Paul C. McIlhenny, CEO of McIlhenny Company that makes Tabasco hot pepper sauce, dies aged 68

AVERY ISLAND, La. – Paul C. McIlhenny, chief executive and chairman of the board of the McIlhenny Company that makes the trademarked line of Tabasco hot pepper sauce and other products, has died, the company said Sunday. He was 68.

A company statement released at its Avery Island headquarters in south Louisiana said McIlhenny died Saturday.

McIlhenny was a member of a family whose 145-year-old company has been producing the world-famous Tabasco sauce for generations. The statement said he joined the company in 1967 and directly oversaw production and quality of all products sold under the Tabasco brand for 13 years.

Under McIlhenny’s guidance, the company experienced many years of record growth in sales and earnings and also introduced several new flavours, other sauces and products.

“All of McIlhenny Compnay and the McIlhenny and Avery families are deeply saddened by this news,” said Tony Simmons, president of McIlhenny Company and a McIlhenny family member. “We will clearly miss Paul’s devoted leadership but will more sorely feel the loss of his acumen, his charm and his irrepressible sense of humour.”

The statement said McIlhenny led expansion of brand merchandising and licensing partnerships associated with the Tabasco brand name, greatly developed the company’s catalogue business of licensed merchandise such as its popular neckties and was a key force behind the distribution of Tabasco products to more than 165 countries and territories where they are now sold today.

The company said McIlhenny was serving as chief executive, board chairman as well as a company director at the time of his death. He was a sixth-generation member of the family to live on Avery Island and among the fourth generation to produce the Tabasco brand sauce, it added.

The company also noted that McIlhenny was active in community and environmental concerns, including efforts to preserve fragile coastal wetlands in Louisiana and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast.