A Spicy Life

Greg and Annie Johnson

AJ’s Food Products—named for
Johnson’s wife Annie—is an Edmond-based company currently producing two
competition-winning BBQ sauces and six salsa varieties. Produced and packaged
locally, the products are sold in several local retail outlets.

Greg is a self-trained cook, but
perhaps not a natural born cook. “When I was young, my mom would not let me
near a kitchen because I would make too big of a mess,” he recalls with a chuckle.
But that didn’t lessen his desire or dull his affinity for flavor. “When I got
older, I could blend flavors together.” He spent about four years competing in
Kansas City’s BBQ competitions and perfected the award-winning sauces that he
sells today—Hometown Hickory (a mild sauce with a smoky flavor) and Sweet &
Spicy Medium (a tangy sauce with a bit of a kick).

Greg says he would have never
thought about bottling and selling his creations without the encouragement of
family and friends. When the Johnsons would host parties in their home, friends
and family would rave about the sauces Greg prepared. When they hit the shelves
in March 2013, the response was immediate and positive.

Additionally, AJ’s Food Products
now has three specialty salsas. Annie’s friend Carrie recommended they try a
peach and mango salsa variety. “I didn’t even like mangos,” says Greg, “but
everybody loves the salsa. I even like it.” The other specialty flavors include
Nice-Guy Nick’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa (named for Greg’s nephew) and Megan’s
Margarita Salsa (named for Greg’s niece), which features an extra kick from
tequila. It’s that connection to family and friends that sets AJ’s Food
Products apart, because it was family that encouraged their business from the
beginning.

AJ's Food Products“We did a lot of taste-testing,”
says Annie, “and we’d have to restock a lot because the products were so
popular.” Their flavors were a hit. Other flavors soon followed, and the
company gained a following. “When people heard we were made in Oklahoma, they would
buy more jars,” said Annie. Their customers know that by buying items produced
in Oklahoma, they’re reinvesting in Oklahoma. Mild and medium salsas were soon
introduced, Caribbean Cool and Mediterranean Medium, along with Greg’s second
BBQ sauce.

For Greg, the hardest part was
unexpected. “I never used measurements when I cooked,” he explains. But he had
to provide a recipe to their production company (Vinyard Fruit & Vegetable
Company based in Oklahoma City). “I had to figure out how much of everything I
used and write it down so I could work from a recipe.” The results have been
delicious.

Future plans include two new BBQ
sauces, apple and mesquite, and dry rubs that will launch in the spring. The
goal has always been for the Johnsons to find a way to work together, to spend
more time together. Looks like a tasty future for this pairing.

Find more information at
www.ajsfoodproducts.com.

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