Sabasco, a Sabahan version of Tabasco’s chili sauce by SugarBun

Most of us are familiar with the American-made Tabasco sauce. I for someone who hasn’t tried it, but based on my friends’ comments, the hot sauce adds a spicy, aromatic flavor to the dishes without overpowering the flavors of the dishes.

Entering the hot chili sauce market is Sabasco, or Sabahan Tabasco. Launched in May 2021, the team tells us it was named so intentionally because Tabasco is very popular in Sabah and is present in many home pantries.

Not to mention, the Sabahan chili sauce of the 1950s-1980s also had a similar texture and consistency to Tabasco, according to the Sabasco team.

Sabasco vs Tabasco Comparison / Image Credit: Left, Sabasco

Sabasco is a brand of the SugarBun fast food chain in East Malaysia, under the parent company Borneo Oil.

SugarBun CEO Datuk Joseph Ambrose Lee constantly reminisces about the days when chutneys were easily found all over Sabah.

Over time, he noticed that the flavor of the chili gradually disappeared into a more generic sauce. He believes it is because hybrid peppers grow faster and are produced in large quantities.

Therefore, the decision to establish Sabasco under a separate brand from SugarBun was to penetrate the FMCG market and give it a unique perspective.

The scent of Momporok

As Datuk Joseph mentioned in Sabasco’s introductory video, Momporok is the “gist” of the chili sauce brand.

If you’re wondering, Momporok is the Dusun word for chili peppers that come from the digestive system of the Bulbul bird, a bird with a hint of mohawk.

Finding the actual Momporok variety proved to be the most important and challenging part of the Sabasco creation process.

This is because Sabah has a wide variety of chili peppers due to its complex geology, so each district has its own unique taste, spiciness and aroma.

Image credit: Sabasco

“It took years of sourcing, testing, testing and ensuring the sauces had the right shelf life for sale in the FMCG product line,” added a Sabasco representative.

Through valleys and hills, the team eventually discovered that chili peppers could only grow from the land of Kunak, a town on Sabah’s southeast coast.

When it comes to finding the right variety, the second challenge is to ensure a consistent supply.

The growing method for this pepper requires minimal intervention so that each fruit grows for a longer period of time, resulting in a stronger concentration of flavors, spices and aromas.

And that’s the whole point of launching Sabasco, to introduce Momporok chili, an ingredient only found in Borneo.

Image credit: Sabasco

Currently, Sabasco has three chili sauce flavors to choose from, Hijau Green, Sweet & Spicy, and Original.

The brand will then release a new flavor they call “A1 Tok Sai Sauce” in October 2022. The team will hold a roadshow around Sabah and Sarawak to launch their new product.

Two-way street

Of course, to grow peppers, you need farmers. Sabasco sourced some farmers from Kunak and encouraged them to grow Momporok peppers by securing long-term farm and supply contracts.

As a sign of appreciation, farmers are guaranteed to buy produce from Sabasco, a steady stream of income and the opportunity to create a market for Momporok peppers.

“At the same time, this partnership also aims to create employment opportunities for rural communities with the aim of improving living standards and alleviating poverty across the state,” said a Sabasco representative.

Image credit: Sabasco

“We also support them by offering regenerative farming methods, like natural soil invigorators like enriched biochar sourced from our affiliates, Verde Resources Inc. of America”

By using regenerative carbon farming methods that take large amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere and return it to the earth, the chili sauce brand is playing a role in ensuring sustainability in Sabah .

Interestingly, Sabasco plans to market its chutney only for local taste buds. However, the team has revealed that they are developing another brand for international consumers.

Currently, you can buy Sabasco’s chili sauce online on Sabasco’s Shopee store for RM10.80/bottle.

They are also stocked at major retail stores across Sabah and Sarawak, as well as in several locations in West Malaysia (including SugarBun stores in KL).

However, the brand plans to make more moves in West Malaysia, with the goal of increasing their stock here after November 2022, the team tells us.

Then it will be much easier to own your own bottle of Sabasco.

  • Learn more about Sabasco here.
  • Read more articles on Malaysian startups here.

Featured image credit: Sabasco

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