There was a moment during his “Shark Tank” appearance when you might’ve thought Hector Saldivar wasn’t going to make it. Most of the sharks had given him firm — if regretful — “not-gonna-happens,” leaving Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful, as Saldivar’s only lifeline. Given the investor’s on-screen personality, it was a dubious position to find himself in.
But despite how it looked on camera, the founder of Tia Lupita Foods never doubted himself for a moment. He never even felt nervous. “Honestly, as I was starting to get the no’s, I was thinking, ‘well, this is the first pass, you know,'” Saldivar told a famous food blog. “No — it’s not in my vocabulary, as cheesy as that sounds.”
Honoring Heritage Through Hot Sauce
It’s fair to say that self-belief has paid off. In 2022, the entrepreneur made Don Julio and Time’s list of the “80 Mexicans Shaping Contemporary Culture” for founding Tia Lupita. Having started as a homage to his mother’s jalapeño hot sauce, by the time Saldivar pitched himself to the sharks in April of 2023, Tia Lupita’s four hot sauce varieties and portfolio of sustainable tortillas and chips (made with cactus) were available for sale in supermarkets across the country.
Hot sauce continues to be a best-seller for Tia Lupita, but the company’s grain-free, cactus-based chips were what really Mr. Wonderful’s investing eyes. As a “Shark Tank” fan, you know that already. Few food blogs followed up with Saldivar to learn more about his experience with the show and find out what happened next.
Extra Motivation and Commitment
Hector Saldivar gained extra motivation right before going on Shark Tank. He missed the one-month memorial of his father’s death to pitch his product to the sharks. As a man who has, in his words, built a brand around “honoring my family, my culture, and my heritage,” the decision might seem counterintuitive. Showing up to Sony Studios, however, was precisely what Saldivar needed to do.
The founder of Tia Lupita Foods told us he’d found out his father had died “around the same time” he got the call from “Shark Tank.” Saldivar did go to his father’s funeral in Mexico prior to filming, but his father’s death gave him an extra push to give his all to Tia Lupita. Saldivar didn’t tell the sharks this story until everyone but Kevin O’Leary had turned down the entrepreneur’s offer (which wound up being $500,000 for a 5% stake in Tia Lupita). The decision to do so wasn’t a last-ditch attempt to get a pity vote. Instead, Saldivar wanted potential investors to know just how much the company meant to him.
The Tedious Road to “Shark Tank”
Aspiring “Shark Tank” companies go through an exhausting application process for the right to be further grilled by the sharks on air. The show gets around 45,000 applications per year, according to CNBC. A tiny fraction of those applicants — less than 200, per Saldivar — gets invited to Sony Studios. Even fewer see their stories told on TV.
The Tia Lupita founder tells us he went through “several rounds” of interviews and plenty of due diligence before getting selected. Producers don’t only vet an applicant’s personality and ensure that their product story is TV-friendly — they also do a deep dive into the company’s paper trail and, according to Saldivar, comb through an applicant’s profit and loss, financials, and projections to guarantee that sales and other numbers aren’t being fudged.
Moments of Surprises and Validation
Hector Saldivar had his pitch “super dialed” going into “Shark Tank.” This was not his first rodeo, after all. The entrepreneur had been performing the opening you witnessed on TV for some time. Needless to say, he’d never confronted a reaction like the one he got from the sharks. ” [When] I said, ‘Raise your hands if you like to eat tacos,’ Daymond John [said], ‘I don’t like tacos,'” Saldivar remembered. “That completely threw me off, right? You could hear the record scratching. Like, who doesn’t like tacos?”
We’re prone to agree, but we digress. Saldivar told a famous food blog that the moment affected both the “cadence” of his pitch and his confidence during the rest of his presentation. Lucky for him, the Tia Lupita founder found validation later in the show when John praised the company’s revenue and admitted he was into Tia Lupita’s salsa macha.
A Different Side of Mr. Wonderful
Hector Saldivar wasn’t aiming to make a deal with anyone in particular when he pitched Tia Lupita on “Shark Tank.” Given Mark Cuban’s meat-free and health-focused diet, though, the founder assumed his company might appeal to the Dallas Mavericks’ owner. As for Kevin O’Leary? “Me being a fan of ‘Shark Tank’ for 14 years, you know, there is this polarizing thing, [about] Kevin O’Leary,” Saldivar told A food blog. “We were like, ‘I don’t know if I want him to be my partner.'”
