GraceKennedy Group/ La Fe Foods Inc.

GraceKennedy aims to unite families at the dinner table with the relaunch of La Fe Foods.

Quality is part of the DNA at GraceKennedy. It is what its customers and consumer expect from it as a standard. This is made easier by the fact that its employees and their families are part of its core consumer group. “If it is not good enough for our families we cannot sell it,” President Derrick Reckord says. “Our people made a difference in the organization over the years and they have remained loyal.”

Based in Kingston, Jamaica, the food and financial services firm started operations in 1922 as a trading and wharf operating company. Today, GraceKennedy Group’s specialties include banking and finance, as well as food manufacturing and food marketing. The firm has over 50 subsidiaries and associated companies in Jamaica and the Caribbean, Central America, North America, Europe and Africa.

“Half of our operation is outside Jamaica,” Reckord says, noting that it significantly expanded its U.S. operations by acquiring La Fe Foods Inc., in 2014. The brand, which Armando Gonzalez and Gustavo Tapanes started 50 years ago, has given GraceKennedy a strong presence in the Hispanic foods business, as well as in the Eastern United States.

Today, the La Fe brand is one of the most sought-after brands in the frozen and chilled Hispanic Food segment, with an extensive range that is sought after in both Independent and Chain Stores from Maine to Florida. The grocery line for the brand is extensive allowing consumers to prepare the best dishes from the Americas right at home in the U.S., with La Fe products.

Reckord explains that GraceKennedy expects Jamaican cuisine to expand further into the mainstream. Currently, the company is expanding its Grace Brand frozen convenience lines, which includes items such as Grace Jamaican Style Patties and Grace Jerk Wings. “What we’re finding is that consumers are experimenting more in the food segment,” he says, noting that its “ready-to-eat” products have become very popular.

“The Caribbean segment is proving very attractive,” Reckord continues. “We also have a strong presence in the beverage business, with coconut water and tropical fruit juices.”

Bringing People Together
Another initiative for GraceKennedy is the relaunch of La Fe Foods. Over the years, it has been the No. 1 Hispanic brand in the frozen food category in the Northeastern United States with products that include frozen vegetables, as well as various types of chili from Latin America, dairy products, beverages and frozen fruit pulps.

But now is a good time to relaunch La Fe, Reckord says, as it will be able to offer consumers unique, fresh products and remind them through its marketing campaign of how the brand can unite their families at the dinner table. “There is so much that their families can celebrate and enjoy together over a meal,” he says. “We are proud to be part of part of the family life.”

GraceKennedy also recently acquired 49 percent of Majesty Foods LLC, a manufacturer of Jamaican patties, empanadas and snack foods in Hialeah, Fla. Before the purchase, Reckord explains, GraceKennedy was operating a small independent factory also in Hialeah where it made such products as rice mixes, stuffed potato ball, croquettes, tamales, etc.

When it determined it needed to make investments in its factory, it looked at the operations of Majesty, which was supplying it with various items. “They had a big operation,” he recalls. “We thought it would be best to combine the operations to have one efficient factory to produce a strong range.”

Results Oriented
A longtime veteran of GraceKennedy, Reckord says, “What we have built over the years is pretty much a results-oriented culture.” He notes that the company focused on fostering and developing the careers of its young associates.

“We also fundamentally believe that we need to care,” Reckord says, noting that this is one of the founding and driving principles of GraceKennedy’s operations. “We believe in integrity and we believe in trust.”

Reckord is proud of GraceKennedy and how it continues to grow after 97 years. “We find ways to invest ourselves, meet new challenges and succeed at them,” he says, noting that he sees a strong future for the company.

“[We will] continue to expand beyond the shores of the Caribbean,” he says. “We have multiple brands and we will become more relevant and recognized by consumers across the world as we share the unique heritage of the Caribbean and Latin America.”