Local entrepreneur Mark McMasters is starting to earn a name around town for his barbecue sauce.
Grocery shoppers checking out the shelves of the local Lowes Foods or Harris Teeter may well encounter McMasters’ Hawg Sauce. They also may encounter McMasters himself, who often is in stores giving away free samples.
“The thing that sells it is when people taste it,” McMasters said. “It has this zing and this sweetness. I’ve worked real hard to make sure it’s the way I wanted.”
McMasters has been making his Hawg Sauce for years, but he began bottling it only two years ago.
McMasters, 61, grew up in Asheboro. But for years he lived in South Carolina, and he had a barbecue restaurant in Charleston for eight years.
The restaurant specialized in ribs and pulled pork shoulders and butts served with a North Carolina-style ketchup and vinegar sauce — in a state where mustard sauce is the preferred sauce for barbecue. “I just took my ketchup-vinegar sauce down there. It caught on really well,” McMasters said, adding that the restaurant didn’t even offer South Carolina mustard sauce.
McMasters eventually decided to get out of the restaurant business, and he moved back to North Carolina in 2011. He now lives in Rural Hall.
McMasters recently switched from full time to part time at his job at Truliant so he can devote more time to his sauce business.
He estimates that he now sells about 900 bottles a month. A 16-ounce bottle typically sells for about $7.99. The sauce is sold in Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods stores in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, as well as a handful of country and general stores. The latter includes Mast General Store in Winston-Salem, Musten & Crutchfield in Kernersville, and Lewisville Country Market in Lewisville. All in all, the sauce is in about 50 stores.
McMasters said that the sauce has a nice balance of tang and sweetness. “A lot of people say it is a great combination of Eastern and Western styles together,” he said. “You get the sweetness from the ketchup and sugar. But you get the strong kick from the vinegar. And it has some Texas Pete in it.”
The sauce in the bottle is essentially what he served for years in his restaurant. “It’s a family recipe passed on to me, and this is my version of it.”
Though originally used for pork, McMasters said that customers tell him they use it mostly on chicken. And friends and family have found a lot of uses for the sauce beyond barbecue. Recipes on the company’s website include meatloaf, fiery chicken salad, and sweet and sour stir-fry. “My daughter-in-law came up with a meatball recipe,” McMasters said. “My son loves it on burgers.”
McMasters also particularly recommends it on ribs, but he doesn’t want people to think of it as only for barbecue.
“While I call it a barbecue sauce, it is so versatile; it is almost an everything sauce.”