The well-known proverb used to be “if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” As ascribed to Thomas Palmer, the phrase had everything to do with education and encouraging 19th century American school children.

Of course, it applies equally to food and beverage innovation. There often are times when new product insights are on target but an initial execution doesn’t quite hit the mark. That’s when insight needs a little more elbow grease and it’s exactly the story of Ready Foods Inc. and its Marco’s Adovada Sauce.

This Denver company supplies a range of small batch, kettle-cooked foodservice soups, sauces, vegetables, pastas and more. Matthew Weisbrod, director of marketing and R&D, says this particular story and product dates back to 2018 when Ready Foods’ sales representatives were in the field visiting accounts, tracking market trends and studying back-of-house labor issues.

Those sales personnel noticed multiple operators making their own carne adovada, which not only is a time-consuming process, but also one that requires lots of raw ingredients. Adovada or “Adobada” is a Spanish word that literally translates to "marinated." Originating in New Mexican cuisine, carne adovada usually consists of pork cooked or marinated in this chili sauce—complete with spices and an acidic element such as vinegar or lime juice.

“Sales brought this idea to the R&D team at Ready Foods and we felt we could take something difficult off the plate of restaurant operators and make it at a high quality at our facilities,” says Weisbrod.

He continues, “Once our R&D and production teams nailed down an authentic, flavorful recipe—complete with pork—we worked with operations on how to pump and package the product from our large kettles into ready-to-use packaging for foodservice. Then we took the item to our sales team for feedback. Ultimately, we heard from chefs and foodservice operators that they loved the flavor, but needed something more versatile. For some, the price was too high; for others, they would rather use a different cut of meat or no meat at all.

Research and Development Chef Kayla Hafer says Ready Foods’ sales and R&D teams went back to the drawing board in early 2019. After bringing operations back into the process, Ready Foods was itself ready to relaunch a meatless version of Marco’s Adovada Sauce from August 2019 to January 2020. 

“Our R&D team researched the history of the adovada sauce to come up with a recipe that utilizes authentic ingredients while highlights modern flavor trends and diners' cravings,” adds Kayla Hafer, research and development chef. “With a tomato base, our Adovada Sauce features New Mexico chilis, Ancho chilis, and chili pequin. This combination of peppers—along with cilantro, garlic, lime juice, onion, coriander and a perfect blend of spices—brings the heat and depth of flavor that consumers are asking for.” 

Hafer adds, “Our cases of sauces also allow kitchens to order one product instead of an array of peppers and spices that take up space in their pantries and not be used before their expiration date. Arriving in BPA-free packaging, customers love that our sauce gives them a 100% yield and solves labor issues or inconsistencies.” 

Weisbrod says operators now use Marco's Adovada Sauce as a marinade for meats, a braising sauce, a finishing sauce with roasted vegetables and even on a pizza instead of tomato sauce. 

“Our customers have found this item to be a time-saver in their back-of-house operations. The Adovada Sauce can easily be warmed right in the bag and tossed with wings, for example, minutes before heading out to a customer’s table,” he says. “It provides kitchens with complex flavors in minutes. And without the meat [ingredient], our Adovada Sauce comes in at a lower price point and restaurants can adjust it to be “vegetarian” or loaded with meat, as they see fit.”

Annelise McAuliffe Soares works in marketing at Ready Foods.

“Since its recent meatless launch, our Adovada Sauce has had great success. Our sales team was able to garner the interest with distributors and place the product in eight distribution centers in five states,” she says. “The quick, upward trending case sales and great interest from our distributors and end-users validated how versatile the product is. It also confirmed our market data that suggested a need for this flavorful profile, which falls between an enchilada sauce and a red salsa.”