Kind founder Daniel Lubetzky teams up to create authentic Mexican food
Kind founder Daniel Lubetzky is joining forces with two former executives from the snack brand to launch a Mexican food company based on the food they ate growing up.
Somos (which means “We are” in Spanish) is now taking wholesale orders from retailers and grocery stores. It expects that the company’s range of beans, rice, salsas and chips will hit shelves around January. On Tuesday, the company’s online store began selling chips and salsas.
To create Somos, Lubetzky teamed up with Miguel Leal (kind’s former chief market officer) and Rodrigo Zuloaga (former head of product innovation), to form Lubetzky. Leal, who serves as the CEO of Somos, previously worked for such food companies as Cholula, Danone, Diamond Foods and PepsiCo’s Frito Lay. The three Mexican-born men are all natives.
Somos doesn’t contain any meats, gluten, or genetically modified foods, following Kind’s lead. Lubetzky created the snack company, claiming its bars are healthier than other brands. In a deal valued at around $5 billion, Mars Snickers bought Kind North America last year. Lubetzky, who still chairs the executive committee of Kind North America, retained a minority stake.
Leal explained that “we’re always shocked at the lack in authenticity in Mexican food.” “Most of the food that exists in [consumer packaged goods] is Cal-Mex or Tex-Mex, not the food that we grew up with. There was an opportunity for ingredients, methods, authentic Mexican food, made in Mexico and cooked by Mexicans, to be brought into the marketplace.
Lubetzky shared that Leal and Lubetzky used to joke about how different their Mexican childhood food was from American Mexican cuisine.
“Here, America, they put that yellow shredded cheese in Mexican cuisine,” he stated. In Mexico it is fresh white cheese.
Lubetzky says that American restaurants are “15-20 years ahead” of what is available in grocery stores. He believes these shelves have been stuck in the 1970s. According to food service research firm CHD Expert, around 65,000 restaurants — or 7% of all U.S. restaurants — are dedicated to Mexican cuisine, as of 2020.
Jeffrey Pilcher of University of Toronto’s food historian, says that American consumers began eating Mexican food seriously in 19th-century when railroads brought tourists to the Southwest. Chicago meatpackers started making chili, and then selling it in canned form. The American food became a staple. Glen Bell, a founder of Taco Bell, made tacos his main focus. This opened the door for Old El Paso and other food companies to sell their Tex-Mex foods in grocery stores across America.
Somos wants to be a brand that does not sell Americanized Mexican food, but rather uses traditional cooking methods to attract customers and make better tasting options. Leal explained that the company uses fire roasting to make salsas and stone-grind its corn, while slow-cooking beans. Somos has also stopped nixtamalizing corn. This is a method that cooks dried corn in alkaline solutions to enhance its taste and nutritional value.
Daniel Lubetzky is the founder and CEO of Kind. He spoke at CNBC’s iConic Conference, Boston.
David A. Grogan – CNBC Lubetzky stated that it is just as different than the tortilla chips found in aisle nine.| CNBC
“It’s just different from the different tortilla chips that you see in aisle nine,” said Lubetzky.
The co-founders at Somos compare Somos to Mexican food brands, such as those that sell seasoning and taco kits. General Mills owns Old El Paso, Ortega is part of B&G Foods and ConAgra Foods bought Frontera Foods several years ago. Chi-Chi’s is a joint venture between Hormel Foods and Mexico-based Herdez Del Fuerte. Even Leal’s former employer Cholula is owned by McCormick, which also sells taco seasoning kits.
It is not surprising that most American supermarkets now carry Mexican-American brands, as well as smaller and regional brands. Cacique was established by Mexican immigrants in 1973. It has grown to be the biggest fresh cheese producer in America.
Many large U.S. food brands are still pondering the question of authentic Mexican food. Pilcher claimed that he has been employed by big food companies as a consultant in order to make “more authentic” Mexican foods, but that nothing ever came out of this.
Pilcher said, “I believe they were trying decide whether or not it was worth marketing to the immigrant community that was becoming more prominent at that time.”
Gustavo Arellano is the author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America and a Los Angeles Times columnist. He says that Mexican food has become a multibillion-dollar industry because people want authentic Mexican food.
He said that Americans have eaten Mexican food for as long as it has been available in America. They then demand something more authentic.
Somos wants to offer authentic Mexican cuisine to Americans and get a piece of the pie.
Leal stated that while many people cook with these ingredients they want authenticity and stories.