Specialty Food Magazine

Summer 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1119718

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Page 56 of 155

ROBERT & MARGARET GARCIA RW GARCIA CO., INC. B ack in 1982, Robert and Margaret Garcia noticed that when they strolled down the chip aisle in stores, it was dominated by one company offering preservative-filled, unhealthy options. Seeing an opportunity, they set out to create a better-for-you tor- tilla chip, with no preservatives, no GMOs, and no additives. RW Garcia started small; Robert and Margaret traveled from store to store in San Jose, Calif. selling chips out of their family van. But soon enough, RW Garcia was popular all over the state. Robert remembers the day a retailer called to tell him the store could no longer carry RW Garcia chips. Confused, Robert asked if the chips weren't selling well. "He said to me, 'It's not that you're not selling. It's that you're not in all of our stores," Robert recounts. To keep up with demand, the Garcias invested in their own manufactur- ing facilities, purchasing plants first in various locations in California, then in North Carolina and even Las Vegas. Today, RW Garcia products are available in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. It was the first snack food company to be Non-GMO Project Verified, and it prides itself on using sus- tainable, natural ingredients. Building on the success of the original tortilla chip, RW Garcia has added artisan crackers and organic corn chips to its offerings. But perhaps the best thing about RW Garcia is that it's a fam- ily affair. "Before they learned their ABCs, [my kids] learned how to mark packaging and do invoices," Robert jokes. Currently, three of their children work for the company and Robert is still reminded by his grown nephews of the times he brought them along to sell chips from store to store. And what's in store for the future? Anything is possible, accord- ing to Robert. "There's always something new coming along," he says. "We're always looking for the next big thing." —Arielle Feger ALLISON HOOPER & BOB REESE VER MONT CREA MERY A night in 1984 changed the lives of Allison Hooper and Bob Reese, co-founders of Vermont Creamery, revered for goat cheese, cultured but- ter, and crème fraîche. Reese was the marketing director for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. Hooper worked in its dairy lab and milked goats on a farm in Brookfield, Vt. At an event, an Austrian chef, Anton Flory, planned to showcase his signature lamb stuffed with rosemary and goat cheese, made with all-Vermont ingredients. American goat cheese basically didn't exist. Reese asked Hooper if she could make 10 pounds of goat cheese. She could. Hooper had spent her junior year abroad in France, including a summer internship at a dairy farm in Brittany. At the dinner, Hooper sat with Reese and his wife, Sandy. The lamb dish was a hit. Chefs handed her their business cards, wanting to buy her goat cheese. Sandy suggested Reese and Hooper go into business together. "She probably regretted it since I didn't make a dime for the next six years," Reese said. His split-second decision didn't come out of nowhere. He had relished visiting his grandfather's dairy farm in Washington State and studied agricultural economics at the University of Vermont. Reese and Hooper were both in their 20s, capable of living on very little. Sandy's job as a nurse was crucial. "It's amazing when I reflect on how tenacious we were and kept motoring along," Hooper says of the lean years. In the late 1980s, a weak French franc made the price of their goat cheese competitive in the U.S. marketplace. They created demand one chef at a time. It also happened to be when American-made artisanal products were nascent. Reese, 62, and Hooper, 59, recently sold Vermont Creamery to Land O'Lakes for an undisclosed sum. Their energy now goes into helping other local entrepreneurs find their way. —J.B. The Specialty Food Association will induct the following members to its 2019 Hall of Fame class, at the Summer Fancy Food Show. The Hall of Fame's mission is to honor individuals whose accomplishments, impact, contributions, innovations, and successes within the specialty food industry deserve praise and recognition. Following are profiles of the soon-to-be-inducted members. 54 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com HALL OF FAME

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