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Crackling the pork rind industry

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After 30 years as a top executive at PepsiCo, José Luis Prado has high hopes for Evans Food, a global leader in pork rind production, whose rapid growth of $250 million in sales in just three years. He’s the New King of “Chicharron”.

By Flavia Rodríguez and the Editor in Chief

  In an interview with Negocios Now the Mexican born engineer, who has served as President of Quaker Oats North America with PepsiCo, explains some key strategies of his plan to position pork rinds as the renewed American snack.

  Since April 2016, Prado has served as Chairman and CEO of Evans Foods Group, the world leader in pork rinds, based in Chicago. Wind Point Partners is the parent company of Evans Foods where Jose Luis is also a co-investor.

To date, Evans Foods Group has doubled in and in the next three years, it plans to surpass the $250 million dollars mark in sales.

  Prado says, “What has made the pork rinds grow more than any other snack is the consumer’s insights, innovation, and the execution of new actions targeting our consumers.”.

  Prado’s extensive business acumen was acquired within the three decades of successful management at Quaker Oats, and Frito Lay International of PepsiCo, a career he began in Mexico City. That career spanned within six countries in Latin America and Europe, before his retirement in 2014.

“I come from a family that was poor in money but rich in love,” he said Prado. “I was the first to graduate from high school and college within the family,” which opened the way for new generations to follow in his footsteps. “Recently I went to my nephew’s graduation who received a Doctorate in Robotics, in Germany!”

  For now, Prado focuses solely on the snack industry and his entry into the pork rinds market.  A market which developed via his friendship with Alejandro Silva, the former owner of Evans Foods, who was known as the original “King of Chicharrón”.

  Silva, aware of his friend’s interest in acquiring a business with a private investment company, courted Silva to make him an offer for the business. “We were friends, I knew he wanted to sell and I wanted to invest,” Prado says of his entry into the world of pork rinds. “I was introduced to his partners, then the purchase was completed within six months. Now he is a member of the board of the company, and I have all of his experience in the pork rind industry. And, more important, we remain friends!”

  Despite the positive forecast, the company that Prado acquired was very focused on manufacturing, quality, service, and competitive prices, but still needed work in the sales and marketing divisions. It was then that Prado, the newly crowned King of Chicharrón, recruited a group of top-level executives, with a minimum of 25 years of experience in the industry.

  That action was the first step in a strategy to accelerate growth and strengthen the position in a market that Evans Food already led. “We took advantage of the great platform that Evans had of manufacturing and we are dedicated to moving to commercial sales”.

  However, no new venture comes without its share of surprises. “I thought I knew all about pork rinds.” says Prado, “I grew up in Mexico, where they have a huge presence. Mexicans love pork rinds and I was surprised to discover that in the United States, African Americans also love pork rinds and prefer them even more than Latinos. ” One other surprise was that there were no large bags of pork rinds in the market, limiting the social consumption of the product”

  Insight obtained from the Business Development Index (BDI) shows the degree of preference of the population sectors. It states that the BDI is 250 for Afro-descendants, secondly Latinos with 150, Asians 110, and Caucasians only 50.

  Studies gave Prado even more valuable information. For example, the emerging interest of millennials to consume pork rinds as a nutritional option. These studies state that consumers are quickly discovering that chicharrón is a snack that is rich in protein, contains zero carbohydrates and is gluten-free. The pork rinds also contain 65% of healthy oils that comes from pork and it is considered an ideal food option for those who seek a change in their nutrition and diet.

  Prado also says, “Chicharrón is a snack that is being discovered by new consumers who are looking for a healthier lifestyle, by both boomers and millennials. That means that pork rinds have a good present and above all, a great future.”

  Building on the insights Evans launched several waves of innovative products including larger bags, introduced new flavors and product mixes and is looking to introduce a new line of cracklins. Evans Foods has quickly become the leaders in the chicharrón industry.

  While Evans Food has a predominant presence in Latin America, Mexico is its largest international market and Evans will continue on its plan to grow and dominate the world of pork rinds.

  Prado concludes: “We believe we have a great growth path ahead of us. We are happy that we could demonstrate that the pigs can fly and that the pork rinds can be a great addition to a healthy lifestyle. As we reinforce our innovation, distribution and our point of sale execution our future is very promising.”