Talking all-natural salsa development with premium dip brand, Holy Moly

Holy Moly, the premium all-natural dip brand renowned for their guacamole, made their first foray into salsa last month with the launch of their Tomato & Mango Salsa – marking the start of what will be a wider range expansion across the rest of the year.

The product launched into Waitrose chilled aisles nationwide on 17th March (with an RRP of £2.50). Based on a traditional recipe, Holy Moly’s salsa is made with all-natural ingredients including ripe mangoes, vine-ripened tomatoes, diced red onions, roasted red peppers, coriander, lime and chilli.

It is also free from preservatives, additives, dairy, gluten and is suitable for vegans.

Having worked in the world of dips myself when at Bakkavor, I was intrigued to find out more about their latest innovation. Dips such as hummus are now such a commodity offering that it can be challenging to implement real change in the category.

To find out more about their recent salsa launch, I sounded out Holy Moly co-founder Gaz Booth, who gave me some interesting insight into the reality of plant-based innovation in dips, the brand’s milestones in the development of their first ever salsa, and some teasers as to what their future NPD might look like.

You guys are famous for your avocado-based products – why have you decided to launch a tomato-based salsa?

“Our ethos is about 100% natural products, no additives or preservatives. We’re plant-based where possible and remove the stuff that you wouldn’t use at home. We have our Holy Moly principles and ask ‘how can we make manufactured products available, wherever the consumer wants to buy them, that fit into our view of what food should be’.

“That’s exactly what we did with the ‘guacs’ – we made them authentically.

“Our guac development gave us a set of principles that we stick to, and with all our NPD (including the new salsa) we ask: ‘Can we use the same set of principles and apply them to other product areas in need?’

“We either see an opportunity ourselves or our customers ask us to innovate within the current fixture by taking our Holy Moly commandments and making new products as good as homemade, free-from and clean label.”

Tell me about the development process with the new salsa – what was the main hurdle to overcome?

“Plant-based is an interesting one for NPD. For example, the consumer might say ‘well, actually isn’t this dip already plant-based?’

“But this isn’t necessarily the case.

“There are guacamoles on the market which contain dairy, for example, as adding in cream makes the product react better with the preservative potassium sorbate, as well as enhancing the creamy texture – but this moves away from the clean label and idea of the plant-based movement.

“What we choose to put in and leave out will always be our guiding principles in NPD. The salsa is a natural ‘shoulder’ product to guacamole and going forward we will be taking our principles and applying them to the rest of the category.

“The main hurdles to NPD is making any new product fit our principles. A great example is xanthan gum – it is essentially a natural product with excellent functional properties but, despite it meeting our criteria, we won’t put it in as it’s not an essential store cupboard ingredient.

“With the salsa, the key was making sure we got a product at the end that we could put your name and brand principles to – as well as making it taste phenomenal. Taste is still of number one importance.”

Why did you choose to combine tomato and mango for the new salsa?

“With our NPD, we want to continue to surprise and delight our consumers on how things taste.

“When it comes to mango, it is obviously an interesting ingredient. We do know that the flavour profile of fruit, being sweet, paired with salt and savoury has been around for generations, be it mango chutney, or apple sauce – they pair well with savoury foods.

“The job for us was to take those elements and make a sure we delivered a product that meets the sweet-savoury criteria and tastes brilliant. Tomato and mango work really well together, you have the acidity and sharpness of tomato (with some sweetness), paired with the sweet mango.

“It is a sweet tangy dip, which goes brilliantly with salty tortilla chips, as well as an accompaniment to cut through heavy meat dishes.

“We wanted to ensure we got the balance of the acidity with the sweetness while knowing what the end use is. So when used as a dip for salty tortillas, for example, the enhanced sweetness would offset some of that saltiness.

“The real test was also trying it out on my kids and wife and get their feedback – ensuring the salsa delivered on tasting fresh and natural!”

