Twang COO Tracy Watson has watched San Antonio’s legendary beer-salt maker launch a family of brands with new manufacturing space powering the way.
Twang markets itself as a Latino-influenced “family of brands.” Today, those brands include the company’s Twang-a-Rita flavored salts — imbued with lime, grapefruit, chili, and strawberry flavors — used for rimming margarita or other cocktail glasses. There’s also its Twangerz flavored salts, which can be sprinkled atop a variety of snack foods. Other brands include its Reserve Michelada cocktail mixes — used to add a tomatoey twang to beer –and its Cafe Zuca line of flavored coffee sugars.
But perhaps the most famous of this family-owned company’s brands is its line of Beer Salt — which actually launched the business. Whether in the heart of Mexico, just across the Rio Grande, or in Texas itself, Roger Treviño Sr. had taken note of people applying salt to the rims of beer bottles or cans. In 1986, he started manufacturing and selling his own flavored salts in his garage. Today, the beloved and ever-growing line includes newcomers such as Cucumber Chili Lime and Grapefruit, as well as the ever-popular Pickle.
In its 50,000 square feet of space, spread across two buildings in San Antonio, there are four production rooms in which Twang is either manufacturing and packaging its own products or assembling sugar or salt mixes for outside clients. There’s also an R&D lab housing three food scientists, as well as a line for producing Twang’s patented Beer Salt packaging — a tiny plastic shaker shaped like a beer bottle.
Although the senior Treviño has stepped away from day-to-day operations, the company is still family-run. It continues adding help from outside the family, as well. Take Tracy Watson — who started with Twang right out of college in 2003 doing order entries — as a prime example. Watson had grown up in a small Texas town, and as a little girl she’d sometimes buy tiny packets of Twang salt from a local convenience store to enjoy the flavor sensation. Today, she’s the company’s Chief Operating Officer.
“I’ve been here almost 20 years and, I would say, the company has at least quadrupled in size since,” Watson notes about Twang’s overall growth. “We’re now 64 employees. I think when I started, we were probably around 30 to 35 employees.”
Watson also notes that Twang is now available in “49 of the 50 states.” Select convenience stores, grocery stores, and liquor stores carry the products. So do major big-box retailers like Walmart and H-E-B. “We also do some sales on Amazon,” she adds.
The business cross-promotes its Beer Salt with Dos Equis
beer and Truly hard seltzer. It markets a Clamato-branded Twang salt, too. The company’s flavored sugar toppings can be found at coffee stations within Circle K stores. Furthermore, that red, white, and blue sugar mixture rimming drink glasses at Applebee’s restaurants this past Fourth of July? That’s Twang’s handiwork, as well. “We custom-manufacture either salt or sugar blends for restaurants and bars,” says Watson. “Currently, it’s about 20 percent of the business.”
For Watson, who is from a Latino background herself, there’s a sense of pride that comes with working for the Treviño family’s business — and about the multiple roles she’s held within Twang over nearly 20 years. Watson says, “I think we’ve still been able to maintain that family culture that Twang has always been known for.”
In its videos and promotions, the company celebrates its Latino roots and its Texas base. It’s certainly a red, white, and blue success story.
“When the owner started the company, yes, a lot of the flavors were rooted in Hispanic culture,” says Watson. “But the fact that [our Beer Salt line is] applicable to more than just, you know, a Mexican lager-type of beer — or the Hispanic sector — I think speaks volumes about the variety of products that we offer within our Twang portfolio.”
Challenges: Consumer education. “Chances are most people in Texas are going to know what Twang is,” Watson says of a product like Beer Salt. “But once you start getting outside of Texas, you’re having to do a lot more education on what Twang is and how you use Twang.”
Opportunities: Watson says, “I think just broadening our marketing reach, doing more partnerships with some of these [beverage] companies like we are doing in Texas, but [getting] those launched nationally. I think that would really help get our name out there a little bit more.”
Needs: “You can never have too much space — even with our two buildings,” says Watson. “The second building we just built about five years ago or so, but we’re already outgrowing that space.”
And Twang needs to keep “expanding our footprint,” Watson continues, “so that we can ensure that we can bring on more business and continue to grow the company as we have over the past 36 years.”