“What is this nonsense?” Kaius Gestranius found himself thinking whilst bartending in Helsinkian restaurants a fair few years ago. He witnessed many ready-made ingredients and felt that the food was just heated up, not actually cooked, and that the sauces came from bottles, not pots.
“I couldn’t help but think they didn’t really know what they’re doing in the kitchen,” he recalls.
From a very young age, Gestranius has been working in restaurants both in and out of the kitchen, and he was used to seeing sauces made from scratch.
“That’s when I learnt what real and classic cooking and sauce-making skills entail,” he notes. “For example, in one of the restaurants I worked for in my teens, there was a huge pot bubbling in the back kitchen with vegetables and bones in it.”
However, things didn’t instantly get saucy for the young food idealist. It was only six summers ago that Gestranius, now a Lappeenranta resident, bought an American-style smoker to do some real barbecuing. He grabbed a bottle of BBQ sauce from the local supermarket and only glanced through the list of ingredients at home.
Looking at the list of E numbers, the memories from the bar kitchens of the capital came flooding back. “What if,” Gestranius found himself wondering, “I just do it myself?”
Boosting, not hiding flavours
Initially, Gestranius made sauces for his family and friends – who happen to make up a large gang of people. His cooking got so popular that others started to ask him to make sauces for weddings, parties and other occasions.
Soon, Gestranius took a study leave and, whilst at school, he founded Jävla Sås Bolag. The Swedish name, meaning ‘damn sauce company’, was accidentally invented by the founder’s wife.
“She was fed up with the sauce bottles around our house and called them ‘damn sauces’,” Gestranius explains, “and a while later she asked me if I really think it’s possible to make a living with ‘these damn sauces’. I figured that if they’ve been called that twice, that must be their name.”
The idea of the sauces is to give way to natural flavours and add absolutely nothing extra. Gestranius says he wants the sauces to boost the taste of the thing they accompany, such as a steak, instead of hiding it.
“There are so many things one can do with just the core ingredients, so that there’s really no need to add stuff just for texture or colour. For example, our ketchup includes five ingredients.”
As seen on television
The ‘damn sauces’ have also taken Gestranius on television. He took part in the Finnish version of Dragons’ Den – and walked out with much more money and shareholders he could ever have expected.
Although the publicity was great, the eight months between filming and broadcasting were lengthy, as Gestranius had to keep quiet about the entire thing. Now, things are running full steam (or sauce), with the help of the advisors who jumped on board from the show.
At the moment, Jävla Sås Bolag products are available in various Finnish supermarkets, and the company supplies its sauces to professional kitchens as well. Gestranius is also interested in other B2B collaborations, as the bottles have proven to be a great business gift.
With a Swedish name on the side of a Nordic design bottle, Gestranius believes that Scandinavia is another fruitful market for ‘jävla’ sauces, and some investors are already developing contacts in the neighbouring regions. Those seeking to please their taste buds with the sauces sooner can do so by popping into the company’s webshop.
Some have already done so:
“I received an email from a German man who stumbled across our sauces whilst visiting Finland and who was disappointed because he couldn’t find them in all stores around the country,” Gestranius tells. “He couldn’t believe that something that good wasn’t all over the place!”
With Jävla Sås Bolag poised for global sales success, it raises the question: are we in the midst of a saucy movement from Finland? A tidal wave of taste, perhaps? Poppamies was awarded in the US late last year for its BBQ sauce, Hesburger continues to grow internationally, bringing with it a range of condiments, and numerous online Finnish stores ensure staples such as Turun Sinappia mustard are accompanying dishes around the globe.