When Solecito Foods Andrea Blendl considers the advantages and disadvantages of running an authentic Mexican food company with her (authentic Mexican) family, she laughs. “You know, you’re very honest with family,” she says, “that’s good sometimes…and not so good other times.”
As co-director of business operations, along with her father, Fernando Blendl, Andrea has watched Solecito grow from a well-loved green salsa recipe to a successful business. The creator of that salsa—and virtually all of Solecito’s products—is Andrea’s mother, Patricia. As a trained chef, Patricia has been crafting irresistible dishes for over two decades, since before the Blendl family immigrated to Canada.
“When our family moved from Mexico to Canada, we all had different jobs,” explains Andrea, “but the one thing that tied us together was food.”
Before long, Patricia was becoming well known for her green salsa with her work colleagues, friends, and family circles. She started getting so many requests for it that she began selling it out of the family home.
“Everyone was saying, ‘Now this tastes like Mexico!’”
When a foray into retail sales went exceptionally well, the family figured they should try to make a go of working together. They added products and scaled up operations. Now Solecito Foods exuberantly branded tortillas and salsas are a fixture on BC-based retail shelves and online food ordering platforms.
And the Blendls are adding a new line of products for COVID-friendly culinary celebrations—just in time for Cinco de Mayo. They’ve created pouches of traditional taco fillings that pair with their tortillas and salsas for effortless assembly of a home-cooked Mexican feast. The new options—Potato & Chorizo, Chicken Mole, and the vegetarian Black Bean, Corn, and Poblano—are, like all of Solecito’s products, deeply traditional.
“You’re able to make a taco at home that tastes exactly like what you’d get at the taqueria. What we create always has its roots in traditional Mexican food.”
Looking back, Andrea is amazed by what the family has been able to develop, given how green they all were when they started out.
“None of us had a retail background. This was a whole new industry for us and we were starting from zero. We didn’t know how to price, how to scale, how to find suppliers. We were very lucky to find Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) when we did.”
Andrea describes the family’s first meeting with GLBC as thoroughly educational, geared towards getting the new business up to speed and set to succeed.
“We sat down with GLBC people—back when you could meet in person, and we basically got an overview in everything we needed to know. They even helped us measure boxes. They held our hands through a process we were totally unfamiliar with.”
In Andrea’s view, the labels Solecito Foods and GLBC produced are making an undeniable difference. “The thing is that the quality is great. We’re using vibrant colours that are printed in such a way that they truly make our products jump off the shelf. Retail is flooded with options and they’re really helping us to stand out.”
That advantage at the retail level was a boon during 2020, when Solecito’s clients in hospitality shut down. “Despite some of our wholesale clients reducing their demand, we did really well in retail. People were cooking more from home and experimenting with ingredients. Our products are made to be cooked, so we are getting really good feedback during the pandemic.”
Andrea says that the key to Solecito Foods’ success is rooted in “honest conversations”—those same extremely honest family conversations that sometimes pose their own challenges. In the ups and downs of the retail business, we’re glad to be a partner that the Blendls can count on for an honest and supportive conversation—anytime.