Many Hispanic consumers feel betrayed by Goya Foods after its CEO’s comments praising Trump. ‘They will pay for it,’ says a Latino marketing expert.
When Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue gushed over President Trump at a White House Hispanic Property Initiative by saying, “We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump,” social media lit up. Hashtags #BoycottGoya, #BoycottGoyaFoods and #Goyaway started popping up everywhere. Latino consumers felt betrayed. They started throwing out their Goya products and putting those images all over Twitter and Facebook.
“He drew a line in the sand,” Dora Tovar, a Latino brand marketing expert in Arlington, Texas told The Americano. Tovar believes Unanue proved he does not identify with the U.S. Hispanic community because he ignores all the derogatory statements Trump has made in the past about Latinos and immigrants. “[Unanue] is not been a friend of the Latino community, and for him to take such a bold step and put his product at risk was an unwise move in this climate under Trump that has targeted Latinos,” Tovar said.
Tovar knows how Unanue thinks because she is the former COO of the Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility (HACR), a nonprofit that has dealt with Unanue for years. HACR is one of the most influential advocacy associations in the nation, representing fourteen national Hispanic organizations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. HACR’s goal is to ensure the inclusion of Hispanics in corporate America and corporate responsibility to the Hispanic consumer.
Tovar said HACR leaders have tried to get Unanue involved with their mission, but he has always refused. One possible reason she suggested is because he is a Spaniard and considers himself European, not Hispanic. “We have tried diligently with the CEO to educate him, enlighten him, demonstrate that value of the Hispanic consumer and understand the Hispanic consumer who consumes his product. He has not been receptive to any of that dialogue for several years,” Tovar said.
Goya Foods’ Sales Are Over $1 Billion
In 2019, Goya Foods revenues were over $1.27 billion, according to Dun & Bradstreet (DNB), which provides financial data and insight for businesses. Tovar believes the boycott backlash will hurt profits because Hispanic consumers are loyal until they feel a company has turned on them. “He’s going to see the consumer strength of the Latino community. I don’t think he ever imagined that this would happen,” she said.
Goya Foods claims on its website to be the “premier source of authentic Latino cuisine,…and the largest, Hispanic-owned food company in the United States.” The company was founded in 1936 by the CEO’s grandfather, an immigrant from Spain. Today it sells more than 2,500 food products that range from rice, sauces and salsas to beans, beverages and frozen foods.
But the backlash may also be an advantage for small, Latino-owned food product businesses. Consumers angry with Goya Foods have also started the hashtag #GoyaAlternatives. They are looking for products to replace Goya foods, and Tovar believes that’s a huge business advantage for small Latino companies that want to tap into the Hispanic market with a buying power of over a trillion dollars. “Category by category, there is a huge opportunity for Latino companies and non-Latino companies who highly value Latino consumers.”
Robert Unanue told Fox News that he was “not apologizing” for praising Trump, and he called the boycott “suppression of speech.” Tovar said former Goya customers are not going to let up either. She thinks the boycott could get bigger if consumers demand that grocery stores stop carrying the Goya Foods products or face losing their business.