A longtime chef, Ruiz bounced from one four-star hotel to the next before settling in the Boulder area in 2007. He worked for Sage Hospitality for five years in Colorado before deciding it was time for a change. "I was burnt out," he says. "I went into teaching, and my bank account started dwindling, and I had to find something else to support a growing family."
Ruiz went into the hot-sauce business with Chiporro in 2012, which now offers a line of sauces made with peppers from his native Peru. "I wanted to look for a co-packer, somebody who would make the sauces for me, so I could focus on sales," he says. "As I began looking for co-packers who would make, bottle, label, and package my product, I found that I wasn't satisfied with what I was encountering out there."
After working in commercial kitchens, Ruiz opened his own 2,300-square-foot facility in 2015 with a hot-fill line to bottle Chiporro's products. "People started asking me where I made them, and I let them know," he says. "Customers started asking me to make and package their products for them."
The interest led him to launch Colorado Copacking Company as "a spinoff" from Chiporro in 2020. "We are an FDA-approved and -regulated facility," says Ruiz. "We do sauces, we do mustards, we do different condiments. We have the ability to adapt. We can also do powders."
The company currently has about 15 customers. "It's all local companies," says Ruiz, noting that the products include margarita mixes, hot sauces, and barbecue sauces. "Our pillars are quality, consistency, and customer service."
But it only works if the customer is "the right fit," he adds."I believe as a business owner you have to work with customers who understand what you do and how you operate, and they must align with you and you must align with them in order to be successful. . . . We've had the ability to work with some phenomenal customers who are like-minded, who have the same goals, who communicate in the same fashion, so that has led us to be successful."
Colorado Copacking Company gained a good amount of traction despite launching amidst the arrival of COVID-19. "The pandemic was probably our catalyst," says Ruiz. "People were cooking more at home. People started to recognize certain condiments, they began to recognize certain brands."
Sales have grown without a big marketing budget. "Insanely in this age of the Internet, word of mouth continues to be the key to success," says Ruiz. "Community is the key to success. I can't say that enough. I'm living proof of that."
Challenges: Starting a second shift. "It will be adjusting to a new schedule and adjusting to new demands from the customers as we bring on larger clientele," says Ruiz. "
Opportunities: Ruiz says he sees plenty of potential in areas ranging from acidified dressings to Asian sauces to premium mustards to seasonings: "We either begin a new category in the bottling or we continue or expand in the categories we already service."
He's also open to accounts outside of Colorado. "I don't discriminate. We are open for business," says Ruiz. "When brands from the East Coast are trying to penetrate and gain some market share on the West Coast, they need somebody in the middle. . . . That's how I believe we are going to grow with customers outside of Colorado."
Needs: More employees, says Ruiz, anticipating about five new hires will be needed to launch a second shift. "I have a tremendous, solid group of employees. We continue to build this business together. It would just be a matter of creating a second shift in the same manner."
Adds Ruiz: "Space will be a necessity in the near future, but currently we are maximizing what we have."