Penn State Grad brings the heat with Miller’s Banana Peppercorn Sauce
Many Penn Staters come to campus as freshmen with barely any idea what they want to do after graduation. Some of us start out that way too. But for graduate Robb Miller, the founder of Miller’s Banana Pepper Sauce, his calling in life stemmed from an old family tradition.
Miller began canning and selling hot sauce to friends and neighbors when he was a teenager in Pittsburgh. He and his family made the sauce only on Labor Day weekend, but they began to run out as demand increased each year.
“I would do it on Saturday and just watch the football games while we were doing it,” Miller said. “It got to the point where we were getting the kitchen ready on Friday night, and [working] all day Saturday, all day Sunday and part of Monday. It was uprooting our Labor Day.
Miller went to Penn State from 1983 to 1987 and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He was a dancer for THON and also made lifelong friends as a member of Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Three of his sons have since attended Dear Old State, and he still attends football games.
After graduating, his clients encouraged him to start a business. He did exactly that by founding Miller’s in 2002 with the approval of the Pennsylvania government.
“We just started going into stores and telling them our story,” Miller said.
Miller tinkered with his recipe over time, and he attributes the changes to the last batch of each year to when he would use up all of his leftover ingredients. Sometimes the end product was an improvement.
His biggest epiphany came during a year when he was weeks behind filling orders. He usually used his banana peppers when they were green, but over time they turned red and orange. The sweeter taste made it “the best batch we’ve ever made”.
Miller’s sells three flavors of hot sauce: hot, mild, and habanero. The company’s first flavor, Hot, was sold exclusively for its first eight years in business. After customer feedback, Miller’s added flavors at both ends of the heat scale. All three varieties use the same basic recipe, the only difference being the type of pepper used.
Miller’s distributes its products through a Online Store and in over 2,000 outlets, primarily in the northeastern United States. Over the past two years, the company has also expanded its social media presence to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
As the company expanded, Miller outsourced some of its workforce. He hired a third-party company to harvest the peppers, which he says cut the process from “days to hours.”
Other employees are responsible for graphic design, branding and company logistics.
“When I started, I wanted to do everything,” Miller said. “After a while, we realized that we were never going to grow unless we partnered with people who specialized in these areas.”
Through it all, Miller’s is still a Pittsburgh-based family business. Miller has partners who help run the business, but his nephew and son create content for social media accounts. “Everyone participates in different ways,” Miller said.
Going forward, Miller is focused on growing his business into a national brand.
“We are in a lot of stores, but my neighbor has never heard of [us]”, Miller said. “Sales have increased every year, so we are moving in the right direction.”
Those interested in learning about Miller’s Banana Pepper Sauce can visit his website for more information.