A container of custom labeled Savory Spice Hungarian Paprika on a table with freshly made delicious dishes seasoned with paprika.

Customer Spotlight: Savory Spice Shop

Filling Life with Flavor One Spice at a Time

Savory Spice owners blend creativity, craftsmanship, and cooking into a successful boutique business

Did you ever stop to wonder how many varieties of paprika there are? If you’re like most people, probably not. But the next time you’re preparing a dish that calls for paprika, you might want to think twice before reaching for that basic grocery store blend.

Of the 200-plus spices, herbs, and extracts available from Denver-based Savory Spice Shop, they offer five varieties of paprika—that’s about four more than you would ever see in your average supermarket spice aisle. It’s what makes Savory Spice Shop the go-to purveyor of artisanal seasonings for everyone in the kitchen, from gourmet chefs to novices.

“Most of our high-quality, proprietary blends are prepared by hand in small batches,” explains Savory Spice Shop founders Mike and Janet Johnston. “This allows us to create seasonings that are distinctly more fragrant and more flavorful than those sold elsewhere.” The couple opened their first Savory Spice store in Denver in 2004 and have grown to 27 retail locations across the U.S., plus a successful e-commerce business, offering 450 products.

“Cooking is so personal…tastes are highly individualized,” Mike explains, “We offer such a wide range of blends and grinds of spices, chances are that we can meet anyone’s flavor preferences.”

A blend of personal and professional passions

Mike and Janet entered the spices and seasonings industry with a blend of personal and professional passions. The couple leveraged their extensive professional experience in spice blending, the retail spice industry, and marketing to turn what they love into a small business.

Each plays an important role in operations and product development. Mike takes a creative approach to flavors, whether it’s in the kitchen or behind the grill. “I enjoy pushing flavors outside of traditional uses to inspire cooks of all levels,” he notes. He has created over 200 spice blends, from traditional favorites like Jamaican Jerk to seasonings inspired by global travel and trends. With the explosion of interest in barbecuing and home smokers during the pandemic, the demand for flavorful and unique rubs played right into Mike’s flavor forte. The company offers 49 rubs, seasonings, and other products specifically for grilling. As a lead product innovator, Mike oversees the company’s Test Kitchen which develops new products as well as recipes to support product launches and customers’ exploration of their seasonings.

Janet manages day-to-day operations at the corporate office and warehouse. But she also immerses herself in international travel to gain a 360-degree knowledge of the industry. Her adventures include learning about the harvesting processes of French sea salt and Grenada nutmeg, tracing the origins of traditional blends such as Bajan in Barbados, cooking classes in Thailand, harvesting cinnamon in Vietnam, and picking peppercorns in Cambodia.

Simple, but with a “wow”

Savory Spice Seven Onion Dip

About those five varieties of paprika? “Once consumers do a little research and experimenting in the kitchen, they discover there is a major difference in quality and taste between grocery store brand spices and ours,” observes Mike. “And there are so many varieties of spices like paprika—even salt and pepper—that have a range of exciting flavor profiles and textures.”

To keep so many choices from scaring away consumers who are just starting to find their way in the kitchen, the Johnstons set out to make the spice experience simple but impactful. Their mission statement reflects that: Our mission is to deliver ‘wow’ flavor experiences that bring you closer to your loved ones,” Janet explains, “We make exploring   in the kitchen surprisingly simple and approachable, so cooks of all levels can say, ‘I’ve got this!’

To that end, their line of Spice ‘n Easy line has been proving wildly popular, particularly during the pandemic. “Many people were just learning how to cook and had more time with their family to prepare meals in ways they previously hadn’t,” says Mike. “Customers wanted to learn how to cook, but they also wanted to try new things.” To inspire and entice shoppers, Savory Spice packaging features colorful photos of the finished dishes, and unique, kitchen-tested recipes are available on their website.

This year, the company is showcasing a new Wonders of the World product line of internationally inspired Spice ‘n Easy seasonings, including Honey Sumac Hummus inspired by Petra, Jordan.

Savory Spice Honey Sumac Hummus

Immersive, sensory in-store experiences

The Savory Spice Shop in-store experience takes spice shopping to a whole other sensory level. Even before opening the door to a Savory Spice Shop location, you are drawn in by the smell of fresh spices. “If you walked down a grocery store aisle, you won’t have that same experience,” says Janet. “We believe the best way for customers to understand the value of high-quality spices is a hands-on, smelling, and tasting experience.”

Shoppers are not only taken in by the aromas and flavors, but also by the bright colors of the brand packaging and the products themselves. The immersive in-store experience also includes tastings, cooking classes, cookbook author sessions, and one-on-one interaction with spice merchants to learn about the store’s many products, recipes, and more.

For the Johnstons, what matters most in life is meaningful moments, delightful experiences, and of course, flavorful food. Or as they like to say: helping people “Live Life Full” one spice at a time.