Getting to appear on a Hairy Bikers show is an incredible achievement for any food business. But with success, came a crashed website.

Running a food business is a tall order for anyone, let alone running a business on your own. This means you have to make, sell and promote products yourself and build a brand. Alex Khoo of Khoo’s Hot Sauce managed to do exactly that and appear on ‘The Hairy Bikers Go North For Christmas’ in 2021.

“When I first got the email, I thought it was a scam.” Alex said, “I knew the bikers were a thing like 10 years ago. I didn’t know how big they still were. I looked it up on Google and it was all legit.”

On the show, Alex was a part of The Hairy Biker’s ‘best northern Christmas Dinner’ as the bikers travelled the North for the best ingredients around and Khoo’s Hot Sauce was on that list.

Khoo’s Hot Sauce is a Sheffield-based company run solely by Alex who grows his own chillies to go into his homemade hot sauce. He got to show the Hairy Bikers how he does this on the show before the bikers tried each of his hot sauces to see which would make it into their Christmas Dinner.

Alex Khoo growing his chilies in his garden.
Alex Khoo growing his chilies in his garden.

“Si King came up to me on the day of filming and was like I hope you’re ready for this and gave me a little wink. I was like, I’ll be all right.” That episode racked up around 5.8 million viewers with around 75,000 people coming to Khoo’s Hot Sauce website within an hour.

This went on to crash the website. “He tried to give me a heads up but I wasn’t prepared at all.”

What was usually a quiet few months for Alex turned into sleepless nights as sales skyrocketed to new heights in January and February 2022 which are usually his dead months.

One year later, a repeat of the Hairy Bikers’ show came on. But this time, Alex was prepared for the mass amount of people coming to his website.

“We took the whole site down and replaced it with a landing page for the evening so that even when it did crash, it bounced back. All people could do was really give us their emails for when we were back online.

“It made the whole thing so much smoother. Probably lost me a fair amount of sales on the night, but it was worth it just for my sanity to be honest,” Alex said.

Four products from Khoo’s Hot Sauce. Plum Breakfast, The Heavy Smoker, Golden Syrup and Khoo’s Spicy Ketchup (left to right).

Alex started his business 11 years ago with the aim to turn a hobby into an extra bit of revenue after friends and family insisted that his hot sauces were marketable.

As a DJ, Alex met design illustrators and was surrounded by talented illustrators who could help with the branding of his company. Branding that’s become synonymous to the point where he is reluctant to change it.

Although, “it needs more contrast,” Alex said, “it needs to pop, it doesn’t stand out on the shelf.” Starting with good branding helped Alex’s business to grow and allow him to focus on his products and perfect his craft leading to his appearance on the Hairy Bikers’ show.

Alex also got to show his pride and joy sauce in the ‘Heavy Smoker’ as a lot of work went into that particular sauce. “It has depth and smokiness that I’ve not really encountered with anyone else’s sauces to this day.”

Alex said he wanted to create a sauce you could use as a smoked ingredient. There’s already a product called liquid smoke but he wanted to create a natural version of it and he achieved that.

Many of these customers have stayed with Alex and his hot sauce, adding it as a staple to their cupboards. For Alex, patience was key. Believing in his hard work led to a break which came in the form of the Hairy Bikers.