Old El Paso is old hat, hints Mexican food firm md

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Old El Paso is old hat, hints Mexican food firm md

Related tags Tortilla Dragons

Despite failing to secure funding on Dragons’ Den, Mexican food firm md Marcela Flores-Newburn has secured investment for her company from a Northamptonshire business consortium.

Flores-Newburn (pictured) appeared on BBC television serenading the Dragons with a Mariarchi band on Sunday night​. But she told FoodManufacture.co.uk that appearing on the show was “the scariest experience of my life”.

The musician and one-time teacher asked the Dragons to contribute £75,000 in exchange for a 20% stake in her Mexican food business, Rico Mexican Kitchen, which has secured listings with Waitrose, Ocado, Harrods and Selfridges.

She wanted the money to develop a premium range of authentic Mexican food – such as salsas, tamales and juices – and bring new types of Mexican food to the UK.

Asked whether existing ‘Mexican’ food on sale in the UK was the real deal, Flores-Newburn told this publication:​[General Mills brand] Old El Paso has done a really good job with DIY Mexican ‘pass me the salsa’, but the flavours aren’t authentic.

“There’s lots of sugar and vinegar spirit there, and the food flavours aren’t ​[authentic],”​ she added.

Dragons fail to bite

The Dragons failed to bite, but Flores-Newburn said she had secured an undisclosed amount in backing from a regional investment group.

This will help Rico Mexican Kitchen with marketing and PR, product development, branding and the brand’s drive into supermarkets, she said.

Forced to deal with five “bright, assertive people”​ for the best part of two hours on Dragons’ Den was gruelling, Flores-Newburn said.

But she praised the Dragons for taking a balanced view of her pitch, and said that Deborah Meaden in particular loved the food.

Mexican food had a great history, variety and breadth, with some recipes around 4,000 years old. “It isn’t just about oozy, cheesy nachos,”​ she said.

Rico Mexican Kitchen currently has a 400sq ft manufacturing unit at Southglade Food Park in Nottingham, produces around 3,000 units per month and employs two part-time production staff.

However, Flores-Newburn said the company was looking to ramp-up and outsource production, and was interested in partnering a manufacturer with British Retail Consortium (BRC) accredited facilities.

Marcella’s Mexican Kitchen?

After appearing in the Den, Flores-Newburn said she recognised the need to scale back the firm's product offering and produce a core range of, say, cooking sauces.

“We want to develop our credibility as a household brand, then introduce less-known products,”​ she said.

Mexican drinks were on hold for now, she said, but Rico was launching chilled dips through Ocado in the Autumn, and was looking into developing an ambient range.

Limited chilled space in independents meant that opportunities in delicatessens and independents were limited, she said, whereas ambient products could pay dividends.

‘Rico’ means ‘tasty’ in Spanish, and is the word used by Flores-Newburn’s children to describe their Mum’s cooking, she said.

However, Peter Jones on Dragon’s Den said he didn’t think the name worked, and suggested ‘Marcella’s Mexican Kitchen’ as one alternative.

But Flores-Newburn defended the company's name: “The story behind the brand is real. It’s not a brand that has had millions spent on it.”

Related topics Ambient foods Drinks Chilled foods

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