From humble beginnings to lining grocery store shelves across the Pacific Northwest, Redmond’s Salsa de Rosa company has been making moves since it was started in a garage nearly 20 years ago.
Salsa de Rosa was created by Ro “Rosa” Bryar and Steven Bryar and based off of Rosa’s Mexican family recipes. Rosa had been making salsa since the 1970s and after marrying Steven in 1980, they decided to make the salsa with more chunks to make it more easily scooped up with chips. The couple started the company two decades ago with the humble goal of paying bills and maybe saving up for some trips. At the time, Steven had been working for an electronics company after getting out of the military.
The Bryars turned half of their garage into a commercial kitchen, which Steven called the “salsa shack.” It’s still used for testing new formulas and for small batches, but most of their production is now produced at a larger co-packer in Woodinville. Salsa de Rosa offers six fresh salsas, made without preservatives or pasteurization, which range in heat from mild to hot. From there, the couple started frequenting local events selling their salsa and perfecting their recipes.
Steven said their first big commercial break came after he approached the manager of Kirkland’s old Red Apple grocery store if he was interested in stocking their salsa. Initially, the manager said they already had homemade salsa, but decided to try a sample. The couple made a fresh batch and delivered it to the store.
“About three hours later, he calls us up and says, ‘When could you bring some in?’” Steven said.
From that initial stocking, the salsa has made its way onto shelves at Whole Foods, PCC Community Markets and Safeway in the nearly 20 years since it was started in January 1999. Salsa de Rosa general manager Josh Akramoff said they are trying to expand into other stores and restaurants too, including convenience stores, which he said is a quickly growing market for fresh foods.
“We don’t see any fresh salsa competition in convenience stores,” he said.
Salsa de Rosa recently won six awards at the international 2019 Scovie Awards, a salsa and hot sauce competition. They even upset records their previous salsas had won, said Morgan Bryar, the couple’s daughter and Salsa de Rosa’s customer relations manager.
“Everything we entered won an award,” she said.
Within the next five years, Steven said they’re hoping to expand into their own packing and processing warehouse. With prices so high in the Seattle area, they will likely have to look for space outside of King County, possibly in Snohomish or Pierce counties, Akramoff said. When this happens, they hope to provide packaging services for smaller companies too.
A national spread may be coming too, but the Bryar family hopes to keep production close to their markets in a localized national model, where regional headquarters buy produce in for the salsa in the area they’re located.
“The plan really was and is to keep it a family business,” Akramoff said.