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Pace Foods (pronounced pah-say) is a producer of a variety of salsas located in Paris, Texas. The company was founded in 1947 by David Pace when he developed a recipe for a salsa he called "Picante" sauce "made with the freshest ingredients, harvested and hand-selected in peak season to achieve the best flavor and quality". In 1995, the company was acquired by Campbell Soup Company for $1.115 billion.
David Pace grew up in Louisiana, learning the operations of his family's syrup business. He earned a football scholarship to Tulane University, where he played in the first Sugar Bowl in 1937 and earned his undergraduate degree in science. During World War II pilot training school brought him to San Antonio, Texas, where he returned after his discharge in 1945 and began a career in the food industry.
Pace began his own food business of bottled syrups, as well as jellies and jams. All of these products were made, packed and shipped out of a small space in the back of a liquor store that he and his wife, Margaret, rented. Over time, he expanded the business to a variety of other condiments. In 1947 he decided the real “syrup of the Southwest” was Mexican sauce—which is now known as salsa.
Starting with a basic recipe, he experimented with different blends of ingredients. He tested the results on his golf buddies, before settling on one mix of jalapeños, onions and tomatoes. He named his creation “picante” sauce—Spanish for “piquant”, meaning “flavorful” or “spicy”.
While continuing to sell some 58 assorted condiments, he continued modifying his picante sauce formula for the better part of a decade. As demand grew, Pace dropped the rest of the company’s lines and focused on Picante sauce.
He marketed Picante sauce to his restaurant, using it during his meals, and leaving it behind on the table for other patrons and the restaurant owners to try when he was done.
When he started selling his salsa, Pace looked for a supplier for peppers. He even tried growing his own jalapeños — but the local deer were so fond of his peppers that he had a hard time maintaining a supply.
Eventually, he began buying his peppers directly from local farmers. Later, the company began following the “jalapeño trail”, buying from different regions according to the harvest season. In recent years, the Pace brand has developed its own pepper seeds. Today it uses more than 25 million pounds of jalapeños every year – more than anyone else in the country.
In 1981, the company introduced “mild” and “hot” varieties to accompany the original “medium” Picante sauce. In 1989, Pace Foods added Thick & Chunky salsa to their product line. It is a thicker salsa with large chunks of vegetables.
The growing demand for picante sauce and salsa reflected the changing demographics of America as well as the increasing popularity of Mexican restaurants and cuisine. Over time, consumers preferences turned toward Mexican foods, such as salsas, and in 1991, Mexican sauces overtook ketchup as the top-selling condiment in the United States in total dollar sales, with Pace Picante sauce and salsa taking the lion's share of the market.
Pace Foods introduced a new line of specialty salsas in 2008. The specialty salsas include:
Pace Picante Sauce and Salsas took top honors for their categories in Chile Pepper magazine’s 2009 Fiery Food Challenge and the 2009 Fiery Foods & BBQ Show’s Scovie Awards Competition. Pace took a total of 12 awards, including first-place awards for Pace Picante sauce - Hot and Pace Salsa Verde.