There’s a new hand on the tiller at the Avery Island home of Tabasco hot sauce.
The McIlhenny Company announced Monday that Harold Gray “Took” Osborn III, a member of the fifth generation of the McIlhenny family to play a role in its signature product’s creation and marketing, has been appointed president and chief executive officer for the multinational condiment empire.
Osborn succeeds Anthony A. Simmons, who retired this month after 19 years as CEO.
Simmons will continue to serve on the McIlhenny Company Board of Directors.
“I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead this great company alongside the McIlhenny family,” Osborn said in a press release. “It’s an exciting time for the Tabasco brand as people around the world are searching for new and bold foods and flavors more than ever before. I’m energized by all of the growth opportunities that lie ahead of us.”
Osborn has been involved in exploration and innovation with the company for decades, serving in management positions across the company including operations, agriculture, land management, sustainability and new product development. Back in 2002, he was part of an effort to reintroduce jalapeno peppers to the area, as well as experimentation with automated equipment to speed up the harvesting of the crop.
“We were focusing on whether we can grow the peppers here and, if so, can they be mechanically harvested,” Osborn said at the time.
Over the past six years, he has led the company’s international sales and marketing team, managing distributor relations and expanding distribution of products to 195 countries and territories. He is responsible for the implementation of new marketing strategies supported by the company’s first-ever global campaign.
In spite of the company’s international reach and scope, Osborn’s background is as entrenched in the Teche Area as the peppers that have made Tabasco a household name. Until he was in his 20s, Osborn spent his summers working on Avery Island both for the McIlhenny Company and at the Avery Island salt mine.
“This is the place where Tabasco is made for the whole world,” Osborn said in 2018. “The original, red Tabasco had three ingredients in the beginning, and it has three now: the peppers, the seeds of which still come from right here; salt, which still comes from mines here; and vinegar. But there’s also a fourth ingredient, and it’s our people. We couldn’t do it without everyone that works here on Avery Island.”
He left to earn a master’s degree in environmental science from Oxford University before working in the oil patch, eventually joining the efforts to clean the Alaskan coast after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He also served as a civilian contractor to the U.S. military before returning to the family business.
Since 1868, the McIlhenny Company has produced Tabasco hot sauce at its Avery Island site. It is currently sold in 195 countries and territories around the world and labeled in 25 languages and dialects.