Off-camera, however, Saldivar says that Mr. Wonderful turns into a completely different person. “I don’t know if I’m going to get in trouble or not, but I think his character, it’s a persona that he created,” the mastermind behind Tia Lupita said. “Behind the curtains, he’s super nice. He’s one of the nicest [people] that you’ve ever met, and his team is wonderful, too.” Since “Shark Tank,” per Saldivar, he’s been in touch with the CEO of O’Leary Ventures, along with his legal and finance team.
“There was no head-butting or discord or anything like that,” the founder explained. “They do want to support emerging brands and they do want to support entrepreneurs and businesses.” After months of negotiations, things seem to be picking up speed. Per Saldivar, Tia Lupita recently inked the formal partnership contract with Mr. Wonderful roughly a month ago.
Thriving After “Shark Tank”
Hector Saldivar is very happy with the effect of Shark Tank on his company. Tia Lupita was flooded not only with an influx of orders but also with messages of support. “People that I hadn’t heard [from] in decades were reaching out like, ‘I just saw you in Shark Tank, man,'” the founder recounted. The company has become an attractive investment opportunity since its “Shark Tank” success, receiving term sheets and increased attention from investors and VCs.
Step by step, Hector Saldivar says he’s working to make his company the “number one Mexican food brand in the United States.” The company plans on starting small, with the same core product base that they already have — two varieties of tortillas, two salsa machas, four hot sauces, and five varieties of grain-free chips. The hot sauces — and particularly Tia Lupita’s original red jalapeño hot sauce and salsa verde varieties — have always been best-sellers according to Saldivar. They continue to make up for around 56% to 57% of the company’s revenue.
Since “Shark Tank,” however, Tia Lupita has witnessed sales take off for another product: the grain-free cactus tortilla chips. “I think that was Mr. Wonderful’s motivation to invest,” Saldivar reflected. “He’s like, ‘This is the best tortilla chip or grain-free tortilla chip I’ve had … and I live a grain-free diet.’ So what better publicity than that?” As for the founder himself? Saldivar is still partial to his red jalapeño hot sauce and salsa verde and tells us he can’t have breakfast without mixing them together. “I put it on eggs,” he quipped. “It’s quintessential.”
The Vision for Tia Lupita’s Future
With a partnership with Kevin O’Leary, Tia Lupita’s founder is optimistic about the company’s future growth. Saldivar is determined to expand the brand’s reach, not only within the United States but also globally. He believes that the unique combination of authentic Mexican flavors and sustainable, healthy ingredients will resonate with consumers worldwide.
Tia Lupita aims to continue introducing innovative and delicious products that celebrate Mexican cuisine and culture while promoting healthy living. The company has plans to expand its product line to include even more hot sauce varieties, as well as exploring other traditional Mexican dishes and snacks. As a brand rooted in honoring family and heritage, Tia Lupita also wants to give back to the community, supporting local farmers and sustainable agriculture initiatives in Mexico.
Embracing Success and Staying True to Values
Despite the remarkable success after “Shark Tank,” Hector Saldivar and his team remain humble and focused on their mission. They understand the importance of staying true to their core values, producing high-quality, flavorful products that customers love. The feedback and support from fans and customers continue to drive the brand’s growth and evolution.
Tia Lupita’s story is one of determination, passion, and the belief that anything is possible with hard work and unwavering faith in one’s vision. From the moment Saldivar stood before the sharks, he exemplified the essence of an entrepreneur, undeterred by obstacles, and committed to making his dreams a reality.
As Tia Lupita continues to flourish, one thing remains clear: their journey is not just about building a successful business; it’s about celebrating culture, family, and the joy of savoring delicious Mexican flavors. With a bright future ahead, Tia Lupita is set to make a lasting impact on the culinary world while staying true to its roots.
Hector Saldivar’s appearance on “Shark Tank” was a turning point for Tia Lupita Foods, propelling the brand into the spotlight and opening doors to new opportunities. His unwavering belief in the company’s mission and the flavors of Mexico paved the way for success, as he secured a partnership with Kevin O’Leary and a growing base of loyal customers.
Tia Lupita’s commitment to sustainability, authenticity, and honoring heritage has not only made it a sought-after brand but also a source of pride for the Mexican community. As the company continues to thrive and expand, it remains dedicated to sharing the rich flavors of Mexico with the world while staying true to its roots and values.
Whether you’re a fan of spicy hot sauces or can’t resist the crunch of grain-free cactus chips, Tia Lupita offers a taste of Mexico’s culinary treasures. From humble beginnings to a rising star in the food industry, Tia Lupita’s journey is a testament to the power of passion, resilience, and the enduring appeal of authentic flavors that bring people together.