How Tapatio Became a Big Hot Hit

Photo: Hadley Tomicki

You probably know by now that the ubiquitous Mexican hot sauce Tapatio was actually created in Los Angeles, but did you have any idea that it used to be called Cuervo and was long a one-man operation? The L.A. Times business section details the rise of Jose-Luis Saavedra, the 82-year-old Mexico City native who started out in Maywood in the sixties with a homemade batch of hot sauce that proved so popular with his lunching co-workers at an aerospace manufacturer that he started his own company after getting laid off. He sold the rights to the “Cuervo” name to the tequila company and struggled to get the condiment off the ground until a Japanese-owned grocery store made a huge purchase of 10 cases. Throughout the rise of Tapatio, Saavedra did everything himself, telling the paper “I’d remove the stem, grind the peppers, even applied the glue to the labels,” while holding down two jobs. The company, which finally caught on with a major distribution deal in 1975 and last year signed a bigger deal with Kraft, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, with Saavedra as president and his son and two daughters helping to run the company. Like the story of sriracha, also created in an L.A. suburb, Saavedra proves that success is just one scorching hot sauce away.

Tapatío hot sauce maker Jose-Luis Saavedra has recipe for success [LAT]