August 2005 – The New York Times

Newspaper / Magazine:The New York Times
Article Title:The Immigrants' Legacy: A Taste for Opportunity
Date:August 18, 2005
Author:James Flanigan

de_CardenasFOR 20 years, Gilbert de Cardenas Jr. traveled California and the Southwest marketing Mexican-style cheeses for Cacique Inc., a company founded in 1973 by his parents shortly after they immigrated to the United States from Cuba.

As the Hispanic population swelled and a tide of Hispanic food products, like tortillas and salsa, caught on with the American public, Cacique grew in the 1980′s and 90′s from a bootstrap enterprise in a small dairy in the Los Angeles suburb of La Puente into the largest American maker of Hispanic-style cheeses, with approximately $130 million in annual sales today.

But as he made his sales rounds, Mr. de Cardenas noticed that something was missing from the aisles of giant supermarkets and neighborhood bodegas alike: distinctly Hispanic meat. There were no Hispanic lunch-meats, no specially seasoned cold cuts or hot dogs.

So Mr. de Cardenas, who is 42 and recently earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, researched the market and made plans for a couple of years. This month he began his own company and brand name, demonstrating that the Hispanic immigrant economy had grown large enough to attract the vast resources of the American capital markets. Gilbert de Cardenas Jr. worked for his parents before forming his Hispanic food company in Pasadena, Calif.

The company, MTK Inc., based in Pasadena, Calif., has begun shipping Don Gilberto brand cold cuts and frankfurters to small supermarket chains catering to Hispanic neighborhoods in California and Texas. With just six employees, it is starting off small, contracting out the production and distribution of its products.

But Mr. de Cardenas has big ambitions. He plans an intensive advertising campaign on Spanish-language broadcasting stations and in-store promotions in the first two years “to establish our foothold in the marketplace,” he said. He expects to expand into Nevada, Arizona and Illinois by late next year and into Miami, New York and New Jersey in 2007. He also hopes to talk soon with Costco Wholesale and the Sam’s Club division of Wal-Mart Stores about supplying the large packages they require.

 

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