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Booming sales for Billy Butler's barbecue sauce

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Thursday, June 13, 2013, at 10:19 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, June 14, 2013, at 7:29 a.m.

The first call came from Connecticut on Monday, and I shrugged it off as an anomaly.

Then came a second call, this time from Arizona, and then an email, all with the same request: where could a person buy Billy Butler’s Hit It A Ton barbecue sauce? I had written about the sauce last month, but since then, the Royals’ Rally Sauce has become a national sensation.

The Royals’ season was on the brink of failure just 10 days ago. Out came the sauce and the wins have followed.

It’s caught the attention of Royals fan Michael Adams of Mesa, Ariz., who was eager to get his hands on a bottle or 12.

“I’ve got a couple other people who might be interested in ordering a large quantity of it,” Adams said.

Zarda Bar-B-Q, which worked with Butler to develop the sauce, has seen had a spike in online orders, according to Zarda Chief Operating Officer Terry Hyer.

Local sales, in particular, have been robust.

“There’s no way I or anyone could have expected the phenomena that has taken off,” said Zarda's Chief Operating Officer, Terry Hyer. “Truth is, sales are booming. We’ve been struggling to keep up with everything that’s happened the last two weeks.”

Hyer said area grocery stores had planned to sell the sauce for a limited time, but now they’re reordering. Many are planning to keep it on the shelves from here on out.

Aside from the Royals’ winning ways, Hyer is thrilled about the demand for the sauce, because sales benefit Butler’s Hit-It-A-Ton Foundation, which supports the Bishop Sullivan Center. That organization distributes more than a ton of food each day it operates to needy families in Kansas City through two pantries (on Truman Road and on Troost) and a community kitchen.

The Bishop Sullivan Center also helps people find jobs and assists elderly people who live at home.

Because of the Rally Sauce, more people are learning about the Bishop Sullivan Center.

“We have seen a bump on our hititaton.org website,” said Mike Mathews of the Bishop Sullivan Center. “It’s really a fun story, throwing sauce around and holding up the Rally Sauce, but the other side of that coin is that is helping a lot of people.

“We’re feeding a lot of people here in Kansas City that otherwise would be doing without, especially in the summer when there is no school lunch program, so there are more children struggling.”

Butler started the Hit-It-A-Ton Foundation with his wife, Katie, in 2008. Last year the foundation provided more than 300 tons of food, Mathews said.

Mathews said Zarda joined with Bishop Sullivan year ago and Zarda introduced the "Billy's Ton of Barbeque Sandwich.” One dollar from each sandwich sold went to the center.

Wanting to take the idea little further, Zarda pitched the idea of the barbecue sauce, and Butler agreed. The proceeds from each bottle sold go to Butler’s foundation.

While the sauce released earlier in the season, some of the Royals players hadn’t tasted it yet, so Butler asked Mathews to bring some bottles to Kauffman Stadium.

That was on June 5. Mathews brought the sauce before the game against the Twins, which the Royals won 4-1, ending an 11-game home losing streak.

Afterward, some of the players took to twitter, notably Jeremy Guthrie (@TheRealJGuts) who tweeted, “Hit it a ton. #BBQSauce #RoyalsWin.”

As the wins piled up (seven out of the last eight now), the sauce got more attention, particularly during Royals telecasts. And with that, the Rally Sauce sensation has taken off.

“I’ve been doing this for 33 years,” Hyer said of his life in the barbecue business. “This, I promise you, has been the most fun I’ve had.”

To order the sauce, go here or it’s available at local grocery stores and Rally House.

To reach Pete Grathoff, send email to pgrathoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/pgrathoff

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