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Casa Herrera Inc.: Cutting Edge Technology for Ethnic Food Perfection
Ron Meade joined Casa Herrera Inc.’s ranks about 16 years ago, and he now serves as the company’s CEO. The Pomona, Calif.-based company manufactures equipment that makes corn and flour tortilla and related products and distributes them worldwide, and during Meade’s time with the company he has watched it build substantially on its already stellar reputation. The company was originally founded in 1951 by Frank L. Herrera. “We’re well into the second generation of ownership here, and the third generation is coming on board right now,” says Meade. “We’re in the top three companies of the industry; we’re larger on the corn side of the business than in flour, but overall we’re in the top three.” Set Apart According to Meade, Casa Herrera has become such a successful company in the industry thanks to its products’ durability. “It’s bulletproof and lasts forever; I’ve got equipment out there we built in the early ʹ80s that’s running just as well as the day it was installed,” he says. In total, Casa Herrera’s products make corn and flour tortillas, corn and tortilla chips, tostadas, taco shells, quesadillas, burritos, pita bread, pizzas, arepas, chapattis and other ethnic food products. Casa Herrera distributes the Odyssey line of ovens, Automated Flour lines and Vision systems. In addition to its products, the company also offers on-site maintenance, technical support and replacement parts including the sourcing and fabrication required. “I can tell you a national brand of tortilla chips is one of our largest customers and we deal with them worldwide,” Meade offers. The company’s approximate 130 (and growing) employees are all dedicated to using cutting-edge technology in their facility. “We are utilizing some of the latest and greatest, as far as controlled systems are concerned. We’re the first ones to have installed a complete line of this computer system that’s almost a marriage between a PC and a [programmable logic controller],” Meade explains. “It’s the AutomationDirect system [from Quantum Automation] we’ve implemented, and it’s done an excellent job for us. We really like those guys, they support us well.” Beyond the installation of this system, Casa Herrera keeps most of its tasks in-house. “We’re building it all, bringing in raw materials on the backside; the only things we buy is controls,” says Meade. The company’s raw materials are mostly metals, specifically stainless steel. And its suppliers have been “a stable group through the years,” says Meade. Also, delivering its products around the world is not a challenge for Casa Herrera. “Typically it’s by truck, some of the other times we sent it oversea by boat, and we’ve even flown some,” Meade shares. “But we have all the systems in place we need.” Taking Stock of Opportunities While distribution is not a problem, Casa Herrera has faced some challenges of late. “It slowed down a little for about a six-month period until everyone really got their feet on the ground and recognized that even as people are giving up the ‘night out,’ if you will, they are focusing on the comfort foods and business is actually picking up some. So it hasn’t really been a shock for us; we have been fortunate and kept the process moving,” Meade explains. With consistent business taking place, Casa Herrera is not preparing for any major projects or changes. “We purchase new equipment here and there, but for the most part we’re pretty stable. We moved into our current facility in 1995 and we’re in a little over 100,000 square feet, which is plenty to suit us,” Meade says. With business progressing steadily, Meade spends his time “just thinking about possibilities and potential, there are a lot of opportunities here,” he says. “From my perspective the food business is continuing. It slowed down slightly, but it seems to be coming back very strong right now.” With these thoughts in mind, Meade is making plans for the future of Casa Herrera. “We are looking at some diversification, an opportunity to branch into other fields we haven’t tapped into yet. But for the most part we’re going to focus on the core of the business; it’s what got us here and we want to make sure we take good care of it,” he says. With its reputation for quality products and Meade’s optimistic view of the industry, Casa Herrera Inc. will continue as a market leader, using its cutting-edge technology partners and proven industry expertise to help coordinate and perfect future business changes.