The first co-branding breakthrough came in 1999 when the company inked a deal with Hormel Foods Corp., putting the Tabasco logo on Hormel products for the first time. The list of Hormel co-branded items now includes chili, pepperoni, Little Sizzlers sausage and Spam, all under the Hot & Spicy name.
"The co-branding effort has really sparked the brand and helped increase both sales and awareness," says Martin Manion, 50, the company's VP-corporate marketing.
Tabasco has also stepped up its efforts to reach Hispanic and African-American consumers in the last year. Cooking-related contests and events are popular, helping cement Tabasco's status as the No. 1-selling hot sauce despite an upsurge in local brands catering to spice-minded multicultural consumers.
TV and print advertising from Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Dallas, backs Tabasco's spunky efforts to become a staple of all types of households and palates. To expand that reach, McIlhenny has added flavor extensions such as soy, garlic pepper and chipotle pepper sauces aimed at various ethnic dishes.
The privately held company, founded in 1868 and based in Avery Island, La., declines to reveal its sales. However, Mr. Manion says Tabasco has some additional "hot ideas" for co-branding deals with other Tabasco products-and possibly other marketers-next year.