Apr 11, 2023

Local salsa business expands into big stores with $32k grant

SALT LAKE CITY — A family-run Utah salsa business is expanding into big stores and beyond thanks to a $32,000 grant awarded by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

Salsas de Mendoza has been around for more than a decade, building their brand and fans through local farmer's markets.

The business began as a culinary passion project and evolved into a full-time job due to circumstances and necessity.

Linnaea Mendoza's husband was a carpenter until the 2008 recession when work became scarce.

At the time, Linnaea was working in the healthcare field but was making salsa for family and friends on the side until they realized they could take their passion full time.

"We saw a real response to what we were doing," Mendoza explained. "There's a big hole in Utah for Mexican style, authentic salsas and we wanted to fill that hole."

The family took the plunge, and now, other family members also support the work.

"My daughter is our secretary, my daughter and son-in-law run our social media and videography, my son runs the chip line," Mendoza said. "My husband runs all operations in here, I do the paperwork."

After some time perfecting their product and building their followers, they got the chance to expand into supermarkets in Utah and beyond but it proved to be difficult, especially making enough high-quality chips to go along with the salsa.

"Hand bagging, and hand frying in this little fryer was a mess," Mendoza reflected. "It took too much time, it took too much labor and then our costs were just going up because canola oil doubled in price."

Last year, Mendoza applied for a grant from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to purchase updated equipment.

The goals of the grant are to help small businesses in the Beehive State while also making sure local food supply remains intact.

"During the application, you had to say exactly what you were going to do with the money, how it would benefit food security in Utah," Mendoza said. "With what I was asking for, I knew that I could triple or quadruple production and offer Utah healthy, shelf-stable, delicious food."

Salsas de Mendoza was awarded $32,000, which they used to purchase an updated chip-making machine and a device that can label 60 bottles of salsa per minute.

Even though business is now booming, Mendoza said they'll continue to be at local markets where they got their start.

Those who applied for grants this year will be named at the end of the month and officials hope they will receive even more money next year from the state legislature to expand the program even further.

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