Startup To Scale

162. Tia Lupita Foods: Post Shark Tank Growth

April 12, 2024 Foodbevy Season 1 Episode 162
162. Tia Lupita Foods: Post Shark Tank Growth
Startup To Scale
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Startup To Scale
162. Tia Lupita Foods: Post Shark Tank Growth
Apr 12, 2024 Season 1 Episode 162

Tia Lupita Foods pitched on Shark Tank in April 2023 and made a deal with Kevin O’Leary. So what’s new? I invited on Jose Carrillo, Tia Lupita’s Head of Marketing and Strategy to discuss. We get into how Shark Tank affected their brand awareness, channel strategy, and a packaging rebrand to better communicate to consumers.

Listen in!

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Show Notes Transcript

Tia Lupita Foods pitched on Shark Tank in April 2023 and made a deal with Kevin O’Leary. So what’s new? I invited on Jose Carrillo, Tia Lupita’s Head of Marketing and Strategy to discuss. We get into how Shark Tank affected their brand awareness, channel strategy, and a packaging rebrand to better communicate to consumers.

Listen in!

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Tia Lupita Foods: Post Shark Tank Growth

Jordan Buckner: [00:00:00] Building a CPG brand comes with a lot of ups and downs and challenges along the way. And there's a lot of opportunities for brands to be successful in the market. And as part of the series, I'm talking through companies who are finding their stride and growing within the CPG space.

Today, my guest is Jose Carrillo, who is Tia Lupita's head of marketing and strategy. And I want to invite them on to talk through how things are going at Tia Lupita’s Their growth host shark tank and their continued rising grocery. And then also recent rebrand that they're doing to really provide some insight of what it looks like behind the scenes as a company is going through the journey of building their company.

Jose, welcome.

Jose Carrillo: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Great to be here. 

Jordan Buckner: So, I know the founder, Hector of Tia Lupita's for a long time. We met at a pitch competition through Foodbite, oh my gosh, about five years ago or so. So, I have been a huge fan of Tia Lupita's and we eat [00:01:00] the chips and the salsas within our house.

But for those who don't know, could you give a quick overview of Tia Lupita's? The company and the products that you have. 

Jose Carrillo: Yeah, sure. Well, thanks. First of all, thanks for being a fan. Tia Lupita is just a brand that, I mean, we pride ourselves on making authentic, delicious, better for you Mexican products.

We're looking for that. It's a brand that we're looking for that next generation or that next wave of flavor seekers. And again, we pride ourselves on that. Making great tasting Mexican products with mindful ingredients and some innovative preparations. And we can get into the details of that in a little bit, but just one of the ingredients that we like to use and incorporate into our products are, I mean, things like cactus flower we are a fun brand.

We're not complicated. We, again, we pride ourselves on delicious products and we just want to be accessible for everybody that's looking for great tasting products.

Jordan Buckner: I love that. Yeah. The cactus green free tortilla chips and the hot sauce are two of the staples that we use every day. [00:02:00] So, yeah, I want to kind of take it back a little bit to the journey of kind of growing Tia Lupita’s Foods, right?

So, I know the company got started in selling in grocery stores as well and had the opportunity to pitch on Shark Tank back in April of 2023. Ended up making a deal with Kevin O'Leary, has been growing since then. Was the What has the experience been like post Shark Tank for Tia Lupita’s does and what that's looked like for the company?

Jose Carrillo: Yeah, I think that the experience was definitely a milestone for us in the company. Hector has been doing a great job telling the story very organically. And but telling it through the, through Shark Tank and to that audience really takes it to the next level. It's a story that resonates , with a lot of people, a lot of like immigrants or just people in general that.

Receive care packages in the mail from their mom or their loved ones. So Shark Tank was great. It was a great awareness driver for us. Knowing that ahead of time was great for us because we obviously prepare ourselves for. The spike that we were about to [00:03:00] see in e commerce sales.

So it did bring growth in sales, but I think that the main takeaway for us has been the brand awareness and just the getting ourselves out that when you're a brand that's not distributed, let's say in all mainstream channels and nationally, just being in the spotlight like that nationally for an audience that's really interested In growing companies and in startups, it's great.

