Clint’s Texas Salsa – A San Antonio Tradition

By: Cori Smelker
From: Nside Magazine

1996 was a notable year; the New York Yankees won the World Series Championship for the first time in 18 years; the Dallas Cowboys became the first NFL franchise to win three Superbowls in four years and Dolly the Sheep was cloned and born in Scotland. Locally, Clint Poulter wanted to change the hot sauce market and created Clint’s Texas Salsa, a unique salsa that today has received national recognition.

Clint, a lifetime resident of San Antonio did not intend to start his own business initially. He attended college and tried to support himself selling copiers. Soon after his dreams of going to law school were dashed he knew he had to come up with a new plan, and fast. “I approached my roommate at the time, Johnny, and said, ‘Hey. Let’s use your family’s recipe for salsa, get a commercial kitchen and sell it at HEB”. And just like that, Clint & Johnny’s Gourmet Picante was born. Johnny decided after about two months that he wanted to start a salsa company with his father, so Clint bought him out and changed the name to Clint’s Texas Salsa. With no cash on hand, he borrowed $6,200 for his grandparents to buy a Hobart VCM (Vertical cutting mixer that is essentially a 40 quart Cuisinart). He then sub-leased Williard’s Jamaican Jerk BBQ, and would produce the salsa at night when the restaurant was closed. After two years, the sales volume became more than he could produce by himself, so he found a co-packer right here in San Antonio that could make and bottle it for him. “When I realized that we could have somebody else make it, and it tasted exactly the same, it was a no-brainer to outsource our production”. “We have a confidential non-disclosure agreement about our recipe and it can only be used by Clint’s Texas Salsa. Our co-packer manufactures for many other companies, but does not produce any of their own products. Therefore, my fears about our recipe being stolen were eased”, recalls Clint. “I think it took about seven years before we actually made a profit”, states Clint
What makes Clint’s Texas Salsa different from the other brands? “Salsa and Picante are different products, but the term is used interchangeably. Salsa is traditionally the thin sauce found at Mexican restaurants whereas Picante is the thicker sauce usually found at the grocery store.” Clint is committed to using only the freshest produce to make his Salsa. Their recipe features Serrano peppers, which have a superior flavor to that of Jalapeno peppers. “We make a True Salsa; meaning we don’t load our product down with tomato paste. It really makes a big difference that you can taste,” Clint says. “Plus because we are not mass-producing on the scale of some of our competitors, we find that we can spend more time on quality control, and ensuring that no corners are cut.” The fact that his name is on the product is important too. “When your reputation is at stake, second best in quality is not an option”, states Clint. The salsa comes in three strengths, mild, medium and hot. There is a definite difference between each one, and the hot is really hot.

Breaking into the market has taken determination, drive, many hours of hard work and ingenuity. “And plenty of taste test demo’s!” Keri, Clint’s wife of nine years laughs. Keri met Clint three weeks before he started the salsa business and once they married joined him in marketing and selling the salsa.

H.E.B. has been their biggest supporter by far. Initially they gave Clint’s Texas Salsa shelf-space at Central Market in Austin, but as the customers bought more of the product, they increased the number of stores that would carry the brand. Now you can find Clint’s Texas Salsa in virtually every H.E.B. throughout Texas.

The Poulter’s decided to look further a-field and set their sights on Wal-Mart. This was a harder market to break into, however Wal-Mart does give their store managers some freedom in what to place on their shelves with a program called “Local Purchase Program”. Clint and Keri received approval to sell their product in the Wal-Mart Supercenter located at Nacodoches and 1604. Soon after, they were approved to sell in most Wal-Marts in San Antonio and Austin. But further growth was not so easy, and it took five additional years to finally get approval for the Wal-Mart warehouse program. “Now you can find Clint’s Texas Salsa as far away as Oklahoma and Arkansas,” Clint says. “Today Clint’s is available at most every grocery store in Texas and that is quite an achievement,” Keri chimes in.

With growth has come many changes; the most dramatic is that the Poulter’s no longer distribute the cases of salsa themselves. “Up until a few years ago Clint would pack his little Maxima full of salsa cases, the rear end was almost dragging on the ground it was so full! Twice a week he’d deliver the cases to HEB in Austin. He also did half the San Antonio deliveries, and I did the other half,” Keri says. After the birth of their daughter, Allison in 2005, they decided it was time to re-prioritize. As Clint says, “Too much time was taken with driving, and it was something that could easily be handled by an outside company.” “It was time to lead the company, and provide the vision and strategy to take us to the next level”

One of the best things about being a small company is that Clint and Keri get to hear from the customers. People call, email, or send letters to express their feelings about the salsa. The most memorable letter that the Poulter’s received (and have kept) was from a solider in Iraq. He was on his way to Baghdad in 2003 (during the initial surge) and yet took time to write to Clint and thank him for the wonderful salsa. “I was completely taken by surprise. “Here is a man who is risking his life in battle, and he takes the time to write me a letter!” Clint immediately sent several cases of salsa to the soldier and his friends. “It is the least I could do,” he says. “Those men are fighting for freedom, all I do is make salsa.”

Making salsa is what he sees himself doing for a long time to come though. Now that he has garnered some attention from Wal-Mart he intends to see whether he can go completely national, breaking into the northern states, not just the southern ones. It is important to stay on top the dream he and his wife share, he explains. Every time they have stretched that dream and vision a little further they have achieved it. Being able to focus on managing their brand, rather than delivery and everyday operations has aided them in solidifying their vision. “Making great salsa is my passion, I feel fortunate and blessed each and every day.’ ‘ We truly thank all of our loyal fans for their support in making our dreams become reality.

   
         
   
 

 

   
         
 
 
   
   
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