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Food distributor Happy Products expanding to retail, abroad

Roberto Ponce, vice president of sale and marketing for Happy Products (far right) discusses the company's marketing strategy during a news conference Wednesday.

With 17 years of experience in producing and distributing highly nutritious food under its belt, Happy Products is now ready to expand beyond the island’s institutional market and into the retail sector and abroad, company officials said during a news conference Wednesday.

The native, family-owned business has made a name for itself with the federal government through its participation in the Women, Infant and Children’s nutritional program. Its line of products consists of mostly breakfast items, about 40 in total, including fruit juices, dry and hot cereals, milk, bread and tortillas, sold at “reasonable prices.”

Now, the company wants to compete with the likes of Kellogg’s and other familiar name brands that line the shelves at Walmart, Amigo, Walgreens, Selectos, Econo, Pueblo and independent chains, where Happy Products is already starting to sell its products.

“This launch represents a big challenge for us, but also a tremendous achievement for the local industry, as we have slowly been able to position ourselves with products from here, looking for our place in a very broad niche led by outside brands,” said Johny Valentín, president of Río Piedras-based Happy Products.

The Happy Products line should be available at 75 percent of island supermarkets by February or March, said Roberto Ponce, vice president of sale and marketing.

By breaking into the consumer market, Happy Products has set a goal for itself to grab 20 percent of the sector and become the first and only Puerto Rican firm to achieve that, Valentín said.

Ponce said the growth expectation goes beyond nailing down a strong market position, as the company is also seeking to increase sales by 30 percent during the first year and by as much as 50 percent during the second year. Happy Products generates some $6 million in annual sales.

Growing beyond island shores
That ambitious growth plan also depends on the success of its incursion into U.S. Hispanic markets through the federal nutrition programs, he said. That said, Happy Products has outlined a strategy to export products initially to Florida, Illinois and New York.

“Before the end of the quarter, we should be finalizing those distribution agreements,” Ponce said, noting that during a during a second phase Happy Products will move into Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

But the North American market is not the only place Happy Products is setting its zeroing-in on. The company’s plans call for starting to export to the Dominican Republic and Central and South America before year’s end.

“We’ve been working on strategic alliances with wholesale distributors in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia to begin exporting our products to those countries,” said Ponce.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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