Mexico Brand Strategy Globalization

Mexican spice mix Tajín is blowing up, thanks to TikTok and a hunger for new experiences


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

July 21, 2022 | 8 min read

The brand’s US and Canada director Javier Leyva talks social media buzz, the unique appeal of its products in an increasingly crowded category and the brand’s goals for continuous growth.

Tajín factory with workers and assembly line full of spices

Tajín sales are spiking as consumers discover new applications for the spice mixture / Tajín

In 2020, TikTok – as it is wont to do – sent the internet into a frenzy over a new trend. The craze in question? A viral DIY snack consisting of a dill pickle wrapped in a Fruit Roll-Up and doused in Mexican spices and a fruity chile-lime hot sauce known as chamoy.

Similar videos on social media depicted users trying pineapple and mango flecked with a fiery red-orange chili lime seasoning, often to their own surprised delight. Overwhelmingly, the spice mixtures and the chamoy in question belong to a brand called Tajín (officially Empresas Tajín), a condiment maker that has operated out of Jalisco, Mexico since the 1980s.

The brand, which entered the US market in 1993, has seen sales surge across the globe amid the growing social media hype of recent years. In 2019, the brand announced new partnerships with major US food brands including Tyson, Hillshire Farm and Century Snacks (the manufacturer of Snak Club trail mixes and nuts). Then, in 2020, Food Network Magazine dubbed chamoy its “flavor of the year.” The same year, supermarket shoppers began seeing Outshine Mango Frozen Fruit Bars with Tajín in their local frozen food aisles.

According to the company, Tajín has grown 28% in the last 12 months alone. Its 5oz Clásico seasoning is the top-selling chili-lime spice mix among more than 9,000 similar products, and per research from Datassential, the brand is now mentioned by name on 2.6% of menus in the US – representing a 348% spike since 2015.

So what’s building all the buzz?

Social media chatter gets spicy

The brand’s leadership readily acknowledges the role that social media is playing in driving brand awareness and sales around the world. “Tajín is growing strongly in the US and continues to expand globally, in markets like Latin America, Canada and most recently Spain, as our gateway to Europe,” says Javier Leyva, the brand’s US and Canada director. “Concurrent with an increase in household penetration, consumers are experimenting with the product at home and taking their experience online through social media.”

Leyva says social sharing spiked especially during Covid lockdowns, as consumers spent more time at home exploring culinarily. They often shared their discoveries and delights online, helping to build brand awareness.

And it’s not just TikTok – the chatter is growing on other sites, too; exclusive data from Reddit for The Drum indicates that mentions of Tajín on the platform are up 57% over the last six months. These conversations rarely consist of bad reviews; 86% of comments about the brand on Reddit over the last year have been positive or neutral in sentiment. “Reddit has a very strong foodie culture, and we see posts on Tajín stretching back at least to 2011,” says Reddit’s head of insights Rob Gaige. “There’s a sense of reinvention and discovery in reminding fellow foodies of spices and ingredients that can put a twist on familiar dishes.”

A secret formula for success

But what’s got everyone so excited about Tajín specifically? Among a range of chile powder makers and spice mix brands, Tajín appears to be surging ahead of the competition. According to Leyva, it’s because Tajín offers something different. “Tajín is unique in many ways,” he says. “A blend of mild chili peppers, sea salt and lime, its secret product formula is 100% natural. It delivers a kick without being overly spicy, therefore appealing to adults and kids alike. The lime in it is also a very singular taste profile that is not available among competitive brands.”

He also believes that interest in Tajín spices and sauces – which share a similar flavor profile – stems from the appeal of their unique applications. “Tajín’s primary use on fruit is unique to the vast majority of the world’s population, who, unlike Mexicans, are not used to seasoning fruit,” he says. “This becomes a transformational experience, because once they try the product on fruit, consumers begin experimenting with new ways to enjoy Tajin’s flavor and expressing their experience on social media.”

While user-generated social media content is doing a lot to drive success, the brand is still focused on effective marketing. Leyva explains that the team’s top priority is establishing a deeper understanding of consumer behavior as it relates to food consumption. It spends ad dollars for “targeting Hispanic, multicultural and general audiences,” per Leyva, investing in a mix of both traditional and digital media.

Another critical component involves on-the-ground efforts, consisting primarily of in-store sampling and tastings. “Once people try Tajín,” says Leyva, “they love it and want to use more of it in a variety of ways.” From a general standpoint, Leyva says, the brand doesn’t try to bang consumers over the head with its messages. “Tajín’s unpretentious, authentic simplicity and voice appeal to general audiences that may be tired of ‘being sold to.’”

Writing the next chapter

Tajín has its sights set on continued growth. Leyva spells out a few key focus areas for the near future.

For one, he says, the brand is looking to make headway in the hot sauce category – a growing space projected to be worth nearly $6bn by 2025, per research from IMARC Group. The condiment maker is focused on doing so with two products in particular: Tajín Mild Hot Sauce and Tajín Fruity Chamoy.

Debuted last summer alongside a playful ad campaign that encouraged consumers to ‘TajinIT!,’ the products are now available in major retailers across the US. “Made with real chiles and the unique lime taste that distinguishes the brand’s flavor profile, we aim to attract those that prefer a milder hot sauce and want to experience a different twist in their snacks and food,” says Leyva.

Expansion into new markets is another top priority. “We will continue to penetrate more households and expand geographically,” says Leyva. “While we’ve come a long way since the brand’s introduction in the US ... we still have a long road ahead.”

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