Fort Worth’s Renfro Foods thrives under third-generation leadership

Renfro Foods

Becky Renfro Borbolla was not yet born when her grandparents began producing spices and pepper sauce in the garage of their home on Gould Avenue in Fort Worth.

Through hard work and determination across three generations, George and Arthurine Renfro’s mom-and-pop business has grown into a formidable Fort Worth business, Renfro Foods, with a global clientele and annual sales of $35 to $40 million.

The company is best known for its line of tangy salsas sold under the Mrs. Renfro’s brand as a tribute to Arthurine, who hated her name and preferred to be called Mrs. Renfro.

Now more than 80 years old, the company has expanded over the years, adding products such as chow-chow, sauces and an ever-expanding variety of salsas, ranging from Habanero to Blackberry Serrano to craft beer salsa produced with Fort Worth-based Rahr & Sons amber ale. The company is now under the management of the third-generation of Renfro family leaders, including Senior Vice President Becky Renfro Borbolla, who was the latest family member to be inducted in to the Specialty Food Association’s Hall of Fame. Renfro Borbolla joins her cousin, company President Doug Renfro, who was inducted in 2018. Second-generation executives Bill Renfro (her late father) and Jack Renfro (Becky’s uncle) were the first to be inducted in 2016.

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Becky’s brother, James Renfro, is also a senior vice president of the company.

“My background and love for food is certainly tied to my family name and the wonderful Mrs. Renfro’s salsa line I had the privilege of growing up with and promoting firsthand,” she said.

The company now produces 32 products under the Mrs. Renfro’s label, including a line of relishes and chow-chow. The company also manufactures about 60 products, mostly sauces, for other companies at its headquarters on Stella Street in Fort Worth.

“If my grandparents were around today they would be amazed that our products are in all 50 states and international locations,” Renfro Borbolla said.

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The company produces 19 different flavors of salsa. Surprisingly, the top sellers are “our hottest” in all markets, according to Renfro Borbolla. Salsa products are the best-selling items in the Mrs. Renfro’s line.

Mrs. Renfro’s products are sold in major grocery store chains, including Walmart, Tom Thumb, Central Market and Albertsons in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. They are also available in gourmet food stores and gift shops across the country and internationally.

Despite her lifelong affiliation with the family business, Renfro Borbolla, 63, hasn’t spent her entire career working there. A Fort Worth native, she moved with her family to Haltom City at age 3. After graduating from Haltom High School, she attended Tarrant County Junior College (now Tarrant County College) and then earned a bachelor’s degree from Le Tourneau University in Longview.

Afterward, she spent nearly a decade working in the oil and gas industry before joining the family business in 1985. She has been involved in many crucial aspects of the business, including human resources, export sales and expanding distribution to all 50 states and international markets.

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She developed a passion for traveling as a result of attending national and international trade shows to represent the company’s products.

In 2000, she was promoted to vice president of Renfro Foods and often served as spokeswoman for the Mrs. Renfro’s brand, appearing on television demonstrating creative ways to cook with salsa.

Besides honors from the Specialty Food Association, the company has received other awards and recognition for its success, including being selected a finalist in 2018 for the Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The company has managed to grow its sales every year and managed to weather the challenges of COVID-19 without substantial impact.

“We were really very lucky,” Renfro Borbolla said. “We kept going and some weeks we had runs on six days. During that time, only five of our 70 employees tested positive. We wore masks all the time and if someone felt ill, they stayed home.”

The company continues to grapple with chain disruptions and exorbitant increases in prices for everything from food ingredients to jar lids.

“We are trying to keep up with demand and pray there are no more price increases,” she said.

Renfro Borbolla has had a long affiliation with the Specialty Food Association, the leading trade group for the $175 billion specialty food industry, which inducted her into the Hall of Fame at the 66th Summer Fancy Food Show last month in New York City.

“This was really a very big honor because this organization has meant so much to our family,” said Borbolla, who is a past chair and co-chair of the association’s board.

“She is an asset to many organizations and has given her life’s work to represent, support and nurture the food community in America and abroad,” said Doug Renfro. “This honor recognizes all she has done and is truly well deserved.”

Renfro Borbolla is also actively involved in many local community organizations and charities. She is the founder and president of Women Steering Business, an organization dedicated to developing future female business leaders. The organization buys livestock from girls participating in the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo to help pay for college education and vocational opportunities.

In addition, Renfro Borbolla is chair-elect for Fort Worth Sister Cities International, and a board member for the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. She serves on the Texas Wesleyan University President’s Advisory Board, The Women’s Center of Tarrant County board and The Jordan Harris Foundation board. She is a member of Les Dames International, and the Fort Worth and Texas Chambers of Commerce.

Among her civic honors, she was commissioned as a 2012 Yellow Rose of Texas by Gov. Rick Perry; a 2015 Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of America – Central Texas; and 2016 Businesswoman of the Year by the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.