Anyone who lives in Texas knows that Tex-Mex is the king of food. And what’s Tex-Mex without salsa? Nothing. That’s why Shane Nobles of Tomball-based Pain Train Salsa (www.paintrainsalsa.com) makes it his passion to produce and bring to market the most premium salsa available.
Nobles was a salsa aficionado long before he turned his love of the dip into a business. He would often bring his homemade salsa to parties and other gatherings and would always receive compliments, but that validation isn’t the same as what would soon come. “People would always rave about it but your friends are always going to pat you on the back and tell you how good it is,” Nobles said. Clearly those compliments weren’t a surprise, but what did amaze Nobles was the success of the product in its first farmer’s market appearance.
Having brought 52 jars of salsa, Nobles said that he didn’t sell a single one in the first twenty minutes of the Tomball Farmers Market. “We thought we were going to go home with 50 jars of fresh salsa, but a half hour later, I was completely sold out,” he said. That initial success has grown exponentially to the point that now Nobles has retailers wanting his product on their shelves, but Nobles doesn’t want his company to start expanding too fast.
While increasing his focus on retail sales, Nobles ensures that farmers markets are still an essential part of his business. Nobles also said he is comfortable at the pace his business is progressing. “I like the growth that we’re on,” he said. “Everyone is always saying ‘You need to get on Shark Tank’ but I don’t want them to have my money. Everyone is saying ‘You need to get in HEB,’ and there may be a day where that’s the case but that’s not my aspiration at the moment.”
Since his product is considered to be premium, it is priced as such. That’s why he believes product demos are of equal importance to actual shelf space. Looking at two competitive products, in this case Pain Train Salsa and a much cheaper name-brand product, it’s easy to buy the cheaper product. But after trying Pain Train Salsa, there is no going back. That, Nobles said, is why he has so many repeat customers.
As for the future of his business, Nobles constantly experiments with new flavors, most of which do not reach markets and his retail location. Also, he’s interested in creating a queso dip. If this happens, he assured that it will be top-notch just as his salsa has proven to be.
You can sample the not-so-painful Pain Train Salsa for yourself every Thursday at the Westchase District Farmers Market.
— Story contributed by summer intern Connor Elliott