Meet Ken Kinsey-Quick, the visionary founder behind this remarkable brand. With a passion for innovation and a commitment to excellence, Ken has forged a path that inspires us all.
His journey is a testament to the power of determination, creativity, and the pursuit of one’s dreams. Join us as we delve into the story of this brand’s inception and the visionary mind that brought it to life.
Ken Kinsey-Quick’s story is a beacon of inspiration for all aspiring entrepreneurs and dreamers…
Can you share the story of how Banhoek Chilli Oil came to be, from those Sunday family lunches to its global presence today?
My business partner and brother-in-law, Adi, is a real foodie. We went through about 60 different combinations of chili types and edible oils over Sunday family lunches until we came up with “The Original.” It was supposed to be just for personal use, but quickly word spread around, so I decided to set up a small business to teach my teenage kids entrepreneurship. We moved from the kitchen to the garage, and several months later, seeing strong organic demand, I decided to quit my 25-year career in fund management and focus solely on Banhoek Chilli Oil. We bought a piece of land in the Banhoek Valley, which is situated in the Cape Winelands near Stellenbosch, to build our factory and formally opened our doors on 1st March 2020. Right into COVID lockdowns! However, even this headwind could not stop word spreading quickly not only in South Africa but also in other parts of the world. I used to live in England for about 20 years, so we formally started our international expansion from there. We are now in over 200 premium retailers in the UK, including Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, Harrods, etc., and just won the Ocado Customer Product of the Year.
Banhoek Chilli Oil is known for its perfect balance of flavor. What inspired you to create a chili oil that enhances the taste of dishes without overpowering them?
I have never been one for enjoying very hot chili condiments but got my first taste of chilli oil when I used to live in France, where chili oil sachets accompanied pizza takeaways. That’s when I complained to my brother-in-law about how I cannot find a quality chili oil in South Africa or anywhere else for that matter. That’s how the experimenting in the kitchen started!
Could you describe the role of quality, consistency, and flavor in the foundation of Banhoek Chilli Oil? How do these principles guide your business?
While researching how to build a real-world business (as opposed to my previous career in fund management where everything is in the cloud), I studied Tabasco, which is the only global chili sauce brand. I learned to achieve that; you need consistency, and that is why we filter our chili oil so that there are no more chili bits in the bottle which will change the heat and flavor over time.
Hand-crushing chilies and using induction technology for infusion are key steps in your process. How do these methods ensure the best flavor extraction?
If you finely grind chilies, you will break their seeds open, which immediately creates a burning sensation on your tongue. Gently extracting the chili flavor from hand-crushed chilies means you get more flavor than a burning tongue. Using electricity or gas again means you will not easily get consistency in your product.
The 16-stage filter you mentioned is intriguing. How does it contribute to the consistency of Banhoek Chilli Oil, and why is consistency so important in your product?
If you leave any physical particles or bits of chili in the bottle, the heat will get stronger over time, the flavor will change, and it can become rancid. That’s why we built this 16-stage filtering process.
Banhoek Chilli Oil has expanded globally. What challenges did you face in taking your product to international markets, and what strategies helped you overcome them?
The key is to focus on one market at a time. We learned this lesson painfully as we thought our chili oil was so great we can use the shotgun approach and launch globally. Even with a great product, it takes time, effort, and money to build a brand in each market. So for now, we are focused on the UK, and although we are in the US, Germany, and Australia as well, distributors there approached us so not expensive to service.
Could you share some insights into the culinary applications of Banhoek Chilli Oil? How do you recommend people use it to enhance their dishes?
It’s great on pizza, delicious on everything else. However, because it is an oil, you can use it not only for flavoring your dish to add a bit of spiciness, you can also cook with it. Frying your prawns or marinating your steak in Banhoek Chilli Oil is great!
As the founder CEO, what has been the most rewarding moment on your journey with Banhoek Chilli Oil so far?
It’s mainly been twofold – first is the satisfaction, like all entrepreneurs, is to see their baby grow successfully but also what we have done for the local community. We employ directly or indirectly nearly 50 people that all, apart from one or two, can walk to work. In a country like South Africa where public transport is nonexistent and private transport is very expensive, it is a huge saving and less stressful for our employees. We also set up a local community project to grow our chilies, furthering employment opportunities in a country with the highest unemployment rate in the world.
Collaboration between you and your co-founder, Adi Meintjes, seems to be a significant part of your success. How do your complementary skills and perspectives benefit the company?
Critical! It’s pointless where we have supplementary rather than complementary skills. Adi runs the production process while I take care of sales, marketing, and the business overall.
Banhoek Chilli Oil has won awards. Can you share some of the most significant achievements and how they have impacted your brand’s recognition and growth?
We loved the flavor of Banhoek Chilli Oil, but would the market at large, especially in other countries? When we won the coveted Great Taste Award from the UK’s Guild of Fine Foods, the world’s largest and most trusted food accreditation scheme, we knew we had the perfect bite of flavour!
Sustainability is an increasingly important concern in the food industry. What steps does Banhoek Chilli Oil take to minimize its environmental footprint and support local communities?
The advantage of building a business and its buildings and production process from scratch is we could take advantage of modern sustainability ideas. Our only waste from the production process is the chilies that were removed after infusion, and so we have them mixed with charcoal to create chili briquettes for fires. We employ directly or indirectly nearly 50 people that all, apart from one or two, can walk to work. In a country like South Africa where public transport is nonexistent and private transport is very expensive, it is a huge saving and less stressful for our employees. We also set up a local community project to grow our chilies, furthering employment opportunities in a country with the highest unemployment rate in the world.
How has the global food industry’s landscape changed since Banhoek Chilli Oil’s inception, and how do you see your brand evolving to meet new challenges and opportunities?
With the growing urbanization of civilization and the increasing consumption of ready-made meals, condiments are growing strongly, especially spicy condiments. We are participating in this growth but the key is to not lose focus. That is why we only market “The Original,” although we enjoy experimenting here at the factory and have developed several other chili flavours and even chili-infused gin and vodka!
Can you offer some insights into your future plans and any exciting developments or new products on the horizon for Banhoek Chilli Oil?
We are always experimenting and have developed several new flavors of chilli oil such as garlic, chipotle, lemon & herb, Asian, but they are only available online as we want to keep focused on the Original while we are still at this early stage of business.
Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?
Amazon! I went some years ago and was blown away by it. The sheer scale and wildlife are mind-boggling, even after having previously read or watched Amazon-focused articles or shows. I now want to take my family now that they are old enough to appreciate it.
Finally, what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own food-related businesses, based on your experience with Banhoek Chilli Oil?
- Make sure you have a quality product relative to the selling price (consumers understand value).
- Make sure your packaging is attractive and relevant to your product as early adopters tend to experiment with their eyes.
- Ensure you have sufficient cash flow that you can run the business for years without paying yourself or making a profit.
- Keep everything simple.
- Stay focused!
Follow the brand on their exciting journey.