Babalú Exclusive: Cuban footprints across America — The Cheese Makers
The following Babalú exclusive is an excerpt from author Fernando "Fernan" Hernandez's book, "The Cubans, Our Footprints Across America," which documents the incredible stories of Cuban refugees who came to America, the land of opportunity, and achieved incredible success through hard work and determination.
More excerpts will appear in the coming weeks...
The Cheese Makers: Cacique, Inc.
In 1971 Gilbert de Cardenas and his wife Jennie were able to obtain U.S. visas and left Cuba to start a new life in Los Angeles. The going was difficult at first, they arrived with three small children and expecting a fourth. A story in Examiner.com relates that Gilbert tasted the cheese sold in small Los Angeles markets and knew he could do better. The reason was because Gilbert had learned to make cheese from his father in Cuba. The enterprising immigrants scraped together their hard-earned savings of $1,500 and in 1973 founded Cacique Inc., a Spanish name signifying the chief of a tribe. During the early years Gilbert taught his wife how to make high quality fresh cheese, also known as queso fresco. He then sold and delivered the product with the help of the children after school and during summer vacation. After the first year they were able to hire their first employee.
Today their children run the company which is the largest fresh cheese maker in the United States that also sells the most chorizos in the marketplace. The family merged science and chemistry along with the state-of-the-art facilities that use the latest global cheese making and meat processing technology to create authentic old-world products. Cacique’s products include high quality cheese, cream, chorizo, and yogurt. What started with the founders making 100 pounds of cheese a day in a tiny one-room facility has grown to become a top national brand with a modern 200,000 square-foot facility outside of Los Angeles. Estimated annual sales exceed $100 million dollars.
According to Cheese Market News, the company has taken a two-prong approach: expand knowledge of traditional Hispanic cheeses among the non-Hispanic consumer population while at the same time generate more excitement for its broadest base of customers, first-and-second generation Hispanic consumers in the United States. A key component, as described in the newspaper, is the company’s new partnership with Food Network Celebrity Chef Aaron Sanchez to promote Cacique’s product line.
Another way the company is seeking to reach its Hispanic consumers, as noted in the industry newspaper, is through its sponsorship of the Mexican National Soccer Team. The initiative, aimed at reaching the company’s core Hispanic consumer audience, is utilizing radio, billboards and on-pack logos noting the sponsorship. The agreement with the team makes Cacique the presenting sponsor of all Mexican National Soccer Team games in the United States.
The company is also involved in the community it serves. Cacique employs hundreds of workers, most of Mexican origin. The Cacique Foundation is a family foundation that contributes to charities in the Los Angeles and Miami areas. Currently the foundation is working to improve community baseball fields. For every double play made by the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cacique donates $100 to support baseball for disadvantaged youth.
Order your copy of the book HERE.