thinking of changing the company’s name from Quality Sales Inc. to Cajun Blast, which is the name of our products,” Rusty Boulet said.
Most of the company’s products come in two sizes. The basting spray is in a 16-ounce bottle and what they call a 4-ounce tailgater package.
Brian Boulet develops the company’s products. Only he and his daughter, Lauren, 24, a nursing student, know the formulas for the products.
“She knows all the secrets,” Rusty Boulet said of his niece. “I don’t even know what all he puts in it.”
“We work with a spice company to blend the seasonings,” Brian Boulet said. “The seasoned rub is a good seller for us. The Creole seasoning is a blend of spices from the Acadiana area, but the seasoned rub is the actual seasonings we use to make the barbecue sauce — the dry components of the barbecue sauce. The steak seasoning is a blend of spices we use at home.”
“Our top seller is the basting sauce because of the uniqueness of the product,” Rusty Boulet said. “The reason we decided to expand to (a) spice line because we go to a lot of trade shows, food shows, lot of golf tournaments, and we use all our products to cook.”
Brian Boulet added, “Our Creole seasoning has less sodium than the majority of those out there. The seasoning rub also has very, very little salt, but it has a lot of sugar. The barbecue sauce is the hardest to sell outside this area because (in other areas of the country) they use ketchup-based barbecue sauce.”
Cajun Blast products can be found in almost every major grocery store in Louisiana, and in Sportsmen’s Warehouse and Barbecues Galore stores, located mostly in the West and the Southeast. “We do a lot of business in Alaska,” Brian Boulet said.
Their barbecue and basting sauces are cooked and manufactured in a back room at the company’s headquarters at 407 S. Ave. H in Crowley. The brothers said they employ four part-time workers to help them bottle their products.After being cooked and mixed, the basting sauce is pumped into bottles, six at a time. Workers manually cap the bottles with the sprayers. Then, the bottles move to a conveyor belt where labels are automatically applied and the bottles head to packing boxes and the warehouse.
“We can do three cases a minute, 12 bottles per case,” Brian Boulet said.
Quality Sales has its own advertising jingle: “When you spray it, gotta say it, have a Cajun Blast!”