Don’t be fooled by the name. While Texas Pete has Southern roots, it’s not Texas where this popular hot sauce is from. It’s from North Carolina. So with a Texas name and North Carolina roots, how is it that this hot red pepper sauce got its name? It all has to do with some marketing ingenuity and a family-run business.
The Garner family began selling Texas Pete to the North Carolina area during the Great Depression in 1929. While it’s easy to assume the recipe was a family secret, they sort of stumbled upon it by chance.
At the time, father Sam Garner was struggling to support his wife and seven children. The second oldest, Thad, decided to spend his money on purchasing the local barbecue joint Dixie Pig. While the restaurant eventually shut down, Thad acquired the recipe for a Louisiana-style hot sauce. Soon, the family set up business, and Sam and sons began selling the hot sauce around North Carolina.
Like any proper business, their product needed a catchy name. A marketing advisor suggested the name “Mexican Joe” as the piquant flavor was similar to that of Mexico. Father Sam disagreed. He believed that the hot sauce should sport an American name. That’s when the family decided to pay homage to the spicy cuisine of Texas, putting the state in the name.
And the name Pete? Sam’s son Harold was nicknamed Pete as a kid. Altering the suggested two-word name “Mexican Joe” into an American product, Texas Pete was born. With westerns being popular at the time, Texas Pete took on a cowboy theme, creating the iconic branding we know today.
In 1946, Sam Garner and his three sons Thad, Ralph, and Harold created the T.W. Garner Food Company to solidify their partnership and turn Texas Pete into profit. Today, Texas Pete is still produced by their company, being run by the third and fourth generations of Garners.
As their name and popularity has grown, their product line has expanded to include hot dog chili, buffalo wing sauce, Worcestershire sauce, CHA!, and more. Their factory built on their family site in Winston-Salem in 1942 is still in operation, pumping out the hot sauce we know and love.
While it may not be from Texas, Texas Pete still encapsulates the spicy flavor of the South.