News Column

Culture Cash

June 2005, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Keith Rosenblum

George Feldenkreis, CEO of Supreme International.
George Feldenkreis, CEO of Supreme International.

As long as snapper and mahi-mahi appeal to both mainstream and Hispanic tastes, Bill Quirch sees no slowdown in his company's growth. Frozen fish helped Miami-based Quirch Foods, number 16 on this year's Hispanic Business 500, grow revenues 15.5 percent last year. Appealing to both mainstream and Hispanic customers explains the optimism among wholesalers on the 500.

"People have to eat," says Mr. Quirch. "One of the keys to the marketplace is knowing when they are able to eat shrimp and lobster, when they're going to have to settle for something less – and providing a good product for both occasions."

"Whether the marketplace is Vietnamese, Korean, Polish, or Hispanic, catering to specific tastes is good for the manufacturer, the retailer, the distributor, and especially the consumer," says Tom Zaucha, CEO of the National Grocers Association. "Initiative in marketing to those niches guarantees we'll never be in the position where two or three super-centers dominate economic life in the city. Ethnicity represents opportunity."

Non-food distributors also see that opportunity. Brightstar Corp., the largest wholesaler on the Hispanic Business 500 and the number 3 company on the list, will continue the double-digit annual growth it has enjoyed since its start in 1997, says CEO R. Marcelo Claure. Brightstar is now the largest wireless telephone distributor in the Americas, with recent expansion into Australia and Southeast Asia.

CEO George Feldenkreis of Miami-based apparel company Supreme International says his company's Hispanic brands group, which includes Cubavera, Havanera Co., and private labels, continues to perform well. "We are capitalizing not only on the continued growth of the Hispanic demographic, but also on the Hispanic culture's crossover appeal to mainstream America," Mr. Feldenkreis explains.

But this year Supreme International, number 7 on the Hispanic Business 500, faces new challenges as the result of Federated Department Stores' combination with May Company and Kmart's acquisition of Sears. Mr. Feldenkreis exepcts the mergers to result in a smaller number of stores and new brand strategies.

"Apparel wholesalers are working in a rapidly changing environment," he says, "and it is essential that all apparel companies maintain flexibility in their approach to products, brands, and channels of distribution."
Northwestern Meat Inc., number 28 on the 500 directory, specializes in range-fed beef from Latin America. "It's leaner and has a different taste – that's the preference of Latin people and many Americans," says CEO Elpidio Nuñez.

The company that simultaneously markets to ethnic markets and mainstream U.S. consumers is taking a risk – and deserves a reward when successful, according to Mr. Zaucha. "There's nothing simple about catering to the needs of people from Mexico, Cuba, or El Salvador," he says.


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