Happy New Year everyone!
The last 6 months have been a rollercoaster that I am riding by the seat of my pants…
When I first had the idea for Salsa Stories one of the thoughts running through my head was “the last thing I want is to have an artisanal food business, standing in the cold at markets flogging my wares.”
How wrong could I be!?
It turns out that I love doing markets and they are great for getting people to try my salsas.
I suppose a new product on the shelf of a shop is always going to be a bit of a gamble, whereas at a market you get to try before you buy.
I’ve learned a lot since I launched the business (still lots more to learn); about sustainability, about food safety and production and the joys of shipping a chilled product.
One of the things I’ve identified as a barrier is that salsa is just so misunderstood!
I mean, it is amazing as a dip with a massive bag of tortilla chips - I’m not gonna lie - but that isn’t the only thing you can do with it (if you have a good one).
I’m not talking about the jarred salsas found in most UK supermarkets whose luminous, gloopy, sugariness have given salsa a bad name.
It’s not surprising that a lot of people are just a bit ‘meh’ about salsa.
I totally get it!
But that's not good salsa.
Good salsa is super versatile! It's so much more than just a dip - you can use it as a marinade, a condiment, a spread, a dressing... A good salsa essentially adds flavour to food.
(I’m not suggesting you do this with the jarred supermarket variety – please don’t!).
The amount of times people have said to me ‘I don’t really like salsa’ and are then totally blown away once they’ve tried it is noteworthy!
(I love this so much).
I’ve even started to sell nachos and tacos on my stall as a vehicle to entice more people to taste my fresh Coriander & Lime and Chipotle salsas. I will be building upon this throughout the year as and when I get more permanent pitches.
Markets are also great for meeting other producers. I have met so many amazing, dedicated, and passionate people in the food community around the southwest and gleaned so many helpful nuggets of advice. I am genuinely overjoyed to be part of this supportive network.
And I’ve been able to indulge in some of the highest quality, most flavoursome food and drink available in the region – most definitely a perk of the job!
But of course, it hasn’t always been plain sailing.
I’ve got my salsas stocked in some of the loveliest independent delis and greengrocers in Bristol who have been incredibly supportive. Not to mention patient when things haven’t gone to plan! (Thank you!)
I had some leaky packaging which all had to be replaced and resulted in me investing in a leak proof tamper evident tub so that embarrassing incidents like this would never be repeated!!
The new tub is great at not leaking - but it is still plastic. Which, of course, I am not happy about.
No one wants to use plastic.
I had originally wanted my containers to be plant-based – you know the ones that look like clear plastic, but aren’t? But not only were they not sturdy enough, the more I researched them the more I had to conclude that plastic was currently the most environmentally friendly option and that the plant-based packaging was basically a green washing scandal. (More on this in a later post perhaps!?!?)
I’ve continued to research the packaging and when I run out of my next batch of sleeves and tubs in a few months’ time I will be moving to a glass jar – which I am ridiculously excited about.
It feels so much more aligned with my values and Salsa Stories will be much more sustainable.
If I was better at Instagram (one of my resolutions!) you would probably know more about these sorts of incidents as well as the highlights of the year!
One of which was meeting Princess Anne. Something I never thought I would say, or experience. I’m no royalist but it was still quite a thrill to meet her – possibly because I’d coincidentally also been watching the crown. (This basically informed everything I know about the royal family – and Princess Anne is the good one).
(Shame I had to wear this though).
She had come to officially open the Food Works South West, where I have my kitchen, and I was asked to make a small batch in one of their test kitchens. I was her first stop which turned out to be a good thing as after some small talk she asked to try to my Coriander & Lime salsa, quipping that she certainly wouldn’t be trying everything offered to her on the tour. So, I was in luck!
All I can say, without the use of audio, is that she made an enthusiastic sound of approval!
There have been no online orders from the palace yet but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…
My other brush with fame came when Dawn O’Porter shared my salsas on instagram.
This is the closest thing to a media storm I am ever likely to experience.
I’m good friends with her amazing sister Jane and as I knew she was visiting and as I ‘happened’ to be in the neighbourhood, I thought I would just casually drop by with some salsas.
She loved them – which is awesome because she is spoilt for choice with amazing fresh salsas in California. It’s good to know mine can hold their own!
And now for 2022!
I’m loving Salsa Stories so much that I am already feeling grateful for everything this year ahead holds and I’m super excited about it!
Starting with getting a van this week (whoop whoop)! A third flavour is coming soon for sure. And then who knows what the future holds? Employees? A walk in fridge? An automatic depositor?
And, of course, many, many more salsa fans and satisfied customers!
Bring it on!