Productos Kikuet (Kikuet) is a mid-sized manufacturing company in Puerto Rico, specializing in fresh and frozen foods for grocery retail. Enrique Mangual established the business in 1979 after experimenting with small scale production in his own kitchen. In 2015, he operates a large production facility as well as warehousing and stores in Puerto Rico. The business centers around high quality foods, delivering diverse products to customers in Puerto Rico and throughout the mainland United States.
Enrique began working when he was only 11 years old. Performing odd jobs near his home in Carolina, Enrique helped to bring in money for his family, including two disabled brothers. In his late teens, he got a job working for Junicorp, a local supermarket chain. The company’s leadership recognized his intelligence and capabilities and began training him for a management position. “At 18, I had the privilege of being able to buy produce for the market,” he recalls. “But I always wanted to sell products to supermarkets, own my own business as a merchant.”
After he got his own production off the ground, Enrique connected with a friend who showed interst in his products. This relationships resulted in the first commercial sale of Kikuet products. Over the years, the business has grown steadily. Enrique soon bought his own plant and worked tirelessly to ensure quality and safety in his production process.
As the business has grown, Enrique and his team have expanded the Kikuet product line as well. “We offer many different products which are sold fresh and frozen, such as potato stuffing, pizza patties, alcapurria (a fritter dish) and meat tacos. There is a wide variety and different sizes. We offer portions for supermarket retail and bigger products for cafeterias. We sell to Wal-Mart, we sell to all the chains in Puerto Rico and we are selling in the US by the wagon, in Miami, Orlando, New York, Connecticut, and different states. Our product has been well received in the US Mainland.
“Our products were selling so well and the US like them a lot that eventually, the people from General Mills and Pillsbury fell in love with the brand,” Enrique recounts. “They offered to buy my company. My wife said it was a good opportunity and they promised to build another plant in Luis Aldea. I said to myself that this is something that would benefit Puerto Rico and me. I sold the company. They had the company for three years. It didn’t do well so I bought it back. Now I am selling four times what I sold before I sold the company to them.”
Back under Enrique’s management, Kikuet is flourishing. The team is rooling out new products year after year and is currently working on a specialty product line for Diseney’s parks. “This is a very unique opportunity for us,” the business owner explains. “We are working together to become one of the suppliers for them. It is the first time that a company like ours will be selling Puerto Rican products in Disney’s parks. This is a huge point of pride for our company.“
A bright future
Despite a slow recovery from the economic downturn that rocked North America in 2008, Enrique says he is seeing steady growth. “Business has beef affected, but we have grown 10 percent in 2014 because I am exporting to the United States,” he explains. “Many companies have introduced foreign products to compete against ours but they haven’t being able to. Goya has a lot of presence in US but where we are at, but they don’t sell. It is there but people take Kikuet, they know the quality.
“It has been 7 years since we began selling in the US,” he continues. “It was a learning process, we started working with people who were not adequate and we had losses in the beginning. We started working with a people who were honest and a better fit and they started growing with us.” Now Enrique and his team are enjoying a stable ride. By maintaining a focus on quality and food safety, the business has kept a strong reputation that customers return for time and again.
While profitability is important, Enrique says more than anything, he is proud to have a successful company where he can provide work for his employees. With a staff of around 400 in Puerto Rico, his company is a strong point of cultivation for jobs in the region. The dedication of his team is building a success story for the territory while holding up Productos Kikuet as a strong example of quality and safety in the food manufacturing industry.