- Tried and true recipes with fresh flavours.
- Locally-sourced, all natural ingredients.
- Made by hand in small batches.
- Hard working family members devoted to the business.
Today, the above combination seems like an obvious recipe for success and is being played out in local farmers markets and innovative food products across the land. Back in 1998, when Maria Gutierrez Rattray first decided to test her homemade products at a local farmers market, this winning combination wasn’t so common.
Maria was known as a good cook to her family and friends, creating healthy and fresh dishes based on ingredients from her native Chile. When they encouraged her to try marketing her cooking to the public, she didn’t start with a big plan or even thinking much about it. Her first stall at a farmers market featured salsa, guacamole, hummus, cinnamon buns and cookies. She worked out of her home kitchen which was modified to meet commercial kitchen standards.
Calling her business Sabores Latinos which loosely translates as “Latin Flavours,” her son Kristofir soon started helping out and they experienced significant growth in early years. According to her husband Andy, who also later joined the family venture, “Nobody else was doing this kind of food that was fresh and healthy and tasty, for example, salsa made with fresh tomatoes.”
Now located with a small storefront operation on Harvester Road in Burlington and going by the shorter name “50 Pesos,” the business has grown from using 30 tomatoes a week to 30 CASES a week.
“On average, we make 400 tubs of fresh salsa weekly. At Toronto’s One of a Kind Show, we sell about 200 tubs of salsa each day.”
Today 50 Pesos sells a variety of products, including quesadillas, empanadas, black bean dip, salsa, and hummus. Their guacamole was called “Easily the city’s best” in the Toronto Life Magazine Food & Drink Guide.
Products are sold in the western end of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Areas at various farmers markets — Milton, Ancaster and Dundas, shows such as One of a Kind, and specialty grocery stores such as the Mustard Seed Grocery Cooperative, The Horn of Plenty and Goodness Me!
Since 2015, they also have a food truck which was secured when Kristofir Rattray and his wife Selena were named winners in the Food Network Canada’s show, Food Truck Face Off. Their victory was featured in The Hamilton Spectator.
In addition to the publicity gained through the Food Network Canada contest and media coverage, their business benefits from the many relationships the Rattrays have formed over the years with customers, suppliers, and other businesses. They find that positive word of mouth continually helps the business.
They purchase many of their ingredients locally, though that is obviously not possible for avocados and mangoes. For some of its tortillas, 50 Pesos relies on regional suppliers originally from Latin America.
Maria and Andy cite several challenges to their business, including difficulty finding good employees, the cost of rent, and the various requirements mandated by government. With regards to the latter, at first their business was lumped in with much larger food producers in terms of administrative requirements, a designation that has since been modified by the province, but only after significant cost to the business.
They have had good success with Burlington employment service provider Centre for Skills Development and Training. The Centre has sent them pre-screened workers who receive extra supports in their initial months of employment. Unfortunately, two different excellent employees had unsuccessful refugee claims and were forced to leave Canada.
Looking to the Future
With almost 20 years in the business, the Rattrays are looking forward to carrying 50 Pesos forward as a “small but profitable” enterprise. They have found their niche over the years, sticking with their passion for quality, healthy ingredients and delicious recipes.
To find out more about 50 Pesos, visit their website: 50pesos.ca
Sarah Wayland, Principal Investigator