Clark Olson has been inspired by his travels and has been fascinated by the many different cultures and the food that they offer. He has always loved spicy food and has created a brand of hot sauces that are all very unique. It’s a worldwide taste tour with a sauce for any meal. All this he attributes to his adventures abroad. Launched in Southern California, the company has been steadily growing for almost three years now, and Clark has turned it into a full-fledged career.
Clark Olson caught the travel bug early, and his need to experience the world took him from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and finally to Argentina. It was these revelatory experiences that formed the basis for his three-year-old business, Mago Hot Sauce.
The business, based in the picturesque Laguna Beach, U.S., is a representation of all the flavours and cultural experiences that owner Olson has been fortunate to enjoy. The sauces are made in a facility in Irvine, and have a knack for blending with the best of foods.
And yet, like little garage tech company Apple and many other brands that boom, Mago Hot Sauce had a humble beginning. “When I moved home, I had learned so much about cooking, and I began experimenting in SoCal,” said Olson. “I started taking some recycled bottles to people at work (he was an employee of Avila’s El Ranchito). I got amazing feedback.”
“I started to realize what people really liked, and I was hearing from people that they wanted to try a wide variety of sauces with different consistencies and heat levels.”
The demand was there, and Olson just had to get things going. With friends helping him along the way, he began his hot sauce revolution in SoCal.
“He (Travis) likes spicy food too, and he’s been a big part in helping with the label and look. There’s a big artist’s community here, and that played well into what I was trying to do,” said Olson.
It was Olson’s love of gardening and growing chilis that pushed him into dabbling into hot sauce. Whether he was living and teaching English in Argentina, backpacking in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, he made sure to bring the best of his experiences home.
“We launched three years ago, and these tastes and ideas definitely developed through my travels. I just got to know and understand a wide variety of produce and peppers, and had things that come from regions and lands we don’t get supplies from,” said Olson.
“When I started really cooking, I got into the spicy stuff, and it might have been because traveling raised my tolerance for hot food. I went from the Siracha to hotter stuff, and I got really cooking and enjoying it.”
He quickly became the family cook, and found satisfaction in pleasing the taste buds of others. His palate and his taste profile kept growing, and that slow, gradual process allowed him to incorporate the things he picked up from other parts of the world.
“I just love to be creative in the kitchen, and food fusion can be sketchy. But I love being inspired, and when I do things right, it’s a lot of fun to work on sauces,” said Olson. “All different sauces and chilis are special and take time to process and produce.”
“I have a serious passion in the hot sauce game, and the traveling was worth it. Bringing this worldwide and working closely with suppliers allows for our best ingredients.”
On top of their Roasted Habanero, Roasted Green Thai, Mago Red, and Mago Green, they’ve also begun selling Ghost Pepper.
Of Habanero, Olson says it’s the easier of the sauces.
“It’s a little more mild than our other sauces. It’s a bit more palatable, and most consumers can handle it,” he said.
Olson has seen a great amount of love for the Ghost Pepper sauce.
“It’s been out a month, and it’s taken off. The feedback and love for the product is amazing. We don’t expect sales to slow down any time soon,” he said.
“We use a lot of carrot, which is common in Caribbean sauces. We also use yellow bell pepper. This sauce is on the sweeter side.”
They also have a chipotle on the way, and each day, Olson is figuring out how to bring the world to SoCal.
“I do art walk events, get in front of consumers, and I know you need to be creative in your cooking and your promotion. Our brand is growing,” he said. “We are fine-tuning how we do business and we’re connecting more dots with time. We’re efficient, fine-tuned, and on a good track.”
Mago Hot Sauce keeps bringing something new to the table for consumers.
“We have a nice surprise factor when we’re doing farmer’s markets, and doing demonstrations. That’s another part of the business, as we go to three markets a week. Regulars come each week and taste-test,” said Olson.
“We’re tied to the community, and we also volunteer at a local farm each week. We learn from suppliers and we love to reach out financially and culturally. We want to be involved with those we serve.”
He says each Mago sauce is unique, and in a different realm than the others.
“They don’t compete with each other. Each sauce brings something new. Our emphasis is flavour over heart, and we aren’t the first to do it. But we make sure we mean it and it shines through.”
Next for Mago and Olson is the New York Hot Sauce Expo in April 2019. They won a spot through the lottery, and will be going to the seventh annual event for the first time.
No matter what, Olson wants to remain true to the reasons why he started Mago, and the things that makes it perfect for the area.
“We are using spicy food fusion in a unique way based off our experiences in other countries, and translating our inspiration into sauces unlike any others on the market. Laguna’s art community has played a role in the brand, but I am trying to bring different flavors to the hot sauce game in California and the U.S.,” said Olson.
“Our community has had our back since day one and I think that is because it has very creative and artistic roots, and MAGO is bringing very creative spicy sauces to the table. The surrounding Southern California (and the U.S and Canada) has indeed become a very diverse place, so I think we are set up for success.”
By Jordan Parker