Hermina Deianas Business consists of two tomato sauces, a mild and a spicy variant. Who is the woman who inspires star and professional chefs, food experts and consumers alike with her tomato sauce?
At the age of 19, Hermina Deiana visits her boyfriend’s family in Naples for the first time. At Sunday lunch, she is delighted with the fantastic aroma of the homemade tomato sauce. “I had never tried such a delicious tomato sauce before,” says the native Croatian, who has lived in Germany since she was five. On that Sunday she learns everything about the Italian tradition of boiling tomato sauce from freshly picked tomatoes every year.
Many years later, the successful marketing manager and passionate hobby cook created her business idea from this experience. In Italy she only produces her tomato sauces in the harvest month of August and brings the unforgettable taste experience from bella Napoli to Germany. Within 24 hours after the harvest, the sun-ripened Roma tomatoes are boiled down to their two Salsa Paradiso tomato sauces, free of artificial additives and preservatives, as is the tradition of seasonal boiling. “Real tomato sauce tastes like freshly picked tomatoes, not herbs or garlic. The secret ingredient are the tomatoes themselves. This fruity aroma not only goes well with pasta and pizza, but can also be used with almost all foods, even international recipes.
When asked how she prevails against the great competition from numerous manufacturers of ready-made tomato sauces, the entrepreneur answers confidently “I don’t have time to worry about the competition. If there had been a ready-made tomato sauce that met my quality and taste requirements, I would have bought it and never would have thought of producing it myself. The only thing that matters is my customers’ enthusiasm. I get fan mail and that makes me very happy. “
She regularly delights her steadily growing fan base with simple, everyday recipes. “I’m a modern woman and I know the balancing act between family and work very well. The question arises every day, what do we eat today? It has to be tasty, healthy and quick. I enjoy supporting my customers in their everyday lives. ”
Her passion is clearly visible on the labels of her tomato sauces, because the producer herself adorns the glasses with tomatoes in a warm embrace. Salsa Paradiso tomato sauces are available in Globus department stores and in Hermina’s online shop.
Hermina, tell us a bit about yourself, your story, What do you do?
I am the founder of Salsa Paradiso tomatosauces. Before founding I worked successfully for more than 20 years internationally in the area of marketing, PR, consultancy and a short period as journaliste. Since my childhood I loved food. I am born in Zagreb Croatia and food was every single day a topic. In 2010 I was responsible for a small marketing project for a supermarket. I can’t explain it, but passing through the shelves in the supermarket I felt the deep wish to develop an own food product. I asked the manager whether he would give me a chance and he said yes, of course. From that moment I was out of control J It’s my chance I thought and I have to invent something great asap. I asked myself which product I was missing, taking also into consideration my role as a working mom and the daily pressure to prepare dinner which has to be tasty, quick to prepare and healthy. Tomatosauce!!! Yes, I know, what you might think….heard it so often….Why tomatosauce? The market is full of tomatosauces…. the competition is too big, you have no chance…..it’s no innovation…..But no one could have stopped me. Why? Because I was aware of all these arguments, but once I launch a tomatosauce it has to be the best! If there would have existed a sauce like mine, I would have bought it and would never had the idea. I am talking about the one I tasted for the first time in Napoli at my boyfriend’s family and I never forgot this fantastic flavour — no comparison to any tomatosauces, neither the ones in the supermarkets nor the homemade ones made out of fresh tomatoes in Germany. After a couple of weeks I found a producer in Italy and six months later my products were in the first supermarket. The secret of the recipe is nothing else than sunkissed, from mid to end of August freshly harvested Italian tomatoes which are cooked within 24 hours with regional , high quality, fresh ingredients — free of anything which does not belong in a homemade tomatosauce, such as artificial additives or preservatives. The philosophy of this unique flavour is respecting the nature and tasting the fruit in the right season. That’s real tomatosauce J And I developed it as a personal brand.
How would you describe your journey as a Founder?
