A Cuban American success story: ‘Mariquitas’ plantain chips

We never tire of hearing about the success of Cuban Americans, who fled communism in Cuba to find freedom and opportunity in America. Made in South Florida, the Cuban American-owned Mariquita brand plantain chips are a favorite not only in Florida, but across the nation.

Via Yahoo News:

ARA Food Corp.’s Beloved Mariquitas-Brand Cuban Plantain Chips Made Fresh Locally in Florida

Plantain chips, a staple snack in many Central American, Caribbean, and South American cultures, are quickly growing in popularity in the US, especially with the growing Latin American population. Many people are also looking to expand their snack food choices with a product that is both delicious and healthy, and plantain chips fit that profile perfectly. While there are numerous plantain chip brands sold in the US today, one stands out for being locally made, ensuring freshness and customer satisfaction in every pack.

Mariquitas plantain chips are expertly processed in a Florida factory by ARA Food Corporation, a family-owned business headquartered in Miami. Mariquitas uses high-quality imported plantains from Central America and corn and sunflower oils from the US. It does not contain palm oil, which is higher in saturated fat, ensuring that Mariquitas are a healthier alternative, not just to potato chips and other fried snacks, but to other plantain chips brands, as well.

Mariquitas is the flagship brand of ARA Food, which was established by Cuban immigrant Alberto R. Abrante in 1975. Abrante was a life-long entrepreneur who left Cuba following the revolution. Initially based In Puerto Rico, he established a business producing cookies, cakes, and crackers in the near-by Dominican Republic, beginning plantain chip production there in 1971.

However, the following year, a hurricane hit the Dominican Republic and disrupted Abrante’s plantain chip business. He realized that it was not the right place to rebuild his business, so he decided to move to Florida and purchased a business that made pork rinds and popcorn, leading to the creation of ARA Food in 1975. To this day, ARA Food is a family-owned business run by Abrante’s children, Alberto Abrante Jr. and Marta De Varona. It has three brands under its umbrella – Mariquitas, Natura, and Tropical Chips, alongside its three major brands the company produces several private labels. Aside from plantain chips, ARA Food also produces cassava or yuca chips under these brands.

In 1984, ARA Food acquired the Mariquitas brand of plantain chips from a fellow Cuban-owned company. Mariquitas was already the leading brand in the US at the time, with excellent brand recognition due to the fact that the Cuban name for plantain chips is Mariquitas. Although Mariquitas was already a leading brand, the industry itself was small. This acquisition and ARA Food’s commitment to spreading Cuban products to a wider audience, was a key factor in the growth the industry has seen today. According to De Varona, Cuban restaurants in the Miami area list plantain chips as Mariquitas in their menus.

“There was a big influx of Cubans in Florida in the 1960s, and we all knew what Mariquitas meant. Plantain chips are really popular among Cubans, and plantains feature frequently in various Cuban cuisine dishes. The Mariquitas brand grew strong owing to the number of Cubans that are here,” De Varona says.

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