But thanks to a rise in cooking sauces, these are no longer significant hurdles to preparing globally inspired meal at home, says Leticia Castellano, chief marketing officer for Kaulli Foods, Inc., which makes Molli cooking sauces and marinades that “bring true Mexican flavors to American tables.”
“People are looking for ways to spice-up dinner and are trying to cook more, but at the same time they don’t have a lot of time to do all the steps to prepare a good curry or a good Thai dish,” which is holding them back from fully meeting their desire for international cuisine, Castellano said.
To help consumers over this hump, several large CPG companies, including Campbell’s Soup Co., have recently launched simmer sauces – which were a near instant success in terms of helping consumers make dinners fast, Castellano said.
But, she added, while these early-movers did the heavy-lifting in terms of educating consumers on how to use simmer sauces and marinades, most of the products on the market were customized for the existing American palace and therefore were not meeting shoppers’ demand for “real and authentic flavors.”
“Today you find a lot of hype about real and authentic flavors, but when you go to the supermarket you don’t find anything authentic,” she said.
To help fill this void and further build-up the nascent simmer sauce segment, Castellano and her co-founder launched Kaulli Foods two years ago to sell traditional Mexican mole sauces under the Molli brand.
A broad portfolio
The line-up includes three cooking sauces, three marinades and one condiment, all of which are not salsas, Castellano said, adding the company wanted to “bring Mexican flavors to your dinner, not your chip.”
All the products are made with “only real, wholesome ingredients. No fillers, no preservatives, no artificial flavors,” she said. She also noted the brand stands out from competitors because the ingredients are sautéed together to enhance the flavor, rather than tossed raw or rehydrated in a blender uncooked.
The cooking sauces all are named after and represent the local cuisine in different regions of Mexico, including Veracruz, which is a blend of red tomatoes, morita chili peppers and green olives; Mexico City, which is full of “fire and spice” and includes arbol chili peppers, onion and garlic; and Morelos, a cooking sauce from the smallest state of Mexico that combines tomatoes, tomatillos, chipotle peppers and traditional spices, Castellano said.
The marinades include the sweet and smoky Acapulco; a citrus kissed Oaxaca that blends vinegar, orange juice and peppers; and Yucatan, which is a medley of European, Mexican and Caribbean flavors, according to the company’s website.
Finally, the condiment is a chamoy sauce called Culiacan, which comes from the Japanese-influenced cuisine of western Mexico and marries dry apricots with citrus and peppers.
By offering such a wide variety of products, Castellano said Kaulli Foods wanted to help Americans “bring their Mexican night to another level in just 30 minutes,” and reach beyond just Taco Tuesday “to have Taco Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.”
Overcoming center-store stagnation
A major threat to the young brand is the general stagnation in the center of the grocery store where the marinades, sauces and condiments are typically sold, acknowledged Castellano.
To overcome this, she said the brand is working with retailers to help consumers connect the sauces with increasingly popular fresh produce and meat.
“We have seen a trend where people are trying to buy more fresh ingredients and they are not going to the center of the store. So for us, we positioned our product as a complement to make vegetables delicious,” Castellano said. “Yes, consumers want to eat more vegetables, but if they taste bland they won’t eat them. So, we want to be sold along side vegetables to help consumers make the connection.”
The same goes for being stocked in the meat section, she said.
As a trade-off, Castellano said the company is helping retailers revitalize the center store and draw consumers into the middle aisles through aggressive sampling. But the key to a successful sampling campaign is to have employees who love to cook offering the samples, Castellano added.
“The most important thing is to hire people who enjoy food to sample your product. If you hire someone who doesn’t cook or doesn’t enjoy flavors, they won’t be able to sell this,” she said. “But if they have tried the product, cooked with it at home and understand, then they can communicate that better to consumers and make a sale.”
Looking forward, Castellano suspects that the company will need to focus its energy on just one or two of its SKUs in order to fully engage with mainstream shoppers. But once they have shoppers’ hooked on one, she is confident they will want to try the others.