Success with salad sauce
In the 1960s an assistant cook worked in Landgasthof Hirschen, a country inn in the small village of Diegten in northwestern Switzerland. However, the working relationship did not last very long because there was one thing the cook could not do and that was cook! With one exception. He make a very good salad dressing. The proprietor soon sent the man on his way but kept his salad sauce recipe and refined it to perfection. This was the birth of today’s Hirschen salad sauce – at least if you believe what is said at the regulars’ table.
From plumber to entrepreneur
Undisputed however is that Michael Maurer is the grandson of the then proprietor who took over the restaurant and its associated butcher’s shop in 1960. ‘My grandparents sold the salad sauce in the butcher’s very successfully,’ recalls Michael. Later on Michael’s mother and uncle continued to run the business but had to close the butcher’s shop in 2010. That was the beginning of the production of today’s salad sauce. ‘When customers couldn’t buy the dressing after the closure of the butcher’s they were very annoyed.’ That was why Michael’s mother sold the salad sauce at first in small quantities in a neighbouring village dairy. There was a big demand which grew and so Michael Maurer, who was at that time a plumber, decided to change jobs and gradually take over the production and sales of the sauce.
Innovative strength and persistence
‘It was all learning by doing,’ Michael recalls of the early days. Until then the sauce was considered a niche product and prepared in 20-liter pots. Then it was time to increase the amount of production so that Hirschen salad sauce could establish itself independently. So the young entrepreneur had to be creative and designed different machines to build up a small factory. At the same time Michael began looking for sales channels. In order to do this on all his days off he went around visiting various grocery shops in the area and carried out tasting sessions at the weekend. His innovative strength and persistence paid off. After just a few years Michael was able to give up his learned profession as a plumber and invest all his labour in his new business. Today he produces over 65,000 bottles a year. At the beginning it was just about 1,500 bottles per year.
Making a salary and own creation
Michael Maurer’s business got a great boost when during the pandemic a high-end department store approached him to ask if he could produce three different salad sauces for them. Thanks to this source of income Michael could use his production hall to its best capacity. Nearly at the same time he was asked by a manager of the food market in a large department store in Zürich if he could supply his sauce for their in-house salad buffet. And that was not all. During this time Michael created a new flavoured sauce of fig and mustard. The fig mustard is produced in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Together with a Swiss apple vinegar it gives the sauce a creamy consistency and a perfect mix of sweet and sour spiciness.
The recipe remains a family secret
What exactly makes Hirschen salad sauce so unique that for over 60 years it has been embedded in customers taste buds? The basis is sunflower oil, eggs, stock, spices and lots of hand-cut vegetables such as peppers and onions. The latter gives the original sauce its exclusive umami flavour. It is much less sweeter than comparable sauces. ‘I won’t reveal the recipe of course!’ laughs Michael. And with that it will remain a well-kept family secret for further generations to come.