ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson couple’s Chilttepica Salsa available at Costco
FEBRUARY 17, 2015 6:30 PM • BY GERALD M. GAY
Creators of a locally produced salsa have been given an opportunity to play in the big leagues.
In January, a week before the Super Bowl, all three Tucson-area Costco locations began carrying Chilttepica Salsa, a brand owned by husband-and-wife team, Huemac and Gloria Badilla.
Gloria said that Costco ordered two pallets, or about 1,200, 32-ounce jars of Chilttepica, as a trial run for its Tucson stores.
Whether or not the salsa stays on the shelves depends on sales and the season.
“They don’t promise you anything,” Gloria said. “They just give you a chance. If the public responds, then it may lead to more.”
The deal is a monumental step for the Badillas, who have been producing salsa as a side-business for the last three years.
Huemac works in the warehouse for Golden Eagle Distributors. Gloria is the office manager for the YWCA on North Bonita Avenue.
The idea to make salsa arose from late-night discussions during the recession.
“At the time, a lot of people were losing their jobs,” Huemac said. “There was a fear in the news and everywhere. The salsa was going to be our Plan B.”
The Badillas created three salsas, a mild red, a hot red and a green, based on family recipes that Huemac grew up with in Caborca, Mexico.
They set-up shop in the professional commissary at Mercado San Agustín, where they continue to make 50-100 jars every Friday afternoon for local vendors.
Their Costco orders were filled by a manufacturer in the Phoenix area that met with Costco’s rigorous quality standards and could produce a higher volume of salsa, using Huemac’s recipe, at a much faster rate.
Besides Costco, Chilttepica Salsa can be found in 16-ounce jars at several Tucson locations, including Native Seeds/SEARCH on North Campbell Avenue, the Food Conspiracy Co-op on North Fourth Avenue and both La Estrella Bakery locations on South Twelfth Avenue and at Mercado San Agustín.
The Loft Cinema on East Speedway orders Chilttepica four gallons at a time and serves it at its concession stand alongside tamales from the Tucson Tamale Company.
“When we started serving tamales, our option was either to serve them with some sort of canned paste or pair a local with a local,” said Loft facilities manager Dave Paiz. “For me, it was a no- brainer. They make a damn good product. We go through a ton of tamales and salsa.”
Gloria said they have yet to see a profit on their homegrown business.
The Badillas had $8,000 in sales in its first year, $12,000 in 2013 and $14,000 in 2014.
But investment in the business, on things such as a trademark and supplies have far outweighed any money earned.
Gloria hopes that Costco will put them in the black in 2015.
She said that the membership-based, retail warehouse chain has already placed an order for another pallet’s worth of salsa for the Tucson market.
“I don’t know if this is going to be our Plan A someday,” Huemac said. “We are working on it.”
The Face of Success
Gloria Badilla came to Tucson from Mexico, as so many families do, looking for economic opportunity. She and her husband Huemac have always worked hard. Both have jobs - Gloria is now the office manager at the YW - but they have spent every Friday night for years on a "date" making salsa to sell at Farmer's Markets. This week, every Costco store in Tucson started carrying their salsa.
Go buy some Chilttepica Salsa today and you'll know what a dream come true tastes like.