Cooking with My Doctor builds on local success to expand abroad
Puerto Rican cooking seasonings brand Cooking with my Doctor, in business since 2018, is building on the success of its product line in the local market to export to the first three US mainland states, where it will begin its growth beyond the island’s shores.
In an interview with News is my Business, Renzo Casillo, an experienced marketing, and food promotion executive who worked on the island for 23 years, confirmed that last year, the brand’s product line experienced a 313 % growth in sales compared to 2019 and a 90% market distribution rate. During the first half of 2021, the brand grew 70% compared to the same period in 2020.
He attributed the year-over-year growth to three main reasons: the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted people to cook at home, “which obviously means using more ingredients that you pick up at the grocery store;” the products were already well-positioned coming into the pandemic and were boosted by increased marketing efforts; and the “relevance of the concept.”
“Clients are better informed, and they understand the importance of eating healthy. When they find a product that has the flavor attributed created by a chef, combined with the nutritional attributes created by a doctor, that has has resonated spectacularly well with customers, so that has caused volume to triple,” said Casillo, who spent several years at the head of Walmart Puerto Rico’s operations.
His arrival at Cooking with my Doctor signals a return to the market where he had his beginnings as an entrepreneur. In 2019, Casillo started out supporting founding partners Chef Rafael Barrera and Dr. Ernesto Herger-Anadón, given his long friendship with them. At the end of 2020, he formally joined Cooking with my Doctor in his current role as partner.
“If the sales trend that we are seeing continues, we will end up with an increase of 26% to 30% versus 2020, without including additional sales from some new products that we will be launching this year,” Casillo commented.
The Cooking with my Doctor product line includes garlic paste, formulated with turmeric, cilantro, and parsley; cooking base (“sofrito”) with turmeric, sweet peppers, and cilantro; BBQ seasoning (“adobo”) with turmeric and moringa; all-purpose seasoning (“sazón”) with turmeric and moringa; and the Madagascar vanilla bean paste. The line is produced at manufacturing operations in Ponce and Juana Díaz, Casillo confirmed.
Cooking with my Doctor sources several of its ingredients from local farmers and works with distributor Caribbean Produce to get its products on supermarket shelves. Over the past 12 months, Cooking with my Doctor purchased 200 pounds of sweet peppers and about 100 pounds of cilantro and coriander (“recao”) from Puerto Rico farmers.
Currently, Casillo is working on an e-commerce and retail marketing strategy to expand the brand’s presence in several markets throughout the US, which is already underway in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut with brand presence at the Wegman’s supermarket chain.
“Looking ahead, we see the brand’s growth headed in two main directions: to continue creating new products that continue to provide taste and nutrition and explore new international markets,” he said.
That strategy also calls for expanding its online sales, which is currently achieves through Amazon, by establishing its own e-commerce channel, Casillo said.
“In the next six to eight months, we should have the capacity to go online. It’s more a logistical issue than it is technological,” he said, because ramping-up sales represents having enough products and people to process the orders.
The Cooking with my Doctor products line is available in 91% of supermarkets and food establishments in Puerto Rico, including Econo, FamCoop Freshmart, La Hacienda, Mr. Special, Plaza Loíza, Pueblo, Ralph’s, Selectos, Somos Plaza, SuperMax, Walmart and Sam’s Club.