Pi Attitude Zone: Self-Gratification

I’m From Goya Foods, Color Me Multicultural

So ethnic food products are for ethnic people, right?  And each ethnic group has its own unique cuisine and taste, right?  So no single food brand will ever please them all, right?

Wrong, actually.  It’s a lot more complicated than that.  To understand why, look at the USA’s Goya brand of canned and packaged food products.  Goya started out targeting Hispanic Americans (who by the way are drawn from widely differing ethnicities and cultures).  The Goya brand has expanded way beyond its original Latino-centric horizons.

Goya was founded three generations ago in New Jersey, by Puerto Ricans who had emigrated to New York.  It’s now the biggest Hispanic-owned food company in the US, with sales in the billions of dollars.  Latino shoppers describe Goya products as “authentic”, which is curious, since it implies keeping faith with Chilean or Mexican or Dominican or Nicaraguan cuisines, all of which are significantly different from each other.  But Goya, remarkably, has achieved “all-purpose authenticity”. 

A few exotic product offerings like Pacaya (palm flowers) and Loroco (vine buds from Central America which go into Salvadoran Pupusas, a kind of stuffed tortilla) appear alongside staples like beans and flavored rice.  This gives an aura of specificity and authenticity to a range of generic products that could be from almost anywhere.  That’s how you get adopted by multiple Latino consumer clusters, and by large numbers of curious and adventurous non-Latinos as well.  Wide distribution helps.  Ah, so you fancy chipotle sauce instead of ketchup this evening?  The easiest to find will be Goya’s.

The success formula no longer focuses solely on Hispanics.  As one of the company’s distribution managers put it, “Pretty much everybody eats rice and beans”.  Goya has been developing products matched to a notional “tropical cuisine” (actually no such thing exists) that shares ingredients such as coconut milk and pigeon peas.  These will still please Latinos, but they also work with Indian recipes.  Goya sells imported Basmati rice to accompany Indian curry, and coconut water and Jasmine rice to go with Thai recipes. 

There has been a conscious effort to position Goya as the “ethnic food experts”.  The company has published cookbooks responding to the spreading taste for Peruvian-style Ceviche, for instance.  Goya sales reps will advise supermarket produce buyers on ways of stocking their stores to appeal to immigrant and ethnic-minority consumers.  They even advise on stocking non-mainstream vegetables (yucca, plantains...) and Latino-style cuts of meat.

This unusual and seemingly “altruistic” marketing plan has achieved something remarkable:  wave after wave of immigrants to the USA have adopted Goya products as “food from home” and “the real thing”, even though it’s mostly made in the USA, and is not really cuisine- or culture-specific at all.  It’s becoming “the food brand for anyone new to America”, and a hugely successful promoter of culinary fusion for everyone else. 

Pi says: ¡Felicitaciones, señores!

Zone: Self-Gratification Country: USA / North America Product – Consumer Products