After a successful first phase of the Food and Beverage Incubation Project, in which more than 100 entrepreneurs attended workshops to become certified in their proper handling, the first six small and medium Puerto Rican companies have been chosen to move on to second phase of the project, aimed at developing and strengthening the industry on the island.
Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel A. Laboy, announced the selection, saying the project to develop manufacturing incubators started with a $215,000 investment announced earlier this year from the Special Economic Development Fund and the signing of a collaborative agreement with the Center for Innovation and Agroindustrial Technology, at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez.
The participants will now receive technical support and mentoring in food and beverage production at the Center, which will also provide the machinery and equipment needed for processing of products, said Laboy-Rivera.
The selected companies are: Caribbean Craft Foods, LLC (edible spoons), GFree Foods, LLC (gluten- and dairy-free, and vegan pastries), Negron Enterprises (natural flavored liquor), Mami Santi, LLC (rum cake), Cinnamon Roll Express and the Ñamero Products (peeled and vacuum-packed root vegetables).
Agreements have already been reached with Supermercados Econo, which will evaluate the products when they are ready to go to market with the intention of selling them at their supermarkets.
“We’re confident that this project, which has an estimated $2.4 million economic impact, will be a success to be repeated with other Puerto Rican companies next year and the next,” he said.
“Our goal is to get more business owners and entrepreneurs to develop, sell and export their products, following the best manufacturing practices and obtaining the due certifications that comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act,” he said.
“We need to support local industry and innovate, to achieve sustainable economic growth, including job creation and food security,”said Laboy-Rivera.
For his part, UPR President Jorge Haddock, said “this project demonstrates the essential contribution of the University of Puerto Rico to promote the island’s economic development and entrepreneurship and innovation.”
“Through this initiative, we expand the institution’s educational scope to impact the business sector, which benefits from the knowledge of Mayagüez Campus experts through training programs, technical support and incubation,” he said.
The Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company has some 148 food and beverage industries, which generate about 10,000 jobs. There are 51 other food and beverage projects that need support to develop, Laboy-Rivera said.
“This sector has great growth potential. Our intention is that it can eventually replace some of the imported products and, in turn, increase exports to the growing Hispanic population in the United States, and other countries,”he said.