Conchita Brands, Just Like Your Mother's Pantry

If you've spent any time in a South Florida supermarket you'll recognize Conchita Brands. The signature red label with a blue square is synonymous with ingredients necessary for any pantry with a Latin flair. With flavors reminiscent of those that "Conchita" herself made back in Cuba in the mid 30's to feed her 21 children, the company has today carved a niche in the Caribbean Hispanic market. Conchita's sons started out making guava paste for their general store in Pinar del Rio, Cuba and this grew to become the number one brand on the island. Today Conchita, named after the family matriarch, remains a familly business with operations in Miami and manufacturing partners in Brazil, Thailand and Spain, to name a few.

During a recent visit to their Medley facility, we met with Sixto Ferro, Jr., a third-generation owner currently running day -to-day operations. Like his father, he started working in the business during the summer holidays packing boxes and visiting customers. This is when he realized that listening to folks is the key to success. Be it Colombians' love of oatmeal or Puerto Ricans' affinity for corned beef, Sixto and his family aim to deliver it all.

Conchita Brands started small with guava paste but has quickly grown to more than 250 items. Guava paste is one of the three best selling items, right after coconut water and before black beans. There's also guava marmalade, guava preserve, guava shells and most recently, guava grill and dip sauce. When we ask Sixto about this latest addition he shakes his head and smiles. "I wanted to make a sweet barbecue sauce, but in Brazil (where the factory is) they aren't familiar with our version of sweetness. so what I got was a spicy version." His father loved it, and it remains a strong seller.

So what is Sixto's favorite? "Oh that's easy -- the grated coconut in syrup" he says without blinking. "I put the can in the fridge and then serve it straight or on some cheese." Intrigued, we ask for a sample and after a few hours of chilling, dove in. Cold, creamy, sweet and absolutely sinful. After the first spoonful, we're hooked.

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