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Carrillo's Salsa Heats Up Distribution

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Launched just over a year ago, Carrillo’s Fire-Roasted Salsa is looking to steadily expand its reach from origins in suburban New York to various national markets.

“Our main effort for the spring is to expand into New England and the Mid-Atlantic region,” said company president and co-owner Peter Carrillo III. “It makes sense for us to try to expand in those [nearby] areas.”

Based in Rye, N.Y., the father-and-son venture has already made some major expansion inroads. The brand has been picked up by Whole Foods and by other independent gourmet stores. Distribution includes selected markets in the Northeast, northern California, Miami, Chicago and Denver. Carrillo’s newest territory is New Orleans.

Because of its origins just outside New York City, Carrillo’s strength in sales has come from the metropolitan area, including Connecticut and New Jersey. By the end of May, Carrillo said, all northern California Whole Foods locations will stock the company’s products. In addition to retail stores, the company Web site, www.carrillosalsa.com, offers products for sale (16-oz jars sell for $5.99 each). There’s a mix-and-match option, called a “CarrilloCase,” which offers six, eight or 12 jars in any combination.

“My dad [Peter Carrillo Jr.] and I started the company in order to combine our passion for high quality Mexican cuisine with authentic ingredients and hand-crafted recipes,” said Carrillo, who is of Mexican heritage, in a statement. “We insist on using whole, natural ingredients in order to make the health profile just as important as the taste profile, aligning ourselves with the trends seen in the fast-growing all-natural segment of the specialty foods industry.”

Carrillo’s product lineup features four flavors in five SKUs: Aztec Chipotle; a tomato-based Artisan Tomato Guajillo in Mild and Medium; tomatillo-based Salsa Verde Refresco; and spicy Roasted Habanero. The younger Carrillo changed his father’s home-kitchen recipes to be more commercial, adjusting the hotness and increasing manufacturability. Carrillo’s actual background is in finance; he took a leap from his career in investment banking to start up the gourmet salsa company.

“We are slowly changing the logo to have it make more sense and tie into the product better,” said Carrillo, who admits he’s learning about marketing his product on the job. The current logo is an abstract rendering of a salsa-dancing couple.

Current marketing efforts include minimal advertising, with a greater focus on in-store sampling, and local newspaper and magazine coverage.

Apart from the traditional use of salsa with chips as a dip, the Carrillos encourage their product to be used as a cooking ingredient since it has a thick consistency and is made flavorful with as many as seven different varieties of chile peppers and fire-roasted vegetables. The brand lists “all-natural” on its label and boasts that it is low in sodium and made with no sugar, tomato paste, artificial preservatives or concentrates.