San Diego snack firm wins $100k grand prize from PepsiCo contest
As an entrepreneur, he is aware of it’s not going to be simple. However, he’s betting on individuals like himself who crave spicy flavors and authenticity of their meals.
His dried fruit snacks smothered in chili seasoning are nothing new. Schwarz grew up consuming these flavors in Mexico. The distinction is now he’s plucking a bit of his heritage, placing it in glossy colourful packages and getting it on U.S. retailer cabinets like Ralphs and Entire Meals.
“We’re very proud Mexicans residing within the U.S., so we’re pleased with being Mexican but additionally very grateful to be right here,” Schwarz mentioned.
Schwarz’s private love of spicy snacks traces again to his childhood in Monterrey, Mexico. He recollects operating off the grime soccer discipline along with his buddies to the close by meals cart. They’d get tostadas layered with chili flavors.
He based CHUZA in January 2020 and named it after the Spanish exclamation for hitting a strike in bowling.
“If you hit a ‘chuza’ you probably did one thing superb,” he mentioned.
CHUZA presents dried fruit, equivalent to mangoes, strawberries and nopal (cactus pads) lined in genuine Mexican spices. The native model sells its chili seasoning and 6 types of dried fruit for $5 to $8 per bag.
The spices are sourced straight from a Mexican producer that has been doing it for 3 generations, Schwarz mentioned. CHUZA’s packaging additionally boasts 100% Mexican spices and no synthetic flavors or colours.
Whereas the snacks is likely to be full of warmth, Schwarz mentioned it’s one thing his three younger children eat every single day — together with his one-year-old.
He moved to San Diego, his spouse’s hometown, through the first week of the COVID-19 lockdowns in March 2020. To get CHUZA off the bottom, Schwarz invested his personal financial savings after which obtained assist from family and friends.
Previous to beginning CHUZA, he labored at a big U.S. company and based a meals startup in Mexico. Nonetheless, working within the client packaged meals sector was new to him, so Schwarz relied on his entrepreneurial persistence and company expertise to see the massive image with CHUZA.
“Typically after we are doing a startup, you’re very into the main points of the day-to-day survival,” he mentioned.
Schwarz remains to be the one full-time worker, however he’s hoping that can change quickly because the enterprise expands due to a $100,000 grant and assist from PepsiCo’s 2023 Greenhouse Accelerator.
CHUZA gained the first-ever Juntos Crecemos (Collectively We Develop) iteration of the accelerator, which focuses on up-and-coming Hispanic companies throughout the meals and beverage business.
It wasn’t a simple pitch contest to say the primary prize. It was the end result of a six-month mentorship program with PepsiCo alongside 9 different meals startups. This system gave finalists a $20,000 grant and private mentorship from specialists in areas equivalent to branding and go-to-market technique.
The judges mentioned that CHUZA was chosen because the winner for its enlargement to greater than 500 retail places all through this system.
“CHUZA’s focus and dedication to elevating the snack section, demonstrated all through all the course of, evokes us to take care of that very same entrepreneurial mindset at PepsiCo as we develop meals and beverage options that ship on taste, perform, well being, comfort and sustainability,” mentioned Antonio Escalona, senior vp and normal supervisor of Hispanic Enterprise Unit, PepsiCo Meals North America.
One among CHUZA’s objectives was to efficiently launch its product in 7/11 comfort shops, which the PepsiCo specialists helped them sort out. Schwarz mentioned you may as well discover their spicy snack on-line and at Entire Meals, Ralphs, Stater Bros., Bristol Farms, Seaside Market and Artelexia.
Moreover, CHUZA is now obtainable in Florida and the corporate just lately gained the California Grocers Affiliation pitch contest, which has opened the door for its enlargement into Northern California.
A part of the model’s development plans embrace utilizing the PepsiCo grant cash to extend model consciousness by means of in-store demonstrations and partnerships with social media influencers.