Three weeks ago, I was in Sylvia Tawse's office at the Fresh Ideas Group in Boulder, Colo. Tawse has been in the natural foods industry since the early 80s and now guides startup brands from the test kitchen to the checkout aisle. She asked, rhetorically, "Does the world need a new salsa?" and then answered her own question in the next breath - "Hell no!" But then she said something else. There will be a next big salsa and it's going to "knock some other salsa off the shelf."
I saw half a dozen salsa startups in the NEXT New Product Pavillion at Natural Products Expo East Thursday morning. And every salsa maker at every booth was convinced they had the next big salsa.
What type of salsa makes your taste buds sing?
Naked Salsa is the next big salsa because it's got "nostalgia" - a smooth alternative to the ever-chunkier salsa arms race. Chuck's Salsa is the next big salsa because it starts sweet and ends hot, owner Chad Season told me. "Salsa Master" Troy Wadzink at Deception Salsa described the same spice and taste profile but added that Deception uses whole "red cherry bomb" peppers! At Casa Martinez, the organic, GMO-free habanero salsa would take share because it came from Mexico. How much more authentic can you get?
They can't all be the next big salsa.
But one of them might. With hundreds of miles of salsa shelf in this country, there might be at least a little room for every one of them.
One floor down and a few hours later, I squeezed into one of the last open seats at a "Mission In a Bottle" slide talk by Honest Tea founders Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff, each man a success-story legend in the natural foods canon. Nalebuff said he wanted to talk about the economics and he'd leave the passion to Goldman, but Nalebuff betrayed no small dose of passion himself. While Goldman's enthusiasm on the importance of purpose wasn't really a sermon, the entrepreneurs packed into the room were most certainly the faithful.
Faith and passion.
Those have always been the ingredients to a successful brand. That's what Tawse told me. It's what I heard from Nalebuff and Goldman. Each of these salsa makers came to the Expo with that passion, that faith.
If any of them are to be the next big salsa, faith and passion will be the most important ingredients in the recipe.