South Florida-based snack company Chifles makes the best plantain chip in the nation.
That's according to the market-research firm IRI Worldwide, which recently ranked the chip company against its competitors.
“It was a day of absolute pride,” Chifles president Tony Rivas Jr. says of the honor.
Since he assumed ownership, the company has climbed the Top 10 list. Rivas Jr. says it was his team, new offerings, and better logistics that helped the brand reach the top.
The idea for the plantain chip company was born in 1963, when Ecuadorian geophysicist Segundo Argudo and his wife Peggy were fascinated by the fried plantain crisps, called chifles in Spanish, sold by street vendors in their home country and Cuba.
The couple, who jumped around Central and South America for Argudo's career, later settled in Tampa and opened a plantain chip factory. They hired Tony Rivas Sr., who was a distributor for the company for more than 40 years. Tony's son, Rivas Jr., joined the company in 2010.
After Argudo passed away in 2000, Peggy took the reins and ran the brand until 2017.
When she had to step aside around the age of 95, she knew Rivas Sr., now vice president, would be the perfect fit and sold the company to the Rivas family.
On Veterans Day 2017, the Tampa factory caught fire. The blaze destroyed almost everything. Waiting to catch a flight at a South Carolina airport, Rivas Jr. was working on a vision statement for the company when he got the call from his father.
Rivas Jr. says for a moment the family was at a loss.
His wife Frances tucked a note into one of his shoes — a customized pair of Nikes with the Chifles logo stitched on the side. Her words reminded him of what he says is the true meaning of Chifles: the family, the legacy, the heritage — everything that made the company who it was today. Those were the same words that inspired the company's manifesto.
"She told me: 'You see that brand, that logo? That's everybody's heart.' It's hard to see it when you're in the trenches like that," Rivas Jr. says. It was time to come home to Miami, the family decided.
“We didn’t want the fire to happen, but it made us see how fragile life is, and we used that to keep on going,” Rivas Jr. says
The Rivas family moved operations to a temporary factory in Hialeah and planned to reinvent the company.
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Chifles' mission is to introduce its snacks to new consumers. “We wanted to push the legacy, and the heritage, while pushing forward in the plantain category,” Rivas Jr. says. “We want to push this category to the masses.”
The plantain chips, found in most grocery and convenience stores, cost $1.79 to $7.99 per bag.
Two years after the Veterans Day fire, Chifles makes the number one plantain chip in the nation. The company plans to move into its permanent Miami home in early January. To celebrate, five Miami restaurants will offer limited-time Chifles-inspired entrées this weekend. Finka Table & Tap, Phuc Yea, Latin House Grill, La Camaronera, and Cracked by Chef Adrianne will serve original dishes including the company's latest product: plantain sticks.
Dishes include coconut water-braised chicharrón at Phuc Yea, a grilled mahi-mahi sandwich at Cracked, a muffin-top burger at Latin House Grill, and a frita at Finka. The restaurants will offer the dishes today, November 8, through Sunday, November 17.