Strategy Success Stories

Dessert? Yes, please! Miami Foods is expanding and modernizing but its Latin treats are created the old-fashioned way

There’s just something special about the traditional ways of the Latin bakery.

Jose Fernandes bought Miami Foods, an industrial bakery and distributor, in 2015. At the time, the company founded in 2004 was selling mainly imported cheese, Latin cream cheese and yogurt, but he quickly converted it over to entirely Latin desserts – created from the traditions of your abuela.

“We started with about $900,000 in sales in a year and just a few customers — a few supermarkets in Miami,” recalled Cristian Fernandes, Jose’s son, who helps his father run Miami Foods. His two brothers are also involved in the family business.

Now the company has 30 employees and serves all of Florida and is also in other parts of the US, including New York where it serves some 25 supermarket chains. Miami Foods also exports to a large grocery chain in the Caribbean islands, Cristian said. “From 2005 to now, annual sales have grown by six times,” Cristian said.

Maybe it should be no surprise but Miami Foods’ biggest seller is the popular Latin dessert favorite – flan. Cristian explained that Miami Foods sells three flavors of the dessert, but the vanilla flan is the most popular. And, yes, it’s made the traditional way.

Jose, who had a factory in Venezuela previously, thought that many bakeries in the US were taking shortcuts with flan, like using eggs that were coming to them already cracked. Using Miami Foods’ recipe, no already cracked eggs are used. Instead of baking the flan in a plastic container that most of the competition uses, Miami Foods bakes the dish in aluminum pans. “It’s done at a temperature that it should be, you know, the old fashioned way. Of course we have machines but the flan has be taken out of the pan one by one.”

Tres Leches is also a popular dessert Miami Foods sells, and the recipe was carefully developed so the center would be sweet and moist and the whipped cream on the top would hold its form. “It’s all about the recipe,” Christian said.

Now Miami Foods, in Hialeah, is undergoing a huge expansion. The company is building a factory in Doral, with the capacity and design to accommodate bigger orders, such as from Walmart and Publix, as well as accommodate restaurants who prefer to buy individual portions of desserts. Cristian estimates the new factory will open in a couple of months.

A few years ago, Cristian sought the help of Florida SBDC at FIU. Miami Foods was looking for financial assistance to manage their growth and their operations to continue their expansion goals and also needed some assistance with their business plan.  Working with Roberto Castellon, an FSBDC at FIU consultant who specializes in access to capital, Miami Foods was able to work through the documentation needed and secure a $4 million SBA 7(a) loan to build out the production facility and have working capital to support the ongoing growth.

The pandemic did slow the lending process down, Cristian said, but FSBDC’s help came at a critical time of need for the company and the FSBDC team was there for them throughout the pandemic. For example, the FSBDC at FIU team also helped Miami Foods secure COVID assistance in the form of a PPP loan and an EIDL, Cristian said.

The new factory, planned to open in February or March, will be four times the size of the current one, Miami Foods has a number of products registered with supermarkets that they haven’t been able to make because they didn’t have the capacity. Now they will have it. Cristian said they will also likely double the number of employees too. “I would say we will be doubling the sales in two or three years.”

Cristian believes the company may have to add a nearby warehouse and the company may also add a distribution center in Central Florida. But for now, Miami Foods is focused on getting the factory opened and as well as day-to-day struggles linked to the pandemic: supply chain pain. For example, shaved Coconut doubled in price and then disappeared, he said. Cristian has since been able to buy it again but it hasn’t been easy.

But with the new facility, modernized in every way for high quality baking and efficient logistics, Miami Foods will soon be primed for much more growth.


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