Can you tell me more about the “traditional recipe” involved?

“We’re not trying to do anything weird or whacky – we want to take products that consumers would recognise from their own kitchen.

“Thankfully, in the UK, our food culture means people know what a good quality dip tastes like vs. the States where the norms are quite different. Essentially, we’re keeping it simple and developing new products in the ‘Holy Moly way’.

“We can keep the tradition but use modern processing techniques. We use high pressure processing (HPP) – cold pressing – to get the benefits of long shelf life, allowing us to remove any additives or preservatives. There’s no citric acid or potassium sorbate – so we get the best technology, which allows us to meet the requirements of what the product needs to be, alongside the homemade feel.”

What does today’s consumer expect from a salsa (and has that changed over the past five years)?

“The expectations have massively changed! COVID-19 has led to more people scratch cooking, and more people caring about what is going into their food.

“It’s also accelerated demand for online shopping but consumers appreciate how easy it is to make good, natural, wholesome foods and have changed their expectations of pre-made, convenience and ready meals – so there will be lots more innovation and a shift in what consumers want here.

“Clean eating, free-from and homemade call-outs are gaining interest, and there’s a growing number of people who are increasingly aware of what their products are made from, and sceptical of ingredients that you can’t pronounce or have numbers in them.

“Well-being has been seen on the outskirts in the world of trends, but the pandemic has changed this. What we’re trying to do is combine the mass-market appeal and ultimate convenience without sacrificing quality and the sense of homemade.”

Would you say today’s consumer is more open to trying new flavours when it comes to dips, sauces and condiments (and why)?

“I don’t think the dips aisle has seen a great deal of recent innovation. It has been own-label dominated (which isn’t a bad thing), but more people are becoming demanding. More people wanting interesting, new and global flavours.

“Dips tend to be a peak summer category must-have. We do see an uplift at Christmas party season but the BBQ occasion is absolutely rife with dips. But things like ‘warm-up’ and smoky are so good for the autumnal and winter flavour profiles – I can see this being an off-season occasion which consumers would be open to.

“They’re interested in products that can add value to meals and not just limited to the tortilla chip – dips should become something that allows for a convenient and efficient way to add colour, flavour and interest to the meal on my plate.

“A vibrant dip with a beetroot base, for example, that adds something way beyond the multi-pack tray served at a BBQ, where one flavour never gets eaten…

“Consumers are moving beyond those formats and people understand the role that new products can offer in terms of adding health and wellbeing benefits, but also colour, interest and flavour.

“I think some products will still remain quite niche, however, as you see some amazing dips that offer vibrancy and newness – but there’s still a long way to go for that mass appeal. But consumers are definitely more interested in things like ‘packed with herbs’ or ‘super veg’ as well as new formats.

“One of our most successful recent launches was our mini-pots trio stacker, which are for a different usage occasion. I can see mini versions of our products being an area of interest for consumers.”

How competitive is the dip category in major retail and what strategies have you employed in order to stay on the shelf?

“Our products have to offer that point of difference, especially as the category is heavily own-label dominated.

“We deliver added value by first having legitimately different products, and secondly, attracting new customers to the category.

“Part of the role of brand is to bring interest and excitement and do the things maybe own-label can’t get away with – we can add colour and interesting flavour profiles as well as bold packaging.

“HPP is also important, it is good for retailers for shelf-life as well as being cleaner label for the end-consumer.”

Can you give us any clues as to your next 2021 release?

“Without giving too much away, our next product release has a totally different profile of the salsa and is all about smoke…

“Future NPD is all about what fits our Holy Moly principles. We follow our values and the trends for clean eating, 100% natural and plant-based – sticking to our three key principles; purer, tastier and holier.”

Hannah Atton
Hannah is a food and drink trend analyst, consultant and NPD expert. She was previously a cross-category product developer and trends researcher for Tesco, an NPD technologist at Bakkavor and freelance trend analyst for The Food People.

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