WORDS Dwain Hebda
IMAGES Dwain Hebda and courtesy of Keith Tucker Jr.
Keith Tucker Jr. is the American Dream.
The forty-year-old graduate of Little Rock Central High School was holding down a regular job when he was inspired to do something bigger. He developed and launched Truth Sauce with little more than a dream and the encouragement of the people who loved and believed in him most.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“My product is something I developed from the ground up,” Keith says. “I was the head chef at UAMS Cancer Institute [in Little Rock] for over ten years and that’s where I got my passion and love for cooking. From there, just me playing in the kitchen, I came up with this fabulous product called the Truth Sauce.”
“I started out with family and friends, sending it to them and I realized that I had something. From there I got it packaged and I haven’t looked back.
The best things in life are often the simplest just as the simplest things in life can be deceivingly complex. Truth Sauce is a prime example, delivering a unique and complex flavor profile that has much less burn than a hot sauce, more kick than sweet-and-sour and much more personality than ketchup. The reddish-orange elixir promises “sweet heat” and that’s exactly what it delivers without ever overpowering the meat or the taste buds. It’s probably the most versatile sauce you can have in the pantry, enhancing the flavor of everything from meat and fish to eggs and vegetables.
“People are putting it on literally everything that you can eat,” Keith says.
Like the sauce, the name of the product also works on several levels. On the surface, it draws from slang, describing the greatest of something. But it’s also a brand and a business philosophy all rolled into one – the product lives up to its billing and reflects on the ethics and integrity of the inventor. And, there are more personal elements to the name as well.
“The name originated from a nickname my people gave me. They used to call me Truth, so I just incorporated it with my brand, Truth Sauce,” he said. “It was a perfect little mix, and it was a great name for the sauce. If you look at the logo, you’ll see a halo and wings represents The Truth as well.”
Family plays a big role at the company. Keith Jr. might still be small-time had Keith III, his sixteen-year-old-son, not pushed him to think bigger.
“[Keith III] definitely gave me the push when I first started,” Keith Jr. said. “He said, ‘Hey Dad, you know it’s more than just for family and friends. I believe this is something that can possibly change the world.’ I listened and I’m so thankful that I did.”
Keith III, who’s president of the company, has continued to be involved with the venture alongside of his father. An honor student and athlete, Keith III has shown a particular flair for the marketing side of things, creating videos and other content for social media. He’s also ridden along on sales calls and has appeared in numerous media reports about the family business.
“I believed in this product so much and I just wanted to see him win, to succeed,” he said. “I knew his dedication to the sauce. He had a big drive and a big motor to make it happen, too.”
For his part, Keith Jr. has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, a byproduct of his energy for his product that fuels his nonstop promotional messaging. One video clip, caught on his phone, finds him alongside Arkansas’s own Scottie Pippen at a restaurant.
“What’s that seasoning, we talkin’ about, Pip?” Keith asks.
“Truth Sauce!” the NBA legend says into the camera.
“I’m hands-on. I do everything, from the marketing to most of the videos,” Keith Jr. says. “It’s keeping the people engaged and keeping your audience engaged. I’m big on that, because without people, there is no product. Keep promoting, that’s the easy part in my opinion. That’s something I just have a passion for.”
Truth Sauce had steadily developed a loyal following but also faced the same challenges as any new company – gaining wider distribution. Father and son tackled this challenge in the same manner as building their grassroots clientele, which was through one-on-one connections and salesmanship.
“Everything was self-taught. I’m learning every day. Still learning today. I don’t have it all figured out,” Keith Jr. says. “It was a lot of bumps and bruises along the way. My first major retail store was Drug Emporium. We had a lot of buzz and attention. We were doing well in Drug Emporium, and we just kept on pressing forward.”
The success of the Truth Sauce line on retail shelves, which by that time had grown to Truth’s All Purpose Seasoning and Truth BBQ Sauce, helped the brand gain steam among other retailers. The company was picked up statewide by Edward’s Food Giant, followed by distribution in all Arkansas Value Foods. “Now we’re in, all together, about sixty locations throughout Arkansas,” Keith Jr. says proudly.
The success of the product has begun to land the company accolades. Remix Ideas and Black Founders named Keith Jr. its 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year.
“It was an award I knew nothing about until they called me,” Keith Jr. says. “I was shocked and elated at the same time because it’s always a pleasure when somebody is recognizing your work. All that hard work is not going in vain.”
Every day brings a different challenge into the life of an entrepreneur, but the problems Truth Sauce has can be described as the good variety. Asked his biggest challenge at the moment, Keith Jr. grins.
“Keeping the product in stock, making sure we have enough,” he says. “Can the co-packers make it fast enough? That’s about it.”
Company leadership make no bones about their goals – having conquered Arkansas and shipped to all fifty states through their website, they want to bring the Truth to every grocery in America and kitchens in all corners of the world.
“It’s always good to start at home. I feel like if you can get accepted at home first, you can be accepted anywhere,” Keith Jr. says. “For us to really lay the foundation and be all over Arkansas right now we’re in Hazen, Forrest City, Marianna, Beebe, Harrisburg.”
“We’ve already shipped to all fifty states. But to have a permanent home in other states would be great, just expanding the company outside of Arkansas and letting the masses taste this product is the next step for me. I’m a firm believer in once you taste it, you will be a customer for life.”
Find Truth Sauce products online at truthsauceinc.com.