Penn State Grad Brings The Heat With Miller’s Banana Pepper Sauce
Many Penn Staters come to campus as freshmen with hardly an idea of what they want to do after they graduate. Some of us leave that way, too. But for graduate Robb Miller, the founder of Miller’s Banana Pepper Sauce, his calling in life stemmed from an old family tradition.
Miller first began canning and selling hot sauce to his friends and neighbors when he was a teenager growing up in Pittsburgh. He and his family made the sauce on only Labor Day weekend, but they began to run out as demand grew every year.
“Would make it on Saturday and just watch football games while we made it,” said Miller. “It got to the point where we were prepping the kitchen on Friday night, and [working] all day Saturday, all day Sunday, and part of Monday. It was uprooting our Labor Day.”
Miller went to Penn State from 1983 to 1987 and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He was a dancer for THON and made lifelong friends as a member of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity, too. Three of his sons have since attended Dear Old State, and he still tailgates at football games.
After Miller graduated, his customers encouraged him to start a business. He did just that, founding Miller’s in 2002 with approval from the government of Pennsylvania.
“We just started walking into stores and telling them our story,” said Miller.
Miller has tinkered with his recipe over time, and he attributes the changes to the final batch from each year to when he would use all of his leftover ingredients. Sometimes, the final product was an improvement.
His greatest epiphany came during a year when he was weeks behind filling orders. He usually used his banana peppers when they were green, but over time, they had turned red and orange. The sweeter taste made it “the best batch we ever did.”
Miller’s sells three flavors of hot sauce: Hot, Mild, and Habanero. The company’s first flavor, Hot, was sold exclusively for its first eight years in business. After customer feedback, Miller’s added flavors to the two extremes of the heat scale. All three varieties use the same base recipe, with the only difference being the type of pepper used.
Miller’s distributes its products through an online store and at more than 2,000 retail locations, mainly in the northeastern United States. In the last two years, the company has broadened its social media presence on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, too.
As the company has expanded, Miller has outsourced some of its labor. He hired a third-party company to harvest the peppers, which he says has reduced the process from “days to hours.”
Other employees are responsible for the company’s graphic design, branding, and logistics.
“When I started, I wanted to do everything,” said Miller. “After a while, we realized that we were never going to grow unless we partnered with people who specialize in these fields.”
Through it all, Miller’s is still a family business and is based in Pittsburgh. Miller has partners who help him run the company, but his nephew and son create content for the social media accounts. “Everyone chips in in different ways,” said Miller.
Moving forward, Miller is focused on growing his company to be a national brand.
“We’re in a lot of stores, but my next-door neighbor has never heard of [us],” said Miller. “Sales have gone up every year, so we’re going in the right direction.”
Those interested in checking out Miller’s Banana Pepper Sauce can visit its website for more information.
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