Michael Lloyd graduated from Savannah State University in 2002 with a bachelor of science degree in biology. Though he relocated to North Carolina's Research Triangle not long thereafter, to this day, he vividly recalls his time here.
"Life in a city of sunshine, Southern hospitality, seafood, education and SSU football was the time of my life," says the father and N.C.-based entrepreneur who still refers to Savannah as his home. "I always loved driving down Victory Drive in the springtime under the shaded trees."
Lloyd's stint on the SSU football team (and after graduation, as an All-Star member of the Savannah Panthers) is likely recalled just as vividly by those who saw him play.
After realizing he would unfortunately not continue on into the NFL, Lloyd pursued education with the zeal he once applied to football. He received his master's in biology-biomedical sciences in 2007 and has completed his doctorate of food and nutrition sciences - and with a 3.48 GPA, no less.
"I am just a thesis defense away from becoming Dr. Michael Lloyd," he beams.
These days, this pharmaceutical, biomedical, food and nutrition scientist is applying almost every concept he's studied to "understanding my product - how to optimize it, maximize it, market it and (make it) better and healthier."
So, what's this product Lloyd is meticulously and scientifically improving?
It's his great-grandfather's "NumNum Sauce."
That may sound more like baby-talk than a culinary empire in the making, but Lloyd is determined to see his family's "secret sauce" become a nationwide phenomenon. An unusually versatile condiment loosely related to both ketchup and mainstream barbecue sauce, "NumNum" is Lloyd's own carefully formulated replication of a homemade sauce his relatives informally bottled decades ago, but which had fallen out of production by the time he was a child.
"I consistently remember my grandpa's baked or grilled chicken and ribs tasted uniquely more flavorful than anyone else's," Lloyd says. "I didn't know how he did it, but I heard stories from my mother about she and her siblings capping and labeling sauce bottles with their grandpa when they were children."
IF YOU GO
What: Michael Lloyd's NumNum Sauce demonstration
When: 4-7 p.m. Aug. 29, 30, 31 and Sept. 1
Where: Whole Foods, 1815 E. Victory Drive
Info: www.numnumsauce.comFrom the 1940s through the 1960s, his family's popular concoction was sold in a handful of Southeastern states under the name of Faison & Faison BBQ Sauce. Now, with the blessing and oversight of his 83-year-old grandfather, Lloyd has relaunched and rebranded it, while adjusting the original recipe for modern times.
Put simply, his version (which, in family tradition, he still bottles by hand in his home), packs many more nutrients yet retains the same great taste that made it a popular regional condiment back in the day.
"It's light and smooth, yet robust," Lloyd says. "It enhances flavor without overpowering the food's own taste."
It's also a more healthy alternative.
"All our varieties of NumNum Sauce are all-natural, low-sodium, gluten-free, fat-free and preservative-free (with the exception of natural antioxidants turmeric and vitamin C, which act as natural preservatives)," Lloyd says, adding that it is virtually impossible to find bottled condiments which offer such a healthy profile and that "actually taste good."
"Most consumers are accustomed to low-sodium or healthier products being far less flavorful," he says. "A novel processing method we developed has resulted in less than half the sodium content of both ketchups and mustards. For example, ketchup contains 160 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon, while NumNum Sauce has only 60 milligrams per tablespoon."
Currently, 26 Southeastern stores carry NumNum Sauce, and Lloyd travels most every weekend to host public cooking demonstrations so others can learn how their own meals can benefit from his condiment.
With the opening of the new Whole Foods on Victory Drive, that schedule is finally bringing him back to Savannah for only his third visit in the last five years. He'll be on hand there to discuss and show off his products from 4-7 p.m. each day Aug. 29 through Sept. 1. The public is invited to attend.
Says Lloyd of his upcoming appearance, "I should have enough time to visit SSU campus and a few other spots, and perhaps even go fishing before my show times. It's going to feel real good to be back in the C-port, which has shown me a great deal of love and support while on this journey called life."