The Unanue Family
Food manufacturing and distribution
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2022: Enterprise
When immigrants Prudencio and Carolina Unanue launched their storefront food business in 1936, they could not have imagined that the future Goya Foods would grow into one of the 400 largest privately owned businesses in America and bring vast wealth to multiple generations of their family.
Don Prudencio (as he would be known) and Carolina were natives of Spain. In 1903, at the age of 17, Prudencio migrated to Puerto Rico, where he established a small food-distribution business. In 1918, he moved to New York to attend business school, later returning to Puerto Rico to marry Carolina, who had migrated there with her parents. In 1922, the couple moved to New Jersey, where Prudencio became a broker for Spanish foods.
In 1936, Prudencio and Carolina started what would become Goya Foods in a downtown Manhattan storefront. Their business catered to local Hispanic families with authentic Spanish foods. By then, the couple had four sons, two of whom (Charles and Joseph) would eventually serve as Goya CEOs. A third son, Francisco, founded Goya Puerto Rico in the 1960s.
The growth of the Hispanic population in the New York metropolitan area fueled Goya’s success. The company expanded its product line and moved into manufacturing and distribution. In 1974, it established its current headquarters in Jersey City.
Today, Goya is the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States. It provides consumers with more than 2,500 food products from the Caribbean, Mexico, Spain, and Central and South America. It has manufacturing and distribution centers in New Jersey and three other states; employs more than 4,000 people worldwide; and generates $1.5 billion in annual sales.
Prudencio died in 1976, Carolina in 1984, but the company they started remains very much a family enterprise. At least six members of the third generation of the Unanue family are today involved in Goya operations, including Robert Unanue, who was born in Wyckoff, New Jersey, and has served as CEO since 2004.
Goya also is known for giving back. Through Goya Gives, the company supports nearly 300 charitable endeavors and donates millions of pounds of food to local food banks and shelters, especially during times of natural disasters. In 2011, President Barack Obama honored Goya for its continued success and commitment to the Hispanic community.