Goya CEO Faces Backlash for Praising Trump

Politicians, restaurateurs and consumers are calling for a boycott of the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States after its CEO lavished praise on the president.

Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue (Getty Images)
By Daniel Dawson
Jul. 10, 2020 17:06 UTC
Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue (Getty Images)

Robert Unanue and Goya Foods have been cat­a­pulted into the head­lines after the company’s CEO spoke at what should have been a fairly rou­tine White House press event.

During the announce­ment of an exec­u­tive order to pro­mote Hispanic Americans’ access to edu­ca­tional and eco­nomic oppor­tu­ni­ties on Thursday, Unanue praised President Donald Trump and said the coun­try was truly blessed” to be under his lead­er­ship.

Let’s be clear GoyaFoods, President Trump has left Latinos and many Americans hun­gry. Cages Latino Children. Has for­got­ten the Latino com­mu­nity through this pan­demic. Has called Mexicans rapists. We are blessed? I think Latinos we are being mis­treated.- José Andrés, founder, World Central Kitchen

We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder, and that’s what my grand­fa­ther did,” said Unanue, who donated to the president’s 2016 elec­tion cam­paign.

He came to this coun­try to build, to grow, to pros­per. And so we have an incred­i­ble builder, and we pray for our lead­er­ship, our pres­i­dent, and we pray for our coun­try that we will con­tinue to pros­per and to grow,” he added.

In addi­tion to pro­mot­ing the exec­u­tive order, Unanue also announced that the com­pany would donate one mil­lion cans of chick­peas and one mil­lion other food items to food banks through­out the coun­try, in order to help mit­i­gate the impacts of the Covid-19 pan­demic.

While it is not unusual for busi­ness exec­u­tives invited to the White House to lav­ish the pres­i­dent with praise, the chief exec­u­tive of the immi­grant-founded, Hispanic-owned food com­pany has found him­self on the receiv­ing end of an unusu­ally strong back­lash.

Let’s be clear @GoyaFoods, President Trump has left Latinos and many Americans hun­gry. Cages Latino Children. Has for­got­ten the Latino com­mu­nity through this pan­demic. Has called Mexicans rapists,” José Andrés, the Spanish chef and phil­an­thropist, tweeted. We are blessed? I think Latinos we are being mis­treated.”

Other notable fig­ures to crit­i­cize the com­pany were Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the for­mer sec­re­tary of hous­ing and urban devel­op­ment under President Barack Obama, Julián Castro, both of whom sug­gested a boy­cott.

Castro, who is now the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, tweeted, “@GoyaFoods has been a sta­ple of so many Latino house­holds for gen­er­a­tions. Now their CEO, Bob Unanue, is prais­ing a pres­i­dent who vil­lainizes and mali­ciously attacks Latinos for polit­i­cal gain. Americans should think twice before buy­ing their prod­ucts. #Goyaway.”

Many oth­ers on social media have added to calls for a boy­cott of the com­pany, with the topic trend­ing for much of the day. At the time of writ­ing, Goya Foods had not responded to the fall­out.

However, Unanue went on Fox News the fol­low­ing day to defend his appear­ance with the pres­i­dent.

He said that he would not apol­o­gize” and accused the boy­cotters of sup­pres­sion of speech.” Unanue added that he had worked on sim­i­lar pro­grams with the Obama admin­is­tra­tion.

Goya Foods, which sells an array of prod­ucts includ­ing olive oil, has long ben­e­fited from a loyal cus­tomer base, many of whom are Hispanic.

Over the course of three gen­er­a­tions, the com­pany has grown from a mod­est cor­ner store in New York City to a multi­na­tional with $1.5 bil­lion in annual sales.

We like to say we don’t mar­ket to Latinos, we mar­ket as Latinos,” Unanue once said.

However, President Trump and his administration’s poli­cies – includ­ing fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion of mostly Hispanic migrants at the south­ern U.S. bor­der and efforts to build a wall between the United States and Mexico – have been viewed unfa­vor­ably by most Hispanics.

According to a June 20 poll from the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Hispanics in the U.S. say they would not sup­port the pres­i­den­t’s reelec­tion.

His deep unpop­u­lar­ity with Hispanics has helped fuel the calls for a boy­cott of Goya prod­ucts with some chefs and restau­ra­teurs sug­gest­ing alter­na­tive sources for authen­tic Hispanic cui­sine and ingre­di­ents.

I’ve been wait­ing for this moment my entire life. I make sazón and I’m not a Trump sup­porter,” Eric Rivera, the owner of Addo, a Seattle-based food deliv­ery and take-out restau­rant, tweeted. If you sup­port Goya, you sup­port Trump.”

This is a devel­op­ing story. Check back for updates. (Dec. 17, 2021 20:10 UTC)


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