I started with supermarkets as selling online was not at all on my mind. It went fantastic in the beginning. Every weekend I promoted my tomatosauces personally in the markets, people tried, were impressed, loved it and bought a lot of jars. My dream came true when as a result of really high sales in 45 supermarkets I was listed by a regional central of a supermarket chain. I was sure that finally this would be the magic moment. What I did not know that the amounts to pay for being integrated in the special news or offers from the supermarket chain were so expensive and started with 25.000 Euro, which I did not have. As I did not have the marketing budget needed, I decided to write my cookbook “Verrückt nach Tomatensauce” with wonderful recipes in combination with tomatosauce, hoping that the book will make me known and people would buy my sauces. I found a publisher and I really got almost famous with big press articles about my book also in Austria and Switzerland, but I only had supermarkets in southwest Germany and no online shop, so could not deliver….you are allowed to laugh J Well, I felt like here is the end of your tomatosauce story….half of me said give up, it’s ok, you have tried so hard and you came so far….It was time to take a break. By the end of 2018 I realized how much I missed my Salsa Paradiso baby. I can’t give up, it’s a big love story! I decided to restart in 2019, rebranded my products and decided to take a new try with an online shop with just two tomatosauces — mild & spicy — and promoting it through PR. I also succeeded in getting a listing in the supermarket chain Globus. Yeahhhhhh!!!! I am back and now on the right path. The average conversation rate in my shop in the first year is 30% without having spent one cent in ads, thanks to great articles in the press and a really nice shop full of storytelling. The average basket is 32 Euro, what means 10 jars. The highest order were 60 jars. And I have the best customers, receive every day beautiful mails.
Any tips or advice to other potential entrepreneurs?
It is important to follow your passion and intuition, but do your homework better than I did. I was just full of passion for the product and the branding, but did not have a businessplan, did not know what the average sales per supermarket could be, how many supermarkets I would need to succeed, what reality is. A couple of months after the launch I got a confidential reporting where the sales of all tomatosauces in my first supermarket was listed. I could not believe my eyes. While I was unsure whether my actual sales of 8 jars per day was enough, I was on first place with a big distance to the market leader. Of course thanks to my personal POS activities every weekend. Later a central buyer told me that the market leader sells 1,5 jars per day, per flavour, per market. This means you need a lot of supermarkets and a lot of varieties. If I would have had all this information earlier I would have known that my money to invest was not enough for conquering the supermarket chains. I understood why many founders start online and go in the second step to the supermarkets.
Can you highlight some top mistakes or funny situations you come across in your endeavor?
The first year the pallets with tomatosauces were delivered to my home which is in the old-town of Oberursel. I was always shaking when I saw the Dachser driver arriving as he could hardly pass through the tiny street and it was amazing how he made it in the court to deliver. My neighbors were shaking as well J For the delivery days I organized my son and his friends to help to carry 3.500 jars in the cellar. It was an adventure. In the first 45 privately owned supermarkets I was allowed to put my own branded shelves in order to be more visible. I offered personal promotion during weekends and they gave me the space for free, so it was a fantastic deal. I bought the shelves at IKEA and for every new market we build them at home in the living room and brought them to the markets. I can build a big Kallax shelve with max speed in very short time J In one week I got 10 new supermarkets — can you imagine?
Speaking of which, you will take part of Fuck Up Nights in November. Can you tease our audience to join?
Please join us, we will laugh together that’s sure. One of the best moments in life is when we can laugh about situations that made us cry before. It is the best proof that you made big steps forward. I am really happy to follow Alejandros invitation. Find more about it here: https://www.fuckupnights.com/frankfurt/
What are your visions for the rest of 2020 and 2021?
My customers write to me that they often bring Salsa Paradiso as a gift, instead of flowers or wine. So I decided to produce for Christmas a limited edition of kitchen towels with my key visual. I will offer nice packages of towels and tomatosauces. In 2021 I want to launch a new product — guess what it could be 😉 I wish to publish a new cookbook and honestly most of all I would like to find an investor who feels at least a bit of my passion for my tomatosauce business.
What is the best lesson that COVID-19 brought you so far?
More than a lesson it’s a wish: one world — please let’s stand together! Even though there is obviously confusion and different opinions, please talk to each other, exchange and most of all respect each other. This is a completely new situation for all of us. My heart is broken for all those people who have taken risks to build their business, for artists, for so many who are losing their economic base. Please let us support, stand together and help wherever we can.
Listen more about the story Fuckup Nights Frankfurt am Main Vol.II on the 25th of November at 19 hrs (CET).
The motto of the tomato sauce producer Hermina Deiana: Less is more was originally published in FrankfurtValley on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.