Gardnerville recipe a hit with world’s biggest retailer
Local salsa star Fran Pritchard is moving up the food chain in a big way.
The owner of Gardnerville-grown Killer Salsa announced this week that her product would be expanding into Walmarts in Las Vegas and select Walmart stores in Sacramento, San Francisco, Napa, Modesto, Fresno and San Jose, totaling more than 50 new stores.
Put another way, the small company’s 389 cases of shelf-stable salsa shipped out on July 3 represents roughly a 60 percent increase in market exposure. Whether sales follow suit is another story.
“I’m nervous-slash-excited,” Pritchard said Friday. “I’m contemplative. It will be another challenge, one of those ‘Be careful what you wish for’ things.”
Presently, Killer Salsa is sold in more than 80 local stores, including Scolari’s, Smith’s, Raley’s, Safeway, Winco, Savemart, CostCo and Walmart. It is also sold at Red Hut restaurants, Harrah’s, Harvey’s, Carson Valley Inn, Bodine’s Casino, and Dini’s in Yerington.
In a way, Pritchard’s venture into salsa is coming full circle. It was her homemade fresh salsa first spooned out in a Bay Area cafeteria, nicknamed “Killer Salsa,” that she later sold from a gas station in Minden. She’d moved to the area in 1993 but hadn’t been able to find work. When she sold 14 pints on Super Bowl Sunday that same year, the course of her life was forever changed.
Fast forward nearly 20 years. Imagine Pritchard in a conversation with Walmart corporate’s “Tex-Mex” buyer, who confesses he’s very impressed with her sales. He throws out a number – 500 stores – and Pritchard, somewhat bewildered, declines. With a 2,000-square-foot facility on Industrial Way and only 10 employees, she thinks 50 is a more reasonable number.
“This is still my first business venture, so it’s a major learning experience for me,” she said. “Needless to say, I’ve been using Google a lot.”
Pritchard is confident about her expansion into Las Vegas; her product already has recognition there due to the state’s “Made in Nevada” program.
California is a bit different. Right now, her product is spread out in three distribution centers. Eventually, all four flavors of her shelf salsa will be shipped to one holding center, simplifying the distribution process.
Killer Salsa has been delivering to local Walmarts for years, but that may change in the new scheme of things, Pritchard said.
“In our area, we are well-known. In Vegas, we are well-known because we are a ‘Made in Nevada’ product. In the Bay Area, no one has ever heard of us before,” she said. “But our placement on the shelf is perfect – eye level, middle of the shelf – where every retailer wants to be.”
While Pritchard’s excitement is palpable, the big news hit during her busiest season of the year. She’s had to hire a few more people to keep up.
“We’re holding in there so far,” she said. “The hotter the weather, the more salsa they sell. It’s too hot to cook dinner, so people sit on their back patio drinking margaritas and beer and eating chips and salsa. It’s a food staple in the summertime.”
Looking forward, Pritchard is characteristically optimistic.
“It’s a big leap of faith – that’s for sure,” she said.
For more information about Killer Salsa, visit http://www.killersalsa.com.