- In July, Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue faced backlash from prominent Latinos over his praise of President Trump.
- Across the country, customers called for a boycott of Goya goods.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized the company, writing that she would make her own Adobo seasoning, rather than buying Goya’s, on Twitter.
- Meanwhile, many conservatives across the nation pledged to buy Goya, with Ivanka Trump and the president expressing their support for the brand.
- On a podcast published Monday, Unanue addressed the backlash, crediting the controversy with a spike in sales.
- “We never got to hand it to her, but she got employee of the month for bringing attention to Goya and our Adobo,” he said.
- Ocasio-Cortez denied formally calling for a boycott and attributed Goya’s increase in sales to pandemic panic-buying, as opposed to the press surrounding Unanue’s controversy.
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Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue called Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes “employee of the month” on a podcast Monday and claimed that the congresswoman’s criticism of the brand, following the executive’s positive comments about President Trump, had actually increased sales.
“We never got to hand it to her, but she got employee of the month for bringing attention to Goya and our Adobo,” Unanue said on “The Michael Berry Show” on Monday.
“When she boycotted us, our sales actually increased 1,000%,” Unanue said. “Our Adobo sales did very well after she said ‘make your own Adobo.'”
Ocasio-Cortez addressed the comments on Twitter Tuesday. In her statement, she denied formally leading a boycott and attributed Goya’s increase in sales to pandemic panic-buying, as opposed to the press surrounding Unanue’s controversy.
—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 8, 2020
There’s some evidence to support her claim. Early in the pandemic, Goya saw sales of canned goods like black and pinto beans quadruple, The New York Times reported. Unanue called the demand “a tsunami,” according to the Times. But while bean sales might be explained by pandemic-buying trends, independent of political motivations, there are fewer alternative explanations for the uptick in sales of Adobo, Goya’s signature spice blend.
The controversy begins
In July, Robert Unanue visited the White House to celebrate a new initiative aimed at improving opportunity for Hispanic Americans.
“We’re all truly blessed to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder. And that’s what my grandfather did. He came to the country to grow, to build, to prosper,” Unanue said at a press conference in July. Unanue’s grandfather Don Prudencio Unanue immigrated to the US and started Goya foods in 1936, according to the company. The brand now calls itself the largest Latino-owned business in the US.
Robert Unanue’s comment sparked backlash from multiple Latino public figures, including Housing Secretary and former presidential candidate Julian Castro, Tony-award-winning playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Goya Foods “has been a staple of so many Latino households for generations. Now their CEO, Bob Unanue, is praising a president who villainized and maliciously attacks Latinos for political gain. Americans should think twice before buying their products,” wrote Julian Castro in a tweet.
“Oh look, it’s the sound of me Googling ‘how to make your own Adobo,'” Ocasio-Cortez added.
Meanwhile, multiple prominent conservative public figures rallied behind Goya and pledged to buy it. Fox News personalities, Governor Mike Huckabee, Ivanka Trump, and the president himself came out in support. Sens. Tom Carper and Elizabeth Warren requested an ethics probe following Ivanka Trump’s photo, seeking to determine whether she had violated federal rules.
—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 15, 2020
Shortly following the backlash, Unanue told Fox News that he wasn’t sorry for his positive comment about the president, pointing out that he didn’t receive criticism for working with the Obama administration.
“You’re allowed to… praise one president,” he said. “I was called to be part of this commission to aid educational and economic prosperity… all of a sudden that’s not acceptable.”
Goya did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.