You may have seen a “Pink Sauce” headline in your social feeds sometime in the past week. Maybe you skipped over it, but now it’s hard to escape. The Pink Sauce situation is real, and chef Carly Pii is taking it very, very personally.
But after going viral on TikTok and generating a mountain of criticism, her $20 Pink Sauce is already sold out.
“Y’all really just gotta give me a break. Y’all gotta stop this negativity,” the chef said last week in a YouTube video that clocked in at nearly 52 minutes. “I have to separate from this stuff. I cannot allow y’all to bury me mentally.”
The product launch has not been without its beginner-level problems, and those were compounded by the virality of the product. Pink Sauce, which personal chef Pii said she had previously served to private clients, became available for purchase at $20 a bottle on July 1. Before that, it was just a giveaway item.
“I’ve been using it and serving it to my clients for a year — no one has ever gotten sick,” Pii recently told the Washington Post.
While fans of Pink Sauce are sticking to their guns, others — many of them on TikTok — have been piling on with complaints and fears about the product.
If you’re late to the controversy, here are answers to a few questions about the Pink Sauce.
Who is Pink Sauce creator @chefpii?
Chef Pii — pronounced “pea” — is a private chef in Miami. She’s been in the chef biz for four years, she said in the YouTube video. And she’s not letting the controversy around her viral product get her down. Chef Pii, by the way, is her TikTok username, not her real name. The single mother of two boys told NBC’s “Today” show she didn’t want to reveal her real name in order to protect her privacy. She introduces herself as Carly Pii on YouTube, where her account bears that name.
A month ago, the 29-year-old said, she had around 800 followers on TikTok. Now she has more than 142,000 followers with 4 million likes on her posts. Her videos regularly notch more than a million views. “This is a small business, y’all,” she said on TikTok. “This is a small business that is moving really, really fast.” In addition to the sauce biz, Chef Pii offers private sit-down dinners, including “mixology service,” as well as catering for 50 or more people, according to her Flavor Crazy website.
What are the ingredients of Pink Sauce?
The Pink Sauce website lists the condiment’s main ingredients as honey, chili, garlic, sunflower seed oil and dragon fruit — aka pitaya. The product’s early label had a more complete list: water, sunflower seed oil, raw honey, distilled vinegar, garlic, pitaya, pink Himalayan sea salt and less than 2% dried spices, lemon juice, milk and citric acid.
Since then, Pii said on YouTube, “milk” has been changed to “dry milk.” Also, there is now a reference to refrigerating the sauce.
How did she get the idea to use dragon fruit?
Pii suffers from — or used to suffer from — anxiety. Dragon fruit was part of her solution.
“Dragon fruit is rich in magnesium, which helped me out with my anxiety,” she said on YouTube. “That is my personal story, and that is why I love dragon fruit.” She describes its subtle, sweet flavor and its pronounced, “dense” color as similar to the coloring in beets.
Why does the sauce’s color keep changing?
In myriad images online, the color of Pink Sauce is all over the place, ranging from pop-of-color fuchsia to something approximating Pepto-Bismol.
Which brings us back to that similar-to-beets description of dragon fruit’s color. It turns out that dragon fruit has a beets-like effect on the human digestive tract: It turns poop red. So Pii said on YouTube that she adjusted the color down from the vibrant hue seen in early TikToks in response to customer comments.
Why would people worry about food poisoning?
Apparently, some bottles of Pink Sauce were shipped in bags instead of boxes, and they arrived damaged. Also people noticed that the ingredients included milk, but the bottles weren’t shipped with any sort of refrigeration or indication that they should be refrigerated.
“You are selling rotten sauce to people in the summer heat,” TikTok user Misha Curiel said in a video criticizing Pink Sauce last week. That video was watched more than 830,000 times, showing the strength of the #pinksauce trend.
Most of the rest of Curiel’s dozen videos have been watched less than 6,000 times, but she went back to six-figure views with a follow-up post reporting unsubstantiated allegations about the sauce.
Wait, how many servings are in a package?
Early nutritional labels on the Pink Sauce asserted there were 444 servings per package, which would make for a pretty gigantic package, given that the correct amount of a serving is listed as 1 tablespoon, or 14.4 grams.
Turns out that there are 444 grams of sauce in each package. Unfortunately, that number got put in the wrong place on the label. And vinegar was in the ingredients list misspelled as “vingar.” They were both simple mistakes.
“If you do the math, you will see that we clearly accidentally made a typo,” Pii said on YouTube. “The graphic designer clearly made a typo and put the grams in the servings. Now, you guys are judging a prototype. Let’s start there. You guys are judging a prototype. A prototype is when a product is not an official product. The Pink Sauce has only been an official product since the first of July.”
What is Pii doing to address complaints?
She said she has sent email blasts to people who ordered the sauce and has offered either new products or refunds. She has also posted explanatory videos on YouTube and TikTok. She said in a video that she had “not had a lot of refund requests.”
Pii also emphasized in a video that the sauce is now manufactured in a facility that’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and in line with FDA standards. “We are currently in lab testing,” she said. “Once we go through lab testing we will be able to pitch to stores.”
Is Pink Sauce approved by the FDA?
The chef caught some heat after an Instagram Live session where she appeared not to know that the “F” in FDA stands for food. “What do you mean, ‘FDA approved’?” she said vehemently in response to a question. “I don’t sell medical products. The Pink Sauce is not a medical product. The Pink Sauce don’t contribute to your health.”
But Pii was making sense: While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does approve drugs and some medical devices before they are released to the public as well as certain ingredients before they can be used in foods, it does not have pre-market approval for food products, according to the FDA website. It does, however, have the ability to regulate foods when safety issues arise. So the fact that Pink Sauce at this point isn’t “FDA approved” means pretty much nothing.
So what does Pink Sauce taste like?
Apparently it tastes a little like ranch dressing. But controversy swirled up online after Pii said she wasn’t describing what it tastes like because she couldn’t describe what it tastes like. Some folks accused her being mysterious simply because she was trying to hype the product.
But in one TikTok, she described Pink Sauce as “sweet, spicy and tangy” and recommended putting it on everything.
“Yes, this sauce is extremely controversial, but for my curious, artsy people that are actually into the Pink Sauce craze, like, I love y’all. Thank y’all so much,” the chef said last week in a different TikTok. “And the haters are not taking my light away.”