The five little monkeys of the Morasci family aren’t jumping on the bed. Instead the Modesto clan has jumped enthusiastically into the world of barbecue sauce.
In August, they turned their longtime secret family barbecue recipe into Five Monkeys BBQ Sauce and began bottling the stuff for sale. Since starting small, bottling out of a manufacturing plant in Patterson, they’ve grown quickly.
The first manufacturing run was about 600 bottles and now they are up to about 4,100. The sauce is available in a dozen grocery stores and markets across the Central Valley and being served in four local restaurants. You can also buy it online through their website or Amazon. Named after the five members of the Morasci family — father George, mother Kelly, sons Keith and Nico and youngest daughter Taylor — the sauce has been an unplanned success.
In fact George Morasci, who works as agricultural appraiser, made his first batch about eight years ago almost on accident.
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“We didn’t have any sauce and I didn’t have time to go to the store,” he said. “And for once in my life I had my daughter write down the recipe.”
Over the years they made the sauce again and again for themselves, their family and friends. And it was those family and friends who kept telling them they should bottle it and share it with the world. And then earlier this year, when eldest son Keith came back to the region after working out of state, they decided to get serious about sauce.
With George and Kelly, a Modesto City Schools elementary teacher for close to 30 years, backing them up, the younger generation took the reigns as owners of the venture. Keith serves as general manager and his younger siblings help with marketing and other management.
“It’s growing nearly faster than our little family can keep up,” Keith said. “We really want to keep it local and take local business very seriously. We want to support local businesses and they’re supporting us.”
Five Monkeys BBQ is in six valley Raley’s Supermarkets in Modesto, Oakdale, Tracy, Manteca and Stockton, as well as Mar-Val Food Stores in Escalon and Valley Springs, Village Fresh Market in Turlock and The Market at La Comisaria, Cost Less Food and O’Brien’s Market in Modesto. Local restaurants serving up the sauce are The Tri-Tipery, Twin Rivers Saloon, St. Stan’s Brewery and Piccadilly Deli & Sandwich Shop.
What sets it apart is its distinctive flavor without a hint of smoke. The family prides itself on its “clean” label with only ingredients everyone can pronounce like brown sugar, tomato paste and apple cider. The sauce is also corn syrup-free, using agave as one if its sweeteners instead. The taste is sweet with a hint of spice kicking up at the end. And, George said, it can be used on much more than just grilled meats. Fans have reported using it on tacos, pot stickers and even quiche.
At a recent sampling event at O’Brien’s Market in north Modesto customers stopped to try the sauce on pulled pork sliders and the response was lots of “Mmm mmm” noises. Customers also appreciated the brand’s playful name and bottle, which features five smiling monkeys staring out of a tree. George said the name grew out of his nickname, Iron Monkey. But when copyright issues made it unavailable, they decided to focus the name on their five members instead.
The family plans more leaps and bounds for its fledgling company in the future. Two new Five Monkeys flavors are coming, which should start appearing on store shelves in the beginning of the new year.
“We had no idea how it would do. It was like jumping off into a great darkness and hoping for the best,” George said. “The reception to us has been unbelievable. It’s been pretty humbling, actually.”