Local entrepreneurs Tracy and David Murrell have launched their own brand of salsa, Rojo Gold. In four years, production of their salsa has tripled.
David and Tracy Murrell began making their own salsa in 2010. They worked out the recipe in their kitchen, then started giving samples to friends and family. They were just giving it away. Everyone said that they needed to be selling it.
To see if that possibility could become a reality, in May 2011, David approached Easy-Way owner, Barry Carter, and dropped off a jar at their distribution center on Mendenhall.
“Call me if you’re interested,” is what the note said.
Carter called. He wanted to know how far along the Murrells were with their production process. Did they have a label yet? Were they connected with a factory? Even though the answer was, “not yet,” Carter said he would take 50 cases — 300 jars — when the product was available for retail.
The wheels were in motion. Using the Internet, David searched for a factory close to Memphis that worked with canned goods. In less than a week he found a good match. After talking points came bullet points. To be the product’s co-packer, a label and other items were required before the factory would consider a contract. Plus David had to ship them a sample and they had to like the product.
The salsa was met with approval on all fronts. David sent his salsa and spice recipe to the factory to do a trial run with a 4-gallon batch. Next they signed a nondisclosure contract. The company sent the product to a lab to begin producing the ingredients panel with the nutritional breakdown. Label approval was next. In just nine months, Rojo Gold moved from the Murrells’ kitchen to the shelves of five local Easy-Way stores.
The Murrells looked for other local outlets. Soon Rojo Gold was available in Midtown at Trolley Stop Market, in Harbor Town at Miss Cordelia’s and in East Memphis at Charlie’s Meat Market and the High Point Grocery.
Wondering if this success was based on being a locally made product, the Murrells made a test run in Jackson, Miss. and were soon snapped up by three McDade’s Markets. That was the sign David had been waiting for. He began sending e-mails and samples to the Kroger headquarters in Cincinnati. After going through reviews for salsa, he was asked to connect with DPI Specialty, the main distributor for the Kroger’s stores.
“The timing was just right,” Tracy Murrell said. “The Middle Tennessee area was launching a campaign for Tennessee-made products. We ended up in 33 stores in that region, including the Kroger stores in Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Clarksville, Mt. Juliet, Murfreesboro and Columbia. Now we’re entering the Memphis and the Mid-South market and will be in 22 stores in this area by July 4. Both of our products, Rojo Gold Original Salsa (medium heat) and Rojo Gold Chipotle Habanero Salsa (hotter variety) will be available in Kroger stores in Arlington, Atoka, Bartlett, Collierville, Cordova, Germantown, Lakeland, Oakland, Olive Branch, Southaven, and Memphis. Rojo Gold will be featured in ‘The Pick Tennessee Section.’ Plus, three stores in Jackson, Tenn. are going to carry our salsa, too.”
In the span of four years, the production orders have more than tripled, from 3,600 to 12,000 jars of salsa per year, and the upward trend is expected to continue as Kroger stores in Arkansas are in line for distribution.
David still continues with his regular job as a technician, doing electrical and mechanical testing at Thomas and Betts, and Tracy still works part-time at Talbot’s.