By Tanya Henry
‘Make hot sauce great again’ is the hashtag that Hector Saldivar uses to promote his brand new product that launched just four months ago. The Tiburon resident, originally from Monterrey, Mexico has bottled his mother’s beloved spicy recipe and named it Tia Lupita. The condiment’s label—which features a hand-drawn image of a woman with a pink curler in her hair, glasses and a big smile on her face—brings a fresh sensibility to a category overcrowded with hyper-macho images.
“If you look at the hot sauces on supermarket shelves, they all have pictures of the devil, flames or raging bulls. I wanted to lighten it up and bring in a different side—mom’s home cooking,” says Saldivar, who describes how his mother would send her hot sauce from Mexico to remind him of home.
Even though Tia Lupita is a new venture for Saldivar, he’s no stranger to the food industry. He spent his career working for distributors—initially in Sacramento as a territory sales manager selling soft drinks. He moved on to Nestlé, focusing on emerging markets and expanding Hispanic brands. Eventually he went to Diamond Foods. Along the way he learned about distribution channels, supply chains, cost structure and so much more that would all become invaluable when he set out on his own.
“Our model started out online—direct to consumer,” explains Saldivar, who was surprised by the instant success. “We were selling 12 bottles daily for the first three months.”
With so much interest, Saldivar decided to take his product to Woodlands Market—where “they gave him a shot.” Soon he was selling a case every week. From there, Driver’s Market in Sausalito, Mollie Stone’s and others quickly followed.
Saldivar is clearly excited about his product and thrilled by its early success, but for him it’s about much more than simply selling hot sauce. “Peel the onion one more layer; it’s not only a product that is my own, but it’s also a tribute to my mom.”
Tia Lupita; tialupitahotsauce.com.