White Corn & Black Bean Salsa is one of 32 Tex-Mex products under Supervalu's Carlita signature brand, targeting semi- and fully acculturated Hispanics, as well as non-Hispanics looking for more authentic tastes. Craig Espelien, store brands general director for the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based retailer/wholesaler, said the salsa is a reincarnation of a popular store-brand item that was discontinued several years ago.
"That was really successful, and so we wanted to kind of stay the course with this item," Espelien said. "It's not a cheap formula. It's got an interesting texture, a roasted flavor -- not just a straight tomato base."
Judges compared the Supervalu product favorably to other salsas that came across as watery or bland. "It had lots of corn, lots of beans, lots of heat," Tom Stephens said.
As a signature brand, the Carlita line was carefully researched to be authentic. On the salsa's label, the dark clay background is "the No. 1 color for communicating with Hispanics in packaging," Espelien said.
The background has subtle Aztec symbols. When a Hispanic shopper focus group pointed out that yellow-colored cheese would never be used in Hispanic cooking, white was substituted on the label photo. Packages also include recipes that were developed and tested in-house.
The opening marketing campaign for Carlita earlier this year included in-store radio, point-of-purchase materials, lobby signs with recipes and teaser ads. Other products in the line are taco kits, green chilies, jalapenos, refried beans and diced tomatoes. Another 25 are in development. Shoppers might soon be offered more authentic products like gallons of corn oil from Mexico.
"It's a commodity down there, but it's something our supplier already does, and we can branch out and appeal to [consumers'] cultural history," Espelien said.
The winning salsa is available in 16-ounce jars for a suggested retail price of $1.99. Others in the six-item group include a roasted tomato salsa and a spicier "volcano" flavor.