Indian immigrants bring their salsa to Oregon markets


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — If you’ve looked at the salsa section in your grocery store recently you probably noticed a lot of options. 

There’s a new brand that stands out — it’s locally made and it’s an Indian fusion salsa. The founders recently got a grant to help their business grow.

Sukhdev and Rippy

It was a gathering just like this one in the 80s when Sukhdev Singh, who’d recently immigrated from India tried salsa for the first time.

Singh, the co-founder of Khalsa Salsa, said he was blown away when first introduced to pico de gallo. “I couldn’t relate to the individual components, but as a combined taste, it’s amazing.”

Singh missed the tastes from his home country.

He and his wife, Rippy Kaur started experimenting with salsas, blending traditional Mexican flavors with Indian spices.

In 2019, they decided to give it a real go — naming their Indian fusion salsa “Khalsa Salsa.” The word Khalsa means pure and honest.

“People who practice Sikh faith are really called Khalsas,” Kaur said. Singh practices by “wearing a turban and beard [which are} one component of Sikh they refer as Khalsa.” 

However, having an idea for a product and actually getting it to market is not simple — or cheap. Along with this, history shows people of color hit more roadblocks.

That’s where the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network and Black Founders Matter came in.

“It tends to be the case that founders of color don’t have the same access to friends and family money because there isn’t that kind of intergenerational wealth that’s passed along in those communities,” said Amanda Oborne, the OEN executive director.

“We started to realize that a lot of people were coming to us super early,” said Himalaya Rao-Potlapally from Black Founders Matter. It was “too early for us to invest in, but they also didn’t have the capital to be able to go into market.”

The two organizations formed the “Emerge Initiative” to grant money to BIPOC start-ups.

Khalsa Salsa was one of three companies that received money in the latest round of grants. They used the $5,000 for marketing as they continue to grow their brand in local grocery chains, like Market of Choice whose head of merchandising couldn’t pass up the salsas after trying them.

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