Goya Foods has been a staple brand for Latinos in the US and other parts of the world for years. But after CEO Robert Unanue praised Donald Trump—a figure known for heralding immigration policies that violate basic human rights, using discriminatory rhetoric against Mexicans, and many other problematic behaviors—prominent Latinx figures like AOC, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and other celebrities called for a boycott of Goya’s products.
While the tension around Goya has dissipated in recent months, it still leaves many consumers concerned about the impact of supporting this company.
Considering the words of a CEO will probably always reflect the company in some sense. Goya’s board of directors officially censured Unanue after his appearance on the Fox Business Channel, where he casted doubt on Biden’s election after the January 6 invasion of the US Capitol Building.
“Bob does not speak for Goya Foods when he speaks on TV,” said one board member of the family-owned business.“The family has diverse views on politics, but politics is not part of our business. Our political points of view are irrelevant.”
In response to the backlash, Unanue said, “I don’t believe I should speak politically or in a faith-based manner on behalf of the company, but I leave open the possibility of speaking on behalf of myself.”
Even after being censured, he has continued to “speak on behalf of himself” at a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida, even after Biden was sworn into office. This led the Hispanic Federation, a non-profit organization, to release a statement condemning Goya.
Despite the fact that the company’s sales increased (presumably due to the pandemic), all of this negative publicity has concerned shareholders who believe sales should be even higher than they are now. A majority of shareholders want Unanue to step down, according to one source inside the company.
While the talk around Goya may be divisive, food plays a large role in bringing Latinos together. While non-Hispanic Whites spend 11% of their household income on food, Hispanics spend 14%. 79% of Latinos say they shop for food with someone else, which means word-of-mouth is a particularly powerful factor in buying choices among this demographic.
Even so, Latinos are also far from a political monolith. In the 2020 election, 48% of Hispanics were Democrat, 20% were Republican and 32% were independent. This means that the majority of Hispanic voters were not Democrats. While those who disagree with Unanue believe his rhetoric is ultimately harmful to Latinos, others might not care either way or even feel represented as a conservative Latino. The decision to support Goya or boycott Goya is not unanimous among Latinos and will vary by household.
It’s important to note that Goya as a company has a long history of supporting Latinos in addition to other relevant causes. First established in 1936, Goya employs 4,000 people in 26 facilities located throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Spain, many of whom are Latinx. Goya also donated 40,000 pounds of food to victims of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana through its Goya Gives program. It also established Goya Cares, a global initiative to end child-trafficking.
Ultimately, though the company has created a boundary between the CEO’s words and what the company stands for, Unanue’s words will always have some kind of reflection on the company. While Unanue’s comments left a bad taste in the mouths of many—myself included—Goya has played an essential role in the kitchens of many Latinos for 85 years and could continue to be popular among Latinos due to a posit. Of course, you could also support Latinx-owned food brands with better corporate ethics. The choice to buy or not to buy Goya ultimately comes down to you.
Bianca Gonzalez is a queer, disabled, Latina B2B writer and social change advocate. She became a brain cancer survivor at the age of 20. Find her on Twitter at @ourstellarwords, Instagram at ourstellarwords, and on her website, b2binclusive.com.