Farmers Market Friends travels to markets around the world to discover the most delicious goods and creative makers. Hear from one of these creative makers, Sonia’s Salsa, about their delicious salsas!
Sonia and Carlos Rivadeneira own and operate Sonia’s Salsa, a fresh salsa verde brand located in Vermont. We met them and their unique salsa at the SoWa Open Market in Boston.
Before selling their own salsa, Sonia was a Spanish teacher, educating students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, and Carlos was an engineer at IBM.
How did this all start? Simple.
“I love to cook” – Sonia
Her salsa was consistently the party favorite at family and friends get togethers. Sonia’s friends kept imploring her to package and sell her tomatillo based salsa. Not quite sure if her friends were just being friendly, Sonia decided to test her salsa at their local farmers’ market in Shelburne, Vermont. She even designed the original logo (below)!
To her delight, people not only liked and purchased her preservative free salsa, but they also started returning to buy the salsa each and every week. A loyal customer and parent once told her, “Please don’t stop making your salsa, it’s the only kind our kids will eat.”
They have now been going salsa steady for twelve years. Carlos retired from IBM, and Sonia retired from teaching. They now focus full time on running their business together.
When we asked them why they think people love their salsa so much, Carlos and Sonia emphasized that their product is a fresh salsa with a “refreshing Latin taste” and not a processed salsa. Additionally, Carlos said it is, “Good for people who are very cautious about healthiness. It is fresh – no sugars – no preservatives.”
Amazingly, their recipe has not changed at all since their first medium hot batch twelve years ago. They have added two additional flavors. They created the mild flavor, and they developed a hot variety when a customer asked, “Why don’t you do a hot hot hot hot hot salsa?”
They source their fresh tomatillos from California and Mexico. They have to be attune to the climate because the tomatillo growing season is only a short couple months. At the end of the growing season, they can source tomatillos from nearby Vermont farms.
Carlos and Sonia continue to sell at farmers’ markets, but they also receive much of their current revenue from local and regional stores who just can’t get enough of their products!
How did they move to stores?
Many stores already knew about the product from word of mouth recommendations. Often, managers from stores actually approached them. Now, they are in about 22 stores in Vermont, and they sale at three farmers markets to include their nearby Shelburne Farmers’ Market.
Sonai’s Salsa recently ventured into Boston (one personal perk is that their two kids live there). Their strategy is to embark into a new farmers’ market, build a great reputation in the community from their quality products, and then move to wholesaling their salsa to nearby stores.
They first developed this strategy in Stowe, Vermont, and recently applied it in Middlebury, Vermont, where they now sell exclusively to stores.
How have you built such strong wholesale partnerships?
“We’ve been working very hard. We have a lot of respect from businesses around here because they’ve seen our persistence over time.” – Sonia
Lessons Learned & Advice
When asked about their lessons learned, Carlos told us, “We have changed the process. We used to make our own labels before with our own laser printer. But we don’t do it anymore, because we always thought about how to make it better and faster. We always have problems. We changed jars for example to test for leaks. We have also improved how we closed the lid. We used to have too much force or too little force. The lesson here is don’t be afraid to try and improve your process. It will make your product more reliable. Everything that you start doing from the beginning can be improved. You don’t know what kind of problems you can run into. Start small. Be targeted.”
Thank you so much to Sonia and Carlos for a fun interview and photos!
You can find them and their tasty salsa at Shelburne Farmers’ Market in Shelburne, Vermont, on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm.
Salsa lovers outside of New England can shop their delicious products here.
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