San Diego is turning family recipes into a growing salsa business

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – What if you could turn a skill you learned from your family into your livelihood? That’s what Ruth Murillo did with Ruth’s #5 salsa.

As she pours some into a bowl, she credits her salsa roja as the one that started it all. It’s a classic red salsa full of authentic flavors from Sonora, Mexico.

“It’s what my mom taught me and I’ve had a crush on it for as long as I can remember,” says Ruth.

Now a lot of loyal customers think the same way. To understand how Ruth made it to the charming storefront at Old Town Urban Market, you have to go back generations.

Ruth can trace her recipes back to her great-grandmother, Nana Pancha, who passed them on to Ruth’s grandmother, Isabel. Isabel taught her to Ruth’s mother, Guadalupe. Ruth stays true to tradition but also adds a personal touch, like the avocado in her salsa verde.

“The green one started because I love enchiladas.”

She says at first she only made the salsas for family and friends. Then came a little encouragement.

“It was a friend of mine who told me. I gave him the salsa and he said why don’t you bottle it.” Ruth says, “I had to google what ‘bottling’ meant and it clicked – hmmm, let me do that.”

It started five years ago at the Pacific Beach Farmers Market.

“People laughed at me because I was dating a little cooler. I think it was within a month that I went from my small cooler that we take to the beach to an industrial cooler.”

From there, Ruth expanded to farmers markets in North Park, Little Italy, Hillcrest, and Leucadia, where she sold from about 40 containers to hundreds in a day.

When asked if she could believe how much Ruth’s #5 has grown, Ruth replied, “No, never, never. I started the business because I wanted to bring my flavors to bear. I wanted people to understand who we are. We eat that at home.”

Ruth only opened the shop in January in the old town. She says no matter how big the company gets, the key is maintaining quality.

“I still go and buy my own tomatoes. I’m still picking the tomatillos I’m going to use. I’m still going to the mangoes.”

Ruth’s now has 7 salsas from their classic red to the popular mango. She says the hardest part of her entrepreneurial journey has been making decisions.

“I think one of the hardest things I did was knowing the company’s decisions, am I doing this right or wrong.”

She says other providers have been generous when it comes to offering advice. She also got help from the San Diego Markets Vendor 101 course. But it’s her family from husband Robert to sister Monica and now her kids who are invaluable, helping with everything from marketing to cooking. She says she’s not sure how much the business can grow, but one thing will always remain the same.

“All I want to do is, if it grows more, I’ll give you, the consumer, one of the best salsas you can have.”

In case you’re wondering why it’s called Ruth’s No. 5, Ruth says she loves Chanel No. 5 perfume and hopes her salsa will be just as classic.

You can also order Ruth’s No. 5 online for pickup and delivery, and she’s now working on shipping them long distances.

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