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Goya Foods: 75 Years Of Providing Latino Food Staples To Hispanic Families Across The Country

Posted: Updated: 05/16/2012 3:20 pm

Earlier this year, Goya Foods joined First Lady Michelle Obama in an initiative called “MiPlato” which aims to encourage healthy eating habits in Hispanic communities. “MiPlato” is the Spanish-language version of the nutritional tool, “MyPlate,” which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched in June of 2011 as a simple "how-to" graph for making good food choices. It replaced the Food Guide Pyramid first introduced in the early 1990s.

From humble beginnings 75 years ago and through to its newest venture with the First Lady, Goya Foods has built a business empire out of canned beans, tropical juices and other staples of Latin home cooking to become one of the most successful Hispanic-owned businesses in the country. With 16 warehouses and distribution centers, Goya employs 3,500 people, many of them Latinos, with 530 employees in Florida alone.

Goya Foods is a story of success, hard work and family unity.

“The Goya story is as much about the importance of family as it is about achieving the American dream,” according to the Goya website.

In the early 1930s Prudencio and Carolina Unanue, Spanish immigrants who were living in Puerto Rico, moved to New York in search of a better job market and opportunities for their children. They opened a small food shop in Lower Manhattan, New York, in 1936.

The store initially catered to local Hispanic families, serving imported Spanish canned foods such as olives, olive oil and sardines.

Prudencio Unanue purchased the name of the Moroccan cannery named "Goya," from which he had been importing the food. He bought the rights to the name for just one dollar.

In 1958 the headquarters were moved to Secaucus, N.J. and in 1973 the company opened an olive harvesting and export operation in Spain.

Along with their canned goods and Spanish delicatessen, their credo, “If it’s Goya, it has to be good,” became a staple of food marketing.

Since the first family-operated store opened its doors in Lower Manhattan, the company has stayed within the family. Today third and fourth-generation members of the Unanue family work in the business.

Bob Unanue has been the CEO of Goya Foods since 2004. He runs the company with two brothers and four cousins.

"We try to keep a family environment where there's a pride to being a part of this," said Bob Unanue according to ABC News. "And you can feel it."

Staying within that family model, business continues to grow. From canned olives and sardines, today Goya sells 1,600 different products including frozen foods--plantains, taquitos, tamales and empanadas-- and over 38 varieties of beans.

In April, Goya Launched a new line of “Fiesta Beans.” It's new flavors of baked beans are original, jalapeño, vegetarian and chipotle.

Goya Food made more than $150 million in revenue last year in Florida alone and the business is estimated to generate more than $1 billion in sales per year.

But as they grow, something remains the same- the priority of feeding the Hispanic community in the U.S.

Family members and top executives recently approved construction of a $26 million facility to expand its reach into central and South Florida, where more Hispanics have been moving, as reported by ABC News.

"We are the nostalgia," says Unanue, the eldest of six children, "We welcome the immigrants into the country with food."

TAKE A LOOK AT HOW OTHER COMPANIES TRY TO REACH HISPANIC FOOD CONSUMERS:

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  • Taco Bell Doritos Locos Taco

    <strong>The Method:</strong> The one that started it all uses a proprietary taco shell-shaped Doritos chip as its wrapper, and comes swathed in a special cardboard holder to prevent Doritos powder from coating eaters' hands. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Very positive reviews all around; most agreed that the tacos had been improved by the extra salt and savoriness of the Doritos shell. The biggest complaint was that there wasn't enough Doritos flavor -- it seemed as if the seasoning had been tamped down vis-a-vis the normal chips. To solve this problem, we tried adding more Doritos in the middle of the taco. It didn't help.

  • Cosi Signature Salad

    <strong>The Method:</strong> We tossed crumbled Doritos into Cosi's signature salad, which contains mixed greens, gorgonzola and cranberries. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Pretty solid! The chips added some much needed saltiness and crunch to what is usually a sweet, mushy salad. On the other hand, the signature Doritos flavor didn't really stand up to the salad's vinaigrette and ingredients; almost any chip would have improved the salad. In the words of one taster, "Since there is blue cheese in the salad, it feels like the two are competing for attention."

  • Chipotle Burrito

    <strong>The Method:</strong> Since we were too bashful to ask our Chipotle assembly line wrapper to crumble the Doritos into the middle of the burrito, we ended up stuffing it ourselves ex post wrappo. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Funny! But not good-tasting, sadly. One taster said that the pairing was "good texturally," but most agreed that the subtle, natural flavors of a Chipotle burrito clashed with the artificiality of Doritos.

  • Wendy's French Fries

    <strong>The Method:</strong> Grind the chips into a powder, then shake them up with the fries to coat them evenly. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Possibly the worst of the pairings. One taster compared them to "dry cheese fries," while another noted that, "Ketchup does not go with Doritos." Blech!

  • McDonald's Big Mac

    <strong>The Method:</strong> Added whole Doritos on top of both the burger's beef patties. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Bravo! Most tasters agreed that this was almost as good a match as Eddard and Catelyn Stark on "Game of Thrones." (Full disclosure: they did not use a "Song of Ice and Fire" analogy to convey their enthusiasm.) One said, "The creamy sauce complements the crunchy texture of the chips," which, another added, "makes it more satisfying, because usually it's one-dimensional."

  • McDonald's Chicken McNuggets

    <strong>The Method:</strong> We stuck Doritos into the McNuggets, as our photographer put it, "like shards of glass." <strong>The Verdict:</strong> These were divisive. Some tasters hated the combo, finding the McNugget flavor and texture overpowering. But others said that dipping the Doritos-adorned nuggets into barbecue sauce made for a revelatory melding of flavors.

  • Subway Spicy Italian Sub

    <strong>The Method:</strong> Lay whole chips right up in the middle of the sub. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> One of the better matches. One taster even called it "delicious," noting that salami and Doritos have mutually beneficial flavor profiles. Another taster, though, quipped that, "This does not taste discernibly different because normally when I eat a Subway sandwich I'm also stuffing Doritos in my face." (It's not clear that this was a criticism.)

  • Dunkin' Donuts Glazed Donuts

    <strong>The Method:</strong> Because we had three donuts, we decided to try a few things... we stuck them in as with the McNuggets, we stuffed them in the middle as with the Big Mac and we sprinkled their crumbs on top as with the Wendy's Fries. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Another divisive dish. Though one taster praised the Doritos donuts for their "nice cheesecake taste," others picked up artificial, bitter flavors that they said ruined the meld. Everyone thought they LOOKED awesome though!

  • Related Video: "Doritos Creator Arch West Gets Unusual Burial"

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Filed by Laura Steiner  |