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CFO Awards 2018 Nominees: Profile of a Company that Does Things the Right Way

In October 1971, Jennie and Gilbert de Cardenas immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba. Chasing the American dream, Gilbert worked odds jobs to support his family until he found his opportunity while shopping in a small family grocery. They were sampling the grocer’s Queso Fresco and after just one taste, Gilbert knew he could do better. With only $1,500 in his pocket and a big leap of faith, Gilbert began producing his own Queso Fresco and, in 1973, Cacique was born. Gilbert and his son, Gil, started selling cheese door to door in downtown Los Angeles. For 18 months, Gilbert did this with just the support of his wife and children before finally hiring his first employee.

In 1973, Cacique opened its first plant in Lakewood, CA. Over the next few years, the plant moved to several locations in Southern California, until ultimately ending up in the City of Industry in 1985. As the company grew, Cacique continued to invest in technology, including pioneering vacuum seal packages that first allowed the brand to boast a shelf life 30 to 45 days longer than that of its competitors. To this day, Cacique’s fresh cheese continues to have the longest shelf life on the market.

Following a thorough survey about the changing consumer to inform the company’s evolution, Cacique entered its next era in 2011 with the decision to invest in English-speaking media. Already winning with the Hispanic consumer, the brand wanted to reach the next generation of Hispanic consumers and non- Hispanic consumers interested in experiencing authentic Mexican food.

In support of this effort, Cacique partnered with Aarón Sánchez, an award-winning chef, TV personality, cookbook author and philanthropist. He is the chef/owner of Mexican restaurant Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans, and a judge on FOX’s hit culinary competition series MASTERCHEF. He co-starred on Food Network’s Chopped and Chopped Junior, and he is the author of two cookbooks.

Sánchez has partnered with Cacique because of his passion for combining contemporary Mexican flavor with traditional authentic ingredients. He challenges and encourages the “at home cooks and foodies” to Go Autentico when preparing Mexican dishes, using Cacique and its line of authentic Hispanic cheeses, cremas and chorizos.

During this exciting time in Cacique’s history, management was evolving and the next generation took over. Gil de Cardenas, eldest son of Jennie and Gilbert, opened the doors to the progression of the company. In March of 2010, Wendy Morgan joined the “Cacique Family” and she has contributed to its success as Chief Financial Officer. In 2016, Cacique’s headquarters moved to Monrovia, which is in close proximity to the plant.

Today, Cacique products are distributed to over 25,000 retailers across the U.S. and Cacique is the leading brand in the Mexican-style cheese, cream and sausage category. Cacique is among the largest and most recognized Hispanic food brands in the U.S. market with strong distribution from Boston to Los Angeles, and all points in between. Through it all, the Cacique team maintains its dedication to the company’s values set by the original founders: Family, Integrity, Quality and Authenticity.

In 2018, Cacique, Inc. was certified as a great workplace by the independent analysts at Great Place to Work, an organization that recognizes outstanding workplace cultures, and produces the annual Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For Best Workplaces lists. Cacique has also been recognized by “Hispanic Lifestyle” as a Survived & Thrived 2018 honoree, which honors Latino/Latina owned businesses of various sizes for their ability to navigate the challenges of a changing economy.

Cacique supports the community by donating food product to local charitable organizations, including Help the Children and Navidad en El Barrio. Additionally, Cacique participates in an annual toy drive with the El Monte Police Department and previously sponsored the 57th California Assembly District College and Career Fair to support local high schools. Beyond its local support, Cacique contributes to disaster relief outside of the immediate community, such as donating to “Convoy of Hope” for Hurricane Harvey relief and to Operation Blessings, which is an organization that distributes food to low income families across the U.S.

Additionally, the Cacique Foundation frequently supports its local community through donations to multiple charities and community organizations, including Ability First, City of Hope, Foothill Family Service, and the Carmelite Sisters at Santa Teresita.

Cacique has always relied on the quality of its products for success as it adds new customers with a vigorous marketing campaign. The word “Cacique” is itself a title for ancient tribal leaders in the Americas. This is fitting,as it has become a household name across the United States.

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