El Paso Chile’s Border Town Packaging

When El Paso Chile Co. commissioned Charles S. Anderson Design in Minneapolis to create a new packaging system for its retail salsa and marinade lines, it wanted to make sure that consumers grasped the fact that its products were authentic Tex-Mex, not wannabe imitations made in places like Cincinnati or Brooklyn. A border town in far west Texas, El Paso is so close to Juarez in Mexico that the two cities are sometimes considered one metro area. El Paso Chile Co. knows its salsas and wanted the packaging to capture that in look and feel.

To get the Minnesota-based designers into the right mindset, El Paso Chile CEO W. Park Kerr insisted that they fly down to Texas and take a donkey ride through the desert to experience the true feel of the Southwest. He also nixed the first set of names — Gasping Gringo, Exploding Armadillo — that the Anderson team came up with, in favor of ones that sounded less aimed at tourists and more toward sophisticated Southwest cooks – e.g., Salsa Divino, Salsa Diablo. Authenticity was the one quality that El Paso Chile wanted to convey to consumers. That led the Anderson team to scour flea markets in Mexico City to identify true Mexican iconography and designs and even inspired them to package El Paso Chile’s fajita marinade in Mexican-style “beer” bottles with the label art pieced together from printed scrap.