Mike Kurtz's Spicy Success: Transforming Hot Honey Into A Market Sensation

Entrepreneur Mike Kurtz has an old-school method for marketing his product: traveling with a snazzy Franzen Briefcase.

The Italian leather bag is filled with five 12-ounce bottles of his spicy culinary invention: Mike's Hot Honey.

Kurtz distributes the bottles to everyone from taxi drivers to airport staff and emptying his briefcase before he reaches the security checkpoint.

"I think there’s something about briefcases. You don’t see them around too often," Kurtz tells CNBC. "So whenever you do, there’s this subliminal message sent out to the people around you that whatever’s in the briefcase is of value."

Kurtz’s fascination with hot honey started nearly two decades ago in his college apartment. Today, this fiery passion has resulted in a thriving business that's expected to rake in over $40 million in the coming year.

Mike's Hot Honey managed to carve out a 2.5% niche in the vast $1 billion U.S. honey market.

Also Read: From $50 To Six Figures: The Rise Of Carter Osborne's College Application Consulting

Condiment Dreams and Brazilian Inspiration

Kurtz, who fancied himself "a condiment man," traveled to Brazil in 2004. While there, he was turned onto chili-infused honey, and it forever changed his culinary trajectory.

"The first time I tasted the combination of honey and chili peppers on pizza it blew my mind," Kurtz recalled.

Mike’s Hot Honey initially remained a private delight for Kurtz, but its popularity surged after an encounter with Paulie Gee, a notable pizza maker in Brooklyn, New York.

Kurtz's apprenticeship at the pizzeria became the launch platform for his spicy creation, particularly with the creation of Paulie Gee’s Hellboy pizza — a bestseller.

The positive reception encouraged Kurtz to shift from hobbyist to entrepreneur, selling his hot honey commercially. Soon, he found himself driving around New York City, delivering his product to various establishments.

By 2014, Whole Foods agreed to stock Mike's Hot Honey, marking the brand's entry into mainstream retail.

Under the leadership of CEO Matt Beaton, a friend from UMass Amherst, the brand's revenue skyrocketed. Today, Mike’s Hot Honey is featured in various restaurants and stores — a testament to Kurtz's enduring passion for the product.

Now Read: From Apple Executive To BBQ Maestro: Dan Defossey's Culinary Journey In Mexico City

This story is part of a series of features on the subject of success, Benzinga Inspire.

How can you invest in early-stage startups if you don’t know the founders? Easy. Click here for a list of startups you can invest in today.

Benzinga may receive monetary compensation from the issuer, or its agency, for publicizing the offering of the issuer’s securities in this article. Please see 17b disclosure linked in the offering circular for more information.

This content was partially produced with the help of AI tools and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Image: Mike's Hot Honey website

Every question you ask will be answered
Scan the QR code to contact us
Also you can contact us via