Santa Maria - how to sell (mostly) sugar and salt for 359 sek/kg. – Food Pharmacy

Ann Fernholm

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Santa Maria – how to sell (mostly) sugar and salt for 359 sek/kg.

Recently, I had reasons to look a little closer at the food company Santa Maria’s assortment – they who supply all of Sweden with their ”Friday-tacos”. It led to a thorough examination of their ingredient lists and ended with the email below, which was signed today and sent to Santa Maria.

Hi Santa Maria! Since some time back, I’ve followed your business and I’m writing to express my admiration for your sense regarding business. It actually started when I was about to  buy a rub in the store and fell for this one:

Just the word chipotle makes me feel good, but as usual (an acquired work injury), I could not help examining the ingredients:

Sugar. And the nutrition declaration:

34 grams of sugar. Ok? In my opinion, a rub should primarily consist of spices. At first, I was pretty doubtful, I’ll admit that. But then I glanced at the kilo price:

359 sek/kg. It’s quite brilliant. You make a spice-mix where one third is sugar, which has a world-market price of around three SEK, mix it with salt (that I guess is even cheaper), a little lemon peel and other spices and then it becomes a product where sugar and salt are sold for more than a HUNDRED times what it’s worth.

A profit machine

I hope you don’t perceive me as intrusive, but already in the store, I had to visit the site, to check your annual report. Darn, you’re making money – year after year! 217 million in profit and a profit margin of 13.16 percent last year. Economy is not my strong side – but I assume you all are pretty pleased with that? You beat Nordic Sugar’s profit margin of 8.87 percent by far. Arla and Dafgårds are moving in slow-motion with their 4.8 and 6.03 percent.

Your profitability caused some curiosity. How do you get such a viable company in the tough world of food industry?

Chemistry instead of raw ingredients

In your case, it must have been about hiring chemists instead of cooks. Take your guacamole for example. In store, Tóp and you are about the same kilo price, but they have 95 percent avocado in their guacamole while you have succeded to reduce the amounts to 1.5 percent. It’s just to congratulate: of course, it’s better business to sell a hodgepodge colored with chlorophyll (e141), mostly made from water and that gets its consistency with starch and thickeners, than to sell a real guacamole (that also must be cooled). People are so difficult when it comes to additives – but chlorophyll is all natural.

4 percent cheese instead of 62 percent

I bet you also feel satisfied with the composition of the Cheddar Cheese dip. Again, you’re able to have the same price as your competitors, but without spending money on expensive raw ingredients. Your main ingredients: skim milk, water, sunflower oil, modified starch (tapioca), cheddar cheese (4%), salt…

Texas Longhorn’s main ingredients: Water, Cheese (Cheddar cheese (48%), Cheese (14%), Water, Butter, Milk Protein…

A thumb up to the longhorn, who has 15 times more cheese in it’s dip.

Sauces based on water and sugar

The price per kilo on some of your sauces is also impressive. The Pad Thai sauce (124 sek/liter in store), Sweet Chili (52 sek/liter) and American BBQ (96 sek/liter) as some kind of development of ketchup (25 sek/liter). Your sauces costs more than ketchup, but instead of expensive tomato puree, you base the sauces on water and sugar, or sugar and water. At least there is some variation!

Dextrose – the main ingredient of the ”taco-spice”

Then you’ve been very wise when it comes to the presentation of the ingredients in your best-selling ”taco-spice” (355 sek/kg):

At first I wondered why you had put chilipeppers, cumin and garlic into the group “spices”. But of course, it’s so that dextrose won’t be first on the list. If you had presented the spices separately (as you still do in parentheses), all spices had fallen after dextrose. Then the list would be:

Dextrose, onions (19%), chilli peppers (11%), cumin (10%), garlic (6%), salt, oregano (4%), yeast extract, potato starch, potato fiber, antifungal agent (e551), seasoning extracts (peppers).

Clearly, the spice mix sells better if you’re able to conceal that it’s based primarily on sugar. One tip: oregano is also a spice, which you can put in the parenthesis (before dextrose).

I’m sorry this all became so lengthy. Before I finish, I just want to say that I miss a part of your Tex Mex assortment: the minced meat itself. Can that also be made out of water, sugar and modified starch?


Ann Fernholm

Ps. I eventually bought another rub that gave me more spices for the buck.

This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.



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