Trouble in Guruve: How this Zimbabwean chilli maker is looking to crack UK’s US$4bn sauce market

Dr Trouble's farm factory at Guruve: an example of local value addition

From a small factory at Chingoma Farm near Guruve, Zimbabwean chilli sauce maker Dr Trouble has begun exports to the United Kingdom, hoping to crack a sauce and condiments market forecast to grow to US$4 billion this year.

Dr Trouble is looking to appeal to the growing vegan and gluten-free markets across the UK and Europe. The company also exports to Sweden, Germany, Ireland and France.

The UK’s market for sauces and condiments will generate revenues of revenue of US$4.2 billion this year and will grow 1.4% annually over the next five years, according to data portal Statista.

It all started by accident, when co-founder Rob Fletcher discovered a chilli recipe on the back of a book.

“My great-grandfather created the original recipe 125 years ago and when I found it scrawled in the back of a book two decades ago, I knew this could be something special. Even with slight modifications to the original recipe, the sauces’ ingredients are still completely wild and natural, showcasing the very best of Africa from that year,” says Fletcher.

Dr Trouble’s ingredients are sourced from local communities.

“We create and bottle the sauce on my farm in the heart of the upper Zambezi valley, employing 30 locals at the height of production. We’re surrounded by thick bush, spectacular wildlife and several rural communities, who each possess a few lemon trees, and by purchasing under-used lemons and chilies locally, not only does it give us delicious, fresh ingredients – it benefits the communities who would otherwise struggle to survive.”

The company also runs the Little Peppers Project, providing school fees and essential supplies for 150 local children. Dr Trouble also supports wildlife conservation in the surrounding area to the farm, with anti-poaching patrols, as well as educating and compensating villagers whose crops have been damaged by wild animals.

Says Fletcher continues: “The amazing story behind our sauces as well as the intense production process and the quality of the ingredients which go into each bottle, make Dr Trouble sauce very special and distinctive. The ingredients we use are at the mercy of the weather and can vary slightly year to year, so we do lots of testing and tasting to keep the sauce consistent – it’s truly a living process.”

Zimbabwe chilli sauce
It takes over 100 days to make gourmet sauce, matured under the sun in glass flagons

African sauce

Albert Oberholzer, Fletcher’s partner in the business, said: “It’s very exciting to launch Dr Trouble in the UK – with British consumers becoming increasingly aware and conscious of the brands they buy, particularly around corporate social responsibility. We’re confident that the UK will love our authentic and natural recipe from the heart of the African bush.”

“There is so much innovation in the UK sauce category at the moment as consumers demand something more exciting on the side of their plate, as a marinade or as a dipping experience. With novelty products vying for the spot of spiciest hot sauce, we spotted a gap in the market for a chilli sauce, that is well balanced, delicious, high quality and is produced ethically, supporting a whole community in Africa.”