Issue Winter 14
Ever since George and Einez Yap bought a bankrupt Miami company in 1977 and began to grow and sell bean sprouts, Leasa Industries has been on the rise. The company has managed to persevere through difficult early days and today is one of the largest growers, manufacturers, processors and packers of healthy food products across the southeastern United States.
“Perseverance and trust have been key for us,” President and CEO Andrew Yap explains. “We’ve sought expansion even at the same time as recent economic downturns. Trust and loyalty have long been key for us; we will always stick together and grow as a team.”
Today, Leasa has a 65,000-square-foot warehouse and production facility in Miami, Fla. Leasa brand products are distributed to various retail locations throughout Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, the Caribbean and Alaska. The company specializes in a variety of health-focused vegetable items for retail and foodservice customers. Leasa serves a wide array of customers, including Publix, Winn-Dixie, Walmart, Sedanos and Sysco Foodservice. The company can also offer private labeling and make custom products to suit the needs of any geographic area.
The company’s variety of offered products includes bean and alfalfa sprouts, specialty sprouts, value-added fresh-cut vegetables, bulk vegetables and Chinese food items. Leasa is also known for its soy line, which includes firm, veggie, cilantro and spicy tofu. Other Leasa products include stir-fry vegetable mix, vegetable soup mix, fresh herbs, sugar snaps, snow peas, shallots, specialty onions, and egg roll and won ton wrappers.
One of the ways Leasa sets itself apart is through its commitment to hydroponics. Its hydroponic system allows Leasa to grow products in filtered water using temperature-controlled, laboratory-esque conditions. This is how Leasa can produce products using minimum space while generating high yields. It produces approximately 70,000 pounds of bean sprouts weekly along with manufacturing 15,000 pounds of tofu from Ohio-sourced soybeans.
“Our product line consists primarily of sprouts, tofu and fresh vegetables,” Yap says. “The company started based on growing hydroponically, and that has helped us become one of the largest sprout growers in the Southeast. We are also one of the only companies that put fresh vegetables inside of tofu to make it more palatable for consumers.”
Over the last few years, Leasa’s innovations have focused on offering services, not just products. In the past, its focus was always on product development. Now it provides value-added services such as supply chain management.
Overcoming the Odds
Leasa’s path to becoming a prolific manufacturer and distributor of health food products is as intriguing as that of its founder. George Yap is the son of a Chinese family that moved to Jamaica to escape war. He and his Chinese-Jamaican wife eventually moved to Miami to escape misfortune in Jamaica. Through sheer determination, the Yap family built this well-regarded family business.
Because of the challenges the Yap family has faced, Leasa has dedicated itself to exemplary corporate citizenship. Its products and processes may be seen as the envy of others in the niche health food market, but the company is just as proud as its commitment to providing work for underprivileged individuals and helping them realize their own dreams.
“We borrowed money to start the company and lost $30,000 in our first six months,” Chairman George Yap says. “But we worked hard to get to market and grow.”
As Leasa continues to pursue growth and increased sales, it will also continue to seek to do good for its community. With a long legacy of surviving in the face of challenges, Leasa is confident that its best days remain ahead. “We will look for diversification through related areas that connect to our core,” Andrew Yap says. “We are looking at markets like Panama and South America, in addition to developing five new products per year. We need to look outward, understanding the competition and this growing industry.”