I’ve been fortunate to spend considerable time during my career in two consumer goods sectors dominated by Hispanic professionals based in the United States and Latin America. More importantly, I’ve learned so much from these experts both in terms of how their businesses operate and how their products fit into today’s society.
The first is the cigar business, which has grown dramatically since I started covering it as a young reporter in the late 1980s. With most of its products made in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and, yes, Cuba, the industry was and is naturally dominated by Spanish-speaking executives. These men and women have been so generous with their time, sharing insights into how cigars are constructed and marketed and telling me many amazing stories of how brands and companies came into being.
In traveling to some of the cigar-making areas of the Caribbean and Central America, the growers, blenders, rollers, and marketing experts told me their secrets of the trade. Not only did I learn what goes into making a great-tasting cigar, I came to understand many of the industry’s nuances. This helped me enlighten my readership by giving them an insider’s view of the industry and helping them appreciate the culture behind the growing, production, and consumption of cigars.
The other consumer products sector I’ve spent a lot of time in that is heavily influenced by Hispanic operators is produce. There is considerable Margulis family history in the area, as my grandfather was the owner of a fruit importing company at the Newark, NJ terminal market for much of his career. There he worked with plantations in Central America to supply smaller retailers with bananas and other products (I still have a few wooden crates with our name on them that were used to import those bananas!).
As a writer first and then as a communications and marketing consultant, I’ve spent many great days out in the fields of the Central Valley, in processing plants, and at trade events that featured fruits and vegetables, listening and talking with people whose lives revolve around the growing and harvesting seasons. Here I learned everything from water management and packaging to merchandising and food safety. Again, I heard amazing stories about the building of produce companies and the individuals behind them. My grandfather’s focus was always on fresh, something every produce executive I’ve ever met was also concerned with.
In both the produce and cigar businesses, the strength of the Hispanic communities creates an aura of excellence that permeates every level of the industry. It’s a commitment to meeting and often exceeding the needs of its customers. It’s also about the people who are, to the last, extraordinarily family-focused.
I’ve seen these same qualities at the many Hispanic grocery stores I’ve visited in my travels. And, I’m equally pleased to report that commonality of great storytelling endures in this community, with fathers and mothers passing down the skill and passion to their children.