Dave Nettles and Kelsi White are spicing up the lives of fellow Sacramentans with their line of locally made sauces. It’s their company name that makes customers do double takes: Ocean Beach Foods Co.
They named their fledgling company in honor of the famed surfing community in San Diego. Nettles is a lifelong surfer; White grew up in San Diego.
“We both have a love of sauces and beach-style living,” Nettles said. “We both love Ocean Beach, and the name encompassed our lifestyles and what we wanted to be as a company.”
Neither partner had any experience in the food business. They met while working in media sales and marketing at the Sacramento News & Review.
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“I had zero experience canning or doing anything like that,” White said. “But this was something we thought would be fun to do. And we’ve learned a lot!”
One year after making their first batch of Taqueria sauce, friends Nettles and White now have Ocean Beach sauces in 23 stores including Corti Brothers and Taylor’s Market in Sacramento. Doing all the cooking and marketing themselves, they’ve sold more than 4,600 jars.
“We started with $500 – literally because that was all we had to spend and no one would give us a loan,” White said.
Added Nettles, “We do tastings at the Sacramento Food Co-op and people are shocked to learn that we’re actually the owners of the company. But we’re that small – and that hands-on.”
Sacramento has embraced their beachy spin on sauces, they said.
“The reaction has been really great,” White said. “People are always super-excited when they taste the sauces. Sacramento loves everything local. And we’re trying to be as local as possible.”
Ocean Beach now features four flavors –two Mexican and two Indian. The Taqueria and Baja Verde recipes are variations of traditional Mexican favorites that Nettles has loved for years.
“I brought the Indian to the table,” White said. “I couldn’t find sauces I liked. So I developed my own. Personally, I think Indian food is going to be the next big trend, like Thai. It’s going to really take off.
“In Indian restaurants, the flavors are often ‘dumbed down’ – they’re very heavy with butter and cream or coconut milk,” she added. “I wanted something that tasted fresh, lighter, with more intense flavors.”
White worked on her Tikka Masala and Kerala Coconut Curry sauce recipes for months. (Kerala is a famous Indian surfing beach.)
“I made curry twice a week for six months, over and over and over again, until I had it right,” she said. “I finally figured out one missing ingredient – cinnamon –then it all came together.”
Ocean Beach rents a local restaurant kitchen to make the sauces, which sell for about $5 for a 12-ounce jar.
“They’re locally made and as locally sourced as we can,” Nettles said. “They’re so simple, so fresh and so spicy.”
There’s a lot of heat in the Taqueria sauce; it includes an equal amount of tomatoes and jalapeño peppers.
“We call them sauces – not salsas – because they’re more of a condiment, not just something for dipping chips,” Nettles said. “They’re great in burritos, tacos, eggs. They have a lot of versatility.”
And, yes, you can find Ocean Beach Foods in Ocean Beach, too. White found a gourmet shop in her old hometown that wanted to carry their brand. They’re also looking to expand elsewhere around the state.
Said Nettles, “People are drawn to the ocean. Even though we’re in Sacramento, we’re still California and connected to the ocean. Ocean Beach allows you to have that California feel, wherever you are.”