It's great to be in a trade show or be with Hector and having people come off to us and say like, Oh yeah, we saw you at Shark Tank or yeah, I remember you Hector at the , from Shark Tank, great it's a great story, a great brand. So it's definitely been a catapult for us in terms of brand awar 

Jordan Buckner: eness. 

Yeah, it's interesting because, you know, I mostly work with brands who are under 5 million and 10 million in sales. And don't have the resources to do things like be on national television outside of maybe interview on a news show. And so to get a nationwide audience like Shark Tank is something that is really the first introduction of like having [00:04:00] almost like a TV ad or a story that runs and as you mentioned to build that awareness.

I'm curious to know how , the business strategy has changed or what you're focused on now. Are you still seeing strong D to C growth? Are you focused on grocery? Have you looked at food service? What does that channel strategy look like? 

Jose Carrillo: Yeah, in terms of channel strategy, we continue to focus on right now, mainly on grocery or on on on retail.

Our focus within that channel is growing our velocities. We know that in order to protect the shelf space that we have, we need to move. To deliver on velocities. And fortunately were confident that once people try our products, they're good at that our products are great enough and that our products are really change the way people are eating and they come back.

So in, in terms of grocery, our focus is really on driving velocity. We're also starting to talk about how do we tap into food service? How can we just start playing in that channel? Because it's also another channel where obviously there's sales and there's volume, [00:05:00] but it's also a great driver and creates a lot of brand awareness.

Like we've all seen brands when you go to a restaurant that have the bottle on the table. So it's just like a, a billboard for hundreds of people that come in and out of that restaurant every single day. So we're working on things like we recently launched hot sauce packets, like little sachets.

Like, I mean, we're used to seeing ketchup, mustard, mayo on those, but we have our original hot sauce in those packets those are. A great hit, but those are the types of things that we're building to, to try to break into the food service channel. 

Jordan Buckner: No, I think that's really, really smart. Are you selling those packets?

Is that exclusively for food service? Are you selling those to consumers as well?

Jose Carrillo: We're just starting to sell them to consumers. We're putting them on Amazon to make them available for consumers. So it'll be our first real test to see , how those move. But we're excited.

I mean, they're obviously hot pink, , like our labels. So they are attractive to the eye, but also it's, there's great hot sauce inside. 

Jordan Buckner: So I also know that this March chili pizza feel like a new brand [00:06:00] look and packaging design across the tortilla chips and the salsa matcha. Can you talk through what that process was like and why you decided to do that?

Jose Carrillo: Yeah. So , the driver for that was we listened to consumers. That's one of the things that for us, it's really important to understand how consumers are buying and using , our products. In the case of tortilla chips you've probably seen those bags that They were in the front of the bag, really big, really bold, was a call out cactus.

Yes, it's the main ingredient or one of the main ingredients on our tortilla chips. Yes, it has a great benefits like added fiber, et cetera, but it was, it's not a staple ingredient here like it is in Mexico. And it was very confusing , for consumers like cactus, like what's. What's in that back? 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah.

You know, it's interesting, right? Because especially , for most Americas, as you mentioned, they don't have a tradition of eating cactus or nopales, and so it's, it probably like peaks their interest, but they're like, huh, interesting. But might, you know, walk by if they haven't heard about it otherwise.

[00:07:00] Right. , 

Jose Carrillo: yeah. Yeah. So it's definitely interesting for the adventurous consumers that are on the lookout for those new intriguing ingredients, but for the more. Mainstream consumer, they're like, Hmm maybe not today. So The redirection we were taking with that packaging is really describing what the consumer is getting in that bag.

Like we went down the grain free tortilla chip direction instead of the main ingredient that that's cactus. And we can get into a little bit more detail of that, and then in the case of salsa matcha we also heard from consumers, we heard online from product reviews or from emails that we get from consumers and even offline at trade shows, like.

Salsa. This is not a salsa. Where's the tomato? Where's the tomato? So even if the term salsa matcha, it's common in Mexico and , it's a reference to an oil based salsa that doesn't exist here. So we're going in the direction of calling it a Mexican chili crunch. I mean, there's a lot of growth in chili crisp, chili oil, chili crunch.

