2018 Was a Good Year for Kentucky Bad Dog Jelly
Georgetown Business Enjoyed a 58 Percent Increase in Sales
By Chris Aldridge, Kentucky Agricultural News
GEORGETOWN, Ky. (July 1, 2019) — When your Kentucky Proud business is named Kentucky Bad Dog Jelly, there’s got to be a story behind it.
The Georgetown business is named for George and Jenny McCord’s affectionate white Labrador retriever named Abby, who used to have a problem with separation anxiety.
“As a puppy, she was terrible,” Jenny explained. “We were getting ready to have a big party, and George let her out of her crate” to run a brief errand.
“We had three holes in the drywall in our hallway!” Jenny said. “We had 45 people coming over and holes in the wall.”
Abby has since matured, along with their 4-year-old business, although each jar of its jelly bears a logo featuring a photo of the poor pooch behind bars.
“We have a big banner that we take to festivals of Abby behind bars,” George said. “It’s a great conversation piece.”
“We joke that we have to sell our jellies to raise bail money to get her out of jail,” Jenny added.
Last year, Kentucky Bad Dog Jelly sold about 8,600 jars, a 58 percent increase over 2017.
It was one of three Kentucky Proud businesses that exhibited their products to a national and international audience at the 2019 American Food Fair recently in Chicago.
“It was a great learning experience for a small company like ours,” George said. “You don’t grow unless you do something like that.”
Businesses in Sweden and Latvia expressed interest in importing the jellies to their northern European countries.
“We learned that we have a lot to do to get where we want to be,” George said.
Kentucky Bad Dog Jelly began in 2015, but it can trace its origin to the previous year, when George broke his foot playing kickball with his daughter and her friends. Bored and unable to work, he jumped at a suggestion from his mother that they do some canning.
George grew up on a 1,000-acre cattle and tobacco farm in Clark County with a large garden.
“I learned canning from my grandmother,” he said. “We’d do hundreds of jars in one day – green beans, peas, everything.”
Pepper jelly made with green peppers had been around for some time, but George had an idea of blending hotter jalapenos and habaneros with peaches.
“I took it to another level with the fruit,” he said. “I started mixing peppers with fruit, so you get your sweet and hot. I like a little heat, but I don’t like it really hot, so I changed it more to my taste, and it worked out.”
George asked family and friends to sample his peachy peppery creation. One of those friends asked for a jar.
A Georgetown business owner told George he would like to carry to product in his store when it “became legal” by passing the requirements to sell at retail.
Four years later, Jenny said Kentucky Bad Dog Jelly is carried in 33-35 stores in Kentucky, 30 of which are listed on its website from Paducah to Jackson. Go to KentuckyBadDog.com.
The biggest sellers of Kentucky Bad Dog Jelly are Taste of Kentucky’s three locations in Louisville and Completely Kentucky in Frankfort.
Kentucky Bad Dog Jelly has 20 flavors, and George is working on another. “I feel like Baskin-Robbins!” he joked, referring to the ice cream chain’s famed 31 flavors.
The best sellers are blackberry habanero, sweet banana pepper habanero, and a very Kentucky flavor, cherry bourbon habanero. There’s also a ginger habanero using Ale-8-One, a ginger-flavored Kentucky Proud soft drink.
To keep costs down, the McCords “try to grow as much [of the ingredients] as we can” on their 5 acres. They raise 20 of each type of pepper plant except habaneros – sweet banana, Carolina Reapers, Ghost, and jalapeno – as well as three peach trees, and blackberry and blueberry bushes.
“We can only grow so much,” George said, noting he gets all his habaneros from a co-worker at Toyota and additional banana peppers from nearby Evans Orchard, a Kentucky Proud member.
“They carry our jelly as well,” Jenny said. “We try to stay as local as we can, buying from local farmers.”
Peaches to supplement their own crop and all their pepper seedlings come from Bi-Water Farm and Greenhouse, another Kentucky Proud business near Georgetown.
Several restaurants use Kentucky Bad Dog Jelly in their recipes. Fava’s of Georgetown uses mango habanero jelly as a glaze for its pork tenderloin and also sells jars of several varieties to its customers.
A glaze on ribs, chicken, or chicken wings is one of the most popular uses of the jelly, as well as mixing it with cream cheese and spreading it on a cracker to make a quick snack or hors d’oeuvre.
George said a new use has been buying the jellies as gifts for wedding parties.
“I think a guy would rather have a jar of our jelly than a candle,” he said.
George is counting down the days until he retires from Toyota in mid-2020 and can devote his attention to his jelly business full-time.
“That is the plan,” George said. Jenny works from home as a claims examiner for a major insurance company.
“She can be the breadwinner,” he joked, “and I’ll put jelly on it!”
From left, Jenny, Abby, and George McCord, proprietors of Kentucky Bad Dog Jelly.