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Copycat Hot Sauce: Bottle that Replaced Tapatio’s Mariachi on Label With Cat-Face Is Scrubbed From Internet After Complaints

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]aura Ann Masura said the cat-face was meant to be cute.

She said a friend designed the logo for her homemade hot sauce. Mimicking the iconic label of the Los Angeles-area company Tapatio, Masura replaced the handsome mustachioed mariachi face with that of a white cat wearing a fish-outta-water expression.

The local food entrepreneur called her hot sauce TaPAWtio, a clear reference to the internationally known brand of hot sauce that was founded in 1971 in Maywood by an immigrant from Mexico — but with a cutesy kitty twist.

Marusa began vending to a few restaurants and specialty shops, placing her bottles of cat-faced “Tapawtio” to apparently great response, according to her website. On Facebook and her personal page Laura Ann Jams, Masura said she was now selling the hot sauce because of demand.

“It WAS a secret,” the original post said. “But I got so many requests …”

Then, earlier this month, a couple complaints popped up online. Octavio Gonzalez, a public relations consultant, left a critical comment on Masura’s page. He shared screenshots of the interactions with L.A. Taco.

“I was generally interested, I thought, ‘Oh cool, Tapatio has a new label out’,” Gonzalez recalled, upon first seeing the product on Facebook. “They used that logo to hook me, and it’s a fake version of Tapatio with a cat face.”

The incident flew largely under the radar of L.A. life last week, but offered another example of claims of reckless “cultural appropriation” in the competitive food market of Southern California.

Gonzalez complained about this on the sales post on Facebook, to which Laura Ann’s profile replied: “The label was made by a creative barista that loves cats. I made the hot sauce for a specific cafe and they love animals. It is nothing like Tapatio and not meant to be anything but cute.”

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Screenshot of a tweet from Laura Ann's Jams.

Masura describes herself online as a former punk-rock drummer from Chicago, who found jam-making after moving to Los Angeles in 2004. She’s had media appearances on Oprah’s OWN Network and other major outlets.

The jam maker did not return phone calls or messages from L.A. Taco seeking comment for this story.

The original next to the copycat.
The original next to copycat.

[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]hortly after the interaction with Gonzalez last week, Masura’s website was completely scrubbed of any mention or image related to “Tapawtio.” Cached versions of the pages were also scrubbed. It seems the item is no longer for sale.

Social media interactions were also deleted, including a tweet to another user, Steve Almazan, where she wrote that the recipe for Tapawtio came from her grandmother “Maria Garcia” and was “made in City Terrace.”

A spokesman for Tapatio hot sauce said the company had received some messages about the other product via email, and that its lawyer was handling. As of this publication, Tapatio’s in-house attorney did not reply to a message seeking comment.

The incident has left critics fuming.

“Not only is it bad business, it’s also culturally insensitive to people who are actually from Guadalajara,” Gonzalez told L.A. Taco, a reminder that a tapatío is slang moniker for people who are natives of the city of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest, and the capital of the state of Jalisco.

Tapatio was founded by Jose Luis Saavedra, who moved from Jalisco to L.A. like so many others, and struck it rich with just the right sauce. Its production is still based in Vernon.

“If she were my client,” Gonzalez added, “I would’ve counseled her to create a distinct and memorable brand, similar to her other products. Instead, she tried to ride the coattails of Tapatio.”

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