What was the inspiration for Tres Pupusas? How did the idea and company come to be?
I worked at the Boulder Farmers Market for Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy for a couple of years, and I saw a trend toward gluten free (everybody wanted cheese without the crackers!) Then, I tried pupusas for the first time at my kids’ school during a Cinco de Mayo festival. Another mother at the festival was from El Salvador and she was making pupusas for everyone. I thought “Oh my God, these are the best things I’ve ever had,” so, I asked her if she wanted to start selling them at the Farmers’ Market with me. Pupusas are naturally gluten free and, after my experience with Haystack, I thought people would love them.
Later, we hired three women from El Salvador to help out and to this day, they’re still working with Tres Latin Foods.
Fun fact: This was how we came up with the name “Tres.” There were three ladies that started the company with me. I also have three children.
Was there a break somewhere along the road that helped get you to where you are today?
Our first year at the Boulder Farmers Market, Tom Rich, store manager at the Pearl Street Whole Foods Market [now regional vice president], stopped by our booth. His wife was with him and she loved the pupusas. When she saw that we sold them frozen she told him he should bring them into the store. So he came to me said, “If you ever want to be in the Pearl Street store, here’s my card.”
When I met Tom, I had just graduated from Naropa University with a master's degree in counseling psychology, so I was planning to go into the counseling field. But then I started working at the Farmers Market selling our pupusas, and that kept me busy. I felt like the universe was telling me, “This is what you’re doing right now.”
Which certifications are most important for your product?
Right now, we’re looking into becoming certified gluten free, and then we’ll work on obtaining non-GMO certification for our vegan products. The issue we’re having is that it’s harder to certify cheese and dairy products as non-GMO than it is other ingredients, but we’ll go down that road in the future.
One of our motivating factors for using non-GMO ingredients is that people really care about our use of organic corn. Certified organic corn is the No. 1 thing that sets us apart, because most other pupusas out there are made with conventional corn.
Is it challenging being in the frozen aisle?
It’s a challenge because there’s very limited space and a lot of bigger companies take up that space. But buyers love something new and innovative, and Latin food is growing, so that’s encouraging for our brand. Additionally, a lot of conventional grocers are talking about how they’re taking shelf space from conventional and converting it into natural and organic, which is awesome! They’re making space because natural and organic is what people want.
What has been your experience introducing your product to customers?
We try to demo all the time. We’ve found that once people learn what a pupusa is and try one, they love it. I think more and more people are learning about different and innovative Latin foods. There are already so many burritos on the market…
When I think about our product, I always think about kombucha. When I started at Naropa University, who knew what kombucha was? Nobody. And now it’s everywhere. It just takes a little time, and I think Latin foods are the next trend. Just look at street tacos and street food in general. One of the top food trucks in New York City is a pupusa truck.