Pizza slice by Outlaw Spice

Nov 13th, 2008 | By | Category: Campus News, November 13, 2008

Stevens develops, markets own sauce

Pizza has delivered life-changing moments for Bill Stevens.

It was there in 1980 as “The Night of the Twisters” destroyed his Grand Island pizzeria. It served up change when he sold his Hastings pizza joint to spend more time with family. It drew him back in the 1990s as he opened Outlaw Pizza in Lincoln. And, it pulled him up after a car wreck, pushing him to develop a Outlaw Spice Co. Original Pizza Sauce, a sauce he markets locally and is served to UNL students.

“Pizza is just something I’ve always enjoyed making,” said Stevens, a dining service team leader in Cather-Pound-Neihardt Dining Service. “It’s a part of my life that I’ve always really enjoyed. And, now it’s helping me create something I can fall back on in retirement.”

He started working on the sauce about 15 years ago when he operated Outlaw Pizza at First Street and Cornhusker Highway. It started as a dry package that customers could take home and mix with a can of tomato sauce.

Bill Stevens
OUTLAW CREATOR – Bill Stevens, a dining service team leader in Cather-Pound-Neihardt Dining Service, holds his Outlaw Spice Co. Original Pizza Sauce. Stevens has developed and marketed the product locally for 15 years.

“When I ran my Outlaw Pizza place I developed my own recipes for the dough and really started working on the sauce recipe,” said Stevens. “I basically had my recipes where I liked them when I had a car wreck.”

Unable to operate the business after the wreck, Stevens sold the establishment. However, he maintained the rights to his recipes and started to introduce the spice mix into Lincoln grocery stores.

Stevens joined CPN Dining Services in 1999. He was able to introduce his product into Housing Dining Service options two years later.

“There was a blind taste test for pizza over at Harper-Schramm-Smith,” Stevens said. “There were about three or four vendors there, plus myself. We all presented pizzas to students and I won the taste test.

“That earned me the right to go ahead and start producing Outlaw Spice for the university.”

The university used Stevens’ dry mix for about the first three years, mixing it with tomato sauce. In the meantime, Stevens started to work on a liquid form.

“It sounded like an easy process as I already had the mix and all I had to do was put it in a bottle with some tomato sauce,” Stevens said. “But, I discovered it didn’t work that way. A mix might taste good out of the jar right off the bat, but when you let it sit for a day or two, one of the spices always seemed to grow too powerful.”

Through trial and error, Stevens developed the liquid sauce – which is designed to his individual taste, not too sweet with an even balance of spices and herbs.

“It’s not like any other sauce you will find in the Midwest,” Stevens said.

To help market the product, he sought the help of the UNL’s Food Processing Center and enrolled in Food Entrepreneurship Assistance program.

“I worked with Jill Gifford at the Food Processing Center,” Stevens said. “She was able to provide a lot of useful information – like where I could get labels made and who could help me produce the product.

“I couldn’t have gotten this off the ground without their help.”

The sauce is made by a USDA-licensed manufacturer in Firth. Even the labels are local, designed and printed by a company in Omaha.

Dining Services started purchasing 2.5 gallon containers of his liquid sauce four years ago. Today, the sauce is highlighted in Dining Services’ “Good. Fresh. Local.” program and is available at CPN, Abel-Sandoz and East Campus dining services.

Outlaw Spice Co. pizza sauce is also sold in 16-ounce jars in Hy-Vee, Super Saver and Russ’s Market grocery stores in Lincoln. Suite 1 Pub and Pizza in the Haymarket also uses the sauce locally.

“I work 40 hours a week here at the university, and on Saturdays I deliver the sauce to all the local stores,” said Stevens. “And, I still stay in touch with Jill at the Food Processing Center. She’s always letting me know about new possibilities to market my product.”

He has also continued to develop the flavor of the product – he currently markets the fourth-generation of Outlaw Spice Co. Original Pizza Sauce.

“When I first started out developing this product, I dreamed of being a multi-millionaire,” said Stevens. “Then reality hit when I went to that first grocery store and had to beg to get space. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I’m happy with where the product is at this time. When I retire, I’ll have more time to market the product and, hopefully, expand sales.

“Personally, I kind of like the idea of retiring on pizza.”

Local Product

Bill Stevens’ Outlaw Spice Co. Original Pizza Sauce is available at Hy-Vee, Super Saver and Russ’s Market grocery stores in Lincoln. It is also used on pizzas at Suite 1 Pub and Pizza in the Haymarket.

One of U

This is a Scarlet series featuring stories about the hobbies or activities of faculty and staff at UNL.
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— Story and photo by Troy Fedderson, University Communications

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  1. I LOVE this pizza sauce, but all of the sudden it has disappeared from all of the grocery store shelves. What happened?? Did Outlaw go out of business?! Is there anywhere that I can still buy jars of the sauce?
    Sad in Lincoln,

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