The Story of Goya Foods: How a Latino-Owned Specialty Company Became a Mainstream Monolith
In 1936, Don Prudencio Unanue and his wife, Carolina, founded the Goya company in lower Manhattan in the hopes of bringing Hispanic families some foods from their native lands, including olives, olive oil, and sardines. Today, the Unanue family still owns Goya, and it has become the largest Hispanic-owned company in the United States. The story of Goya foods is just as much about the American dream as it is about being Latino... so how did the company become the monolith that it is today?
In 1936, the Unanue family, immigrants from Spain who were living in Puerto Rico, moved to New York in the hopes of finding better job opportunities. At the time, they catered strictly to Hispanic families. Prudencio purchased the rights to the Goya name for just $1 at the time.
In 1956, the company moved its headquarters to Secaucus, N.J., and by the 1970s the company had purchased an olive farm in Spain. Along the way, the company adopted a staple tag line of "if it's Goya, it has to be good," reinforcing the company's commitment to quality food at affordable prices that stayed true to the Hispanic heritage and culture.
Goya's 3,500 employees worldwide produce over 2,200 products that are available in local grocery stores and supermarket chains throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and international markets. Goya Foods is headquartered in Secaucus, New Jersey. Its manufacturing and distribution centers are located in: Secaucus, Pedricktown, New Jersey; Bayamón, Puerto Rico; Seville, Spain; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Angola, New York; Webster, Massachusetts; Bensenville, Illinois; Miami and Orlando, Florida; Houston; City of Industry, California; and Prince George County, Virginia.
Aside from all of this, Goya is the first, and to date the only, Latino company to be exhibited in the Smithsonian.
So how did it go from culture-specific to mainstream? It all began in 1992, when Goya began to ramp up its efforts to target the mainstream in their advertising. And, with the changing face of America -- whereas Latinos were once a marginalized minority, some estimates project that America will be predominantly Latino by the year 2050 -- that made the transition into the mainstream much easier.
In an interview with ABC News, Bob Unanue (the fourth generation of the Unanue family who owns the company, who has been the CEO since 2006) said that the reason his company was so successful in its transitionin to the mainstream is because it invokes an emotional response. "We are the nostalgia," said Bob. "we welcome the immigrant families with food."
The food line, as well, has expanded from olives and olive oil. According to the company's website, "From Goya's modest origins, the company now boasts a full host of products ranging from condiments, pantry items, beverages and frozen foods representing all of Latin America. In 2005, Goya added over 400 new products alone, reaching a milestone of more than 1,500 product offerings and distributed brands, and further solidifying its position as the definitive connection to Latin American cuisine. As the company continues extensive product diversification, it honors Goya's founders by fulfilling their promise to make each meal a uniquely memorable experience for family and friends."
In addition, Goya boasts an impressive employee roster: of its 3500 employees, the majority of them are either Latino immigrants, or first-generation Americans of Latino descent.
So with all of this in mind, then, it makes sense that the company would remain true to its Latino origins while courting the mainstream.
The Unanue family of New York is the second-wealthiest Hispanic or Latino family in the United States, having a net worth of US$700 million, the wealthiest being the Goizueta family (the family of the founder of Coca-Cola). Its founder, Prudencio Unanue Ortiz, migrated from Spain in the 20th century and established Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic/Latino-owned food company in the United States. The family's members include Joseph A. Unanue and Andy Unanue. Goya Foods is the 377th largest private American company.
Last year, Goya joined Michelle Obama in her "MyPlate" initiative, and formed MiPlato, which encouraged healthy eating in Hispanic communities. Of the initiative, the First Lady said in a statement, "Parents don't have the time to measure out exactly three ounces of chicken or to look up how much rice or broccoli is in a serving. ... But we do have time to take a look at our kids' plates. ... And as long as they're eating proper portions, as long as half of their meal is fruits and vegetables alongside their lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, then we're good. It's as simple as that."
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