Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame: Don Prudencio Unanue
Year came to U.S.: 1921
Business: Goya Foods (1936)
Headquarters: Secaucus, NJ
2012 revenue: $1.3 billion
Worldwide employment: 3,500
- Goya Foods is the largest family-owned Hispanic food company in the United States.
- Prudencio Unanue purchased the name Goya from a sardine supplier for $1.00 in 1936.
Prudencio Unanue was born in northern Spain and immigrated with his family to Puerto Rico in 1903. After marrying another Spanish immigrant, Carolina Casal, in 1921, he moved to New York and became a food broker for products imported from Spain.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, food supplies were cut off, and Unanue had no work. He obtained a shipment of Moroccan sardines and, with his wife, packaged and sold them to local stores from a small Manhattan warehouse. He purchased the rights to the brand name “Goya” from the sardine supplier for $1.00.
They quickly added products such as olives and olive oil that appealed to the growing immigrant market seeking authentic Spanish flavors. The import business grew tremendously. Eventually, they began doing their own food processing, canning and packaging. In 1958, Goya Foods bought its first factory in Brooklyn, New York.
Since then it’s grown to become the largest family-owned Hispanic food company in the United States and the 23rd largest privately owned company. Its more than 2,200 food products represent the spectrum of authentic Latin American cuisine.
Goya is more than just a business, it’s a cultural icon. In 1999, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., opened a Goya Foods exhibit. To celebrate its 75th anniversary, the company commissioned historian Guillermo Baralt to document the company’s history and Hispanic immigration in the book If It’s Goya, It Has To Be Good – 75 Years of History.
Prudencio’s grandson Robert Unanue presented a copy of the book to President Barak Obama saying, “The United States has welcomed immigrants from all parts of the world, and we, as Hispanics, have embraced our responsibility to work to make it a better country and contribute to its ongoing development and in the process, become agents of change, encouragement and inspiration.”