Latino Voices

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


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."


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