News Column

Food Companies Enjoy Tasty Returns

June 2007, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Frank Nelson

Ed Sanchez, CEO of Lopez Foods
Ed Sanchez, CEO of Lopez Foods

Commodity prices, especially for corn, are a concern for Ed Sanchez, CEO of Lopez Foods Inc. Based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, this company specializes in ground meat products, such as burgers and sausage patties, which it supplies to giants such as McDonald's, Wal-Mart, and other retailers.

Lopez Foods posted revenues of $465 million last year [good enough for No. 11 in the 2007 Hispanic Business 500] and Mr. Sanchez is expecting a similar result this year. However, that will depend largely on commodity prices, particularly the cost of the corn fed to beef cattle.

The company has been in business for 30 years but was renamed after chairman John Lopez bought the business in 1992; today it employs close to 1,200 people in Oklahoma and at a second plant in Columbus, Nebraska. Mr. Sanchez says one positive industry trend is the ongoing demand for convenience food and prepared meals, both in the restaurant sector and increasingly through retail stores.

Ruiz Foods Inc., founded by Louis Ruiz and his son, Fred, in 1964, has remained a family-run business. Today, third-generation members fill key roles in the California company that sold $383 million worth of Mexican food last year.

"We're the largest manufacturer of frozen Mexican food products," says Bryce Ruiz, president and COO, who reels off a long list of popular Mexican dishes made under the brand name El Monterey and sold mostly through retail outlets ranging from Wal-Mart to local convenience stores.

Louis Ruiz recently passed away, but Fred Ruiz remains CEO and chairman of the board. Besides Fred's son Bryce, daughter Kim Ruiz Beck is vice-chair and Kelly Hanchett, another daughter, is a board member. His 22-year-old son Matt, now in college, aims to join the business.

Ruiz Food employs around 2,400 people at three sites. Many work at the corporate headquarters and main plant on a 43-acre campus in Dinuba, California, with others at plants in Tulare, California, and Denison, Texas.

Bryce Ruiz says the company, No. 18 in the Hispanic Business 500, grew about 20 percent last year. And despite the challenges posed by rising costs in areas such as labor, benefits, fuel, and commodities, he's predicting healthy double-digit growth again in 2007.

HUSCO International Inc., an engineering company, makes hydraulic and electro-hydraulic controls for mobile equipment everything from automobiles to the huge graders, back hoes, trucks, and tractors used in construction and agriculture.

Executive Vice-President Jim Gannon describes the equipment made by the Waukesha, Wisconsin-based company as "the brains of those machines," controlling key elements such as fuel efficiency and emissions.

Last year, HUSCO, which held solid at No. 29 on the Hispanic Business 500, earned revenues of $250 million and Mr. Gannon expects only a modest increase this year due to what he calls the "soft U. S. market for construction and material handling equipment."

HUSCO is increasingly turning its attention to more lucrative markets overseas. The company, which has two plants in Wisconsin, one in England and one in China, opened another in India last month.

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine and, Copyright (c) 2007 All Rights Reserved.

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