So we know that that's we did a little bit of research and we learned from the consumers that [00:08:00] that's a term that really, really speaks, like easily lets them know how to use the product. Like for right now, the, anybody that grabs a jar of salsa matcha, they love the taste, but a lot of them are like, they don't know how to use it.

Jordan Buckner: Yeah. I love that. I love that communication hierarchy on the new packaging as well, right? For the tortilla chips, where. The brand is still really strong, but then grain free tortilla chips, very clear. And then having the, the sea salt flavor call out, and then even the images of, you know, chips being dipped into, into a salsa.

So I think that really clearly communicates like what the product is and what the consumer is giving. So I think that's really strong. You know, I'm, I'm curious as well, because there's definitely a rise of. People finding various cultural foods across the country and rise in both, you know, Mexican, Mexican American foods, Asian, Asian American foods in these cuisines from around the world, has there been a struggle between staying authentic to the cultural roots of the product versus appealing [00:09:00] to.

More of the mass market American sensibilities as well, right? Even just moving from like removing no palace or removing salsa, matcha and going with the Mexican chili pros. I think it's really, really smart in terms of reaching those consumers as you're kind of educating them. But here's what those conversations have looked like.

Jose Carrillo: I mean, right now our product portfolio is not. That large, I mean, we play in four categories, , the hot sauce, salsa, matcha, grain free tortilla chips, and tortillas. We've stayed pretty close to the Mexican heritage, the cultural heritage and staple ingredients , for this product. Where it starts to get tricky is in the conversations that we start to have now internally when we, when we talk about innovation, like what else do we want to go into and how much education does get going into another salsa matcha type of product, like something that's very ingrained in the Mexican culture, like those type of products require a lot of education.

So like, how much can we keep doing that over and over? But then how much can we, or shouldn't we? [00:10:00] derail , from our, our origins of authentic Mexican flavor. So it's conversations that we're having internally, I think at some point it's going to become a challenge , to make those decisions, but we feel that there's still plenty of space , to maintain the Mexican heritage that closes to the culture, but at the same time have products that resonate with the mainstream consumer.

I mean, one of the things that we constantly talk about is that. Those international or ethnic aisles at the grocery stores are not for those ethnicities or for people from those countries of origin anymore. They are for everybody. You see everybody shopping those aisles now and grocery stores are starting to notice it.

So there's more and more people looking to add different flavors to their meals. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah. You know, it's interesting because I was just even thinking about our own shopping experience. My wife and I ended up shopping at. I don't know, probably like 10 different stores to know all the products because some of the more we my wife is Chinese American.

We ended up cooking a lot [00:11:00] of you know, Chinese American foods and even Korean American foods, Mexican American foods. And so like, we're always looking for like the specialty items that are more authentic, but those are also more difficult to find in the more conventional grocery stores, even some of like the natural channel grocery stores.

And so it's always this balance of, as you just mentioned, like. What types of foods are found in the ethnic aisles of a Whole Foods, Elvis Friar's, you know, store like that and how do you make it both authentic and flavor but approachable maybe in messaging? I think that's a good balance that you've strike the fine, right?

It's not like you're diluting the quality of the product to make it simpler or make it less spicy or things like that, but you're just making the communication of that much clearer to people who, who have a different kind of knowledge basis of where they're coming from. 

Jose Carrillo: We're. We're pretty much trying to be as effective as possible in the little real estate that we have within a grocery store to communicate exactly what we're selling.

Make it easy, as easy as possible , to the [00:12:00] consumer and have them grab a jar or grab a bag of our products. 

Jordan Buckner: So what's next for you folks, Don, in terms of marketing as you're growing is I talked to brands who are expanding into more grocery stores, right? Like, how are you leveraging those awareness drivers to actually get people into the store and then getting them to try the product so that they can ultimately come back again?

Jose Carrillo: Yeah, our main focus, it's a like I said earlier, we're focusing a lot on driving velocities and the way we're driving velocities is through, through trial. Either through in store demos, where people have the opportunity to right there, try the product and convince themselves that that's something that they should add to their shopping cart, or also working with more like the companies that offer the digital experiences that, I mean, we're specifically working with social nature and that's been great for us We're able to reach a lot of consumers and have them get a free unit of one of our products.

