(By Kylie Banks | Miami Herald) – In 1936, Prudencio and Carolina Unanue founded Goya Foods to sell olive oil and sardines to families in Brooklyn. In the intervening 75 years, the company moved to Miami and supplemented those staples with more than 1,400 other products, from traditional black beans and rice to mango juice and frozen churros.
Being the country’s largest Hispanic-owned food company hasn’t slowed its hunger for growth. To expand its business, Goya has opened a $44 million, 338,000-square-foot distribution center near Doral. From here, Goya is shipping its products and those from select foreign brands to the Caribbean, Latin America and as far away as Africa.
â€œWe try to go where other companies don’t go,â€ said Luis Benitez, director of operations and logistics. â€œWe opened in Orlando and pretty soon we’re hitting Tallahassee.â€
That forward-thinking approach has earned Goya recognition as an â€œIcon of Industryâ€ by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at its 32nd annual National Convention and Business Expo. The award will be presented Tuesday at the meeting, which has drawn more than 4,000 from across the country to this year’s convention site in Miami Beach.
Construction of Goya’s new distribution facility at 13300 NW 25th St. started in January 2010 and took 18 months. The company gained more than 200,000 square feet by moving 3 miles from its old facility in Doral. It is currently the largest of Goya’s 16 facilities and can produce 1 million cases of dried beans a year.
In addition to manufacturing existing products, the center includes a test kitchen where an executive chef tests recipes that include beans, frozen meals and new imports, such as Pandebono, a Colombian bread. â€œEverything that comes out of here is tested here and purchased here,â€ said Cynthia Chipi, advertising director for Goya.
Goya also distributes products from foreign brands. Companies such as the Colombian CompaÃ±ia de Galletas Noel have brand managers at the new location. â€œWe have departments that study different cultural groups,â€ said Luis Benitez, director of operations and logistics.
Goya would like to expand outside of the Hispanic market.
â€œAs new [cultural] groups keep coming in, we add new items,” said Frank Unanue, president of Goya Foods of Florida. â€œSome items cross over to the mainstream market. People have traveled and experiment [with food]. People are evolving to this.â€
Goya’s growth leverages already strong brand recognition, said Burt Flickinger, managing director at Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting firm
â€œIt’s has been one of the spectacular success stories of branded products. With so many consumers traveling from the Southeast to the Northeast, it’s a brand that is very well known and will continue to do well,â€ said .
Though Goya has been in its current location only for a month, the firm is already looking toward further expansion. The ceilings were built 42 feet high to allow room for an additional floor. The center also can be stretched from the current 28 overhead doors to 42. â€œWe have another 14 acres to expand,â€ Unanue said.
Along with the building expansion, Goya also has increased its workforce. â€œWe just hired some people in the bean room and will possibly hire more drivers and warehouse personnel,â€ said Benitez. The new location employs 219 people.
Source: Miami Herald