And that's not just a one time trial, right? Like they take a bottle [00:13:00] home and they use it over and over and over and over and, and, and hopefully convince themselves that it's something that they want to keep carrying in their pantry and having in their pantry all the time. And we're starting, we're looking to have more and more presence in just local events, local festivals where we can hand out some of those hot sausages or the single serve bags of our tortilla chips and just have a good time.

People trying our products for some, some of them for the first time, or others just getting reminded that our brand is out there and that it exists. , and then they can get it at the grocery store. So it's a lot Of driving trial. , we believe that we have the right product. So and it's just a matter of putting it in people's hearts.

Jordan Buckner: No, I think that's really core. I think a lot of food because I talk with honestly, kind of forget that taste. And someone tasting your product has been a driver of like your business succeeding and growing. As long as it tastes good, then they'll come back. But it's really hard to get someone to change their behavior and try something new, [00:14:00] especially for unfamiliar products, but even for new brands, if they have a staple.

And so I really like the ideas of doing the sampling those, the sachets where people can try the product in smaller doses, maybe try it at a food service establishment, a restaurant. And then also the events and. Places like social nature. So I think those are, are really great. Have you found that there's any like one marketing strategy or tactic or marketing tactic that's been really effective within there?

Or are you really focused on kind of multiple activations to reach people in multiple ways? And I, I'm asking that because as I'm talking to founders, a lot of them like, Hey, where do I invest my time and my money? If I have limited funds, to drive that trial. 

Jose Carrillo: Yeah. That's a tough question because the, you obviously have to drive the immediate transactions to be to be able to stay within on shelf , with retail, like that's the reality of CPG in the grocery store.

So you have to find ways to drive those [00:15:00] transactions. And that's why we're doing things like social nature and demos and coupons and things like that. Yeah. But I'm a firm believer that the best way to build a brand is through word of mouth. Like there's nothing. More like, there's no more real way to learn about a brand than through somebody else that already experienced it, loves it, and is talking to you about it and recommend it, recommending it to you because they believe in it, they trust it.

So we're trying to incorporate that, but on the other side, that's a much slower build, slower, but sustainable in the long run. So. We're finding those opportunities where we can tell the story, where we can talk to consumers about where Tia Lupita came from, how it started. And then have them try the products and they can decide themselves that if this is a product , that they want in their pantry and, thankfully, most of the time we see very positive reactions to our products and there's nothing more rewarding for me than hearing [00:16:00] from someone that I maybe gave them a sample a few weeks ago and getting comments like, Thanks, now I'm addicted to your salsa macha or, oh, now I had to go to the grocery stores this week and grab three bottles of your hot sauce because it's so good and now everybody in my household wants it.

So there's, to me, that's a sign that we're doing things right and that we have the right product. So it's just a matter of getting them 

Jordan Buckner: out there. I love that. So talk to me about what's next for, for Tia Lupita's. Is anything that you're, you're working on upcoming, or is it more just focused on staying, you know, extending those velocities and your distribution as you talk there?

Jose Carrillo: So big things for this year for us are obviously the relaunch of our tortilla chips with the, with these new packaging, we feel that. We have the I mean, we had the right product, but now we have the right product in the right bag to talk to consumers. So it's making a big push to, to get our products into retail and tell the story of that we heard [00:17:00] consumers and that's why we're changing it.

Same thing with our salsa match. Keep driving trial of that one. And the other big thing for us within tortilla chips is the launch of our sea salt and lime flavor. So that's a new flavor that we're launching. We're actually optimizing our product portfolio within tortilla chips.

 We're focusing on sea salt, sea salt, lime, and salsa verde. Which are three flavors that we feel align great with the grain free consumer. So in general, it's just driving velocities, push that new item. We'll still consider that our salsa match is kind of like a new item because it's still growing a lot on in distribution, but distribution is low.

Jose Carrillo: And just. Continue focusing our efforts on building, building the brand. 

Jordan Buckner: I'm really excited about the continued growth for this year. And I'll be following along with your journey and eating lots of house sauce and tortilla chips. Jose, thanks so much for being on. 

Jose Carrillo: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

And congratulations on what you build with your show.