Commit or quit. Innovate or exit. Grow or go. The leaders of Dulzura Borincana chose to commit, innovate, and grow.
In 1998, Carlos Rivera took over a small family company originally founded by his dad in 1985. And right from the start, he had growth in mind. The first decision he made was to transfer operations to a larger location in Moca and call the company Dulzura Borincana. With a new vision for Puerto Rican fruit and seed snacks, he and his wife, who shared his passion for entrepreneurship, then started to invest in machinery and technology to increase production volume.
Their entrepreneurial journey was not without adversity, but the couple used it as a platform for innovation and growth. As product demand went up and new challenges emerged, instead of following conventional methods, they explored new production techniques, invested in modern machinery, improved their product, and set their eyes beyond the horizon.
At first it was difficult to increase production because there was no equipment available that fit the company’s particular needs. But Rivera used his engineering skills to modify machinery to run the company’s unique manufacturing processes. This innovative act made it possible for Dulzura Borincana to boost production and eventually expand to other markets.
Today, the company operates out of a 50,000 square-foot facility and exports 25% of its production through more than 4,000 points of sales abroad. You can find Dulzura Borincana’s tropical snacks in 40 U.S. states — through mega retail chains Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, Burlington, Ross and, most recently, Walmart — and in international markets such as Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Aruba, St. Thomas, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahamas, and Jamaica.
“Innovation has been essential to our growth,” said Carmen Ríos, vice president of Dulzura Borincana and Rivera’s wife. “The most important thing is to ask yourself what problem you are solving, implement solutions that are innovative and that satisfy a real need, and follow your passion.”
Another critical element of the company’s success has been its adaptability. For 25 years, the Dulzura Borincana has adapted to a variety of market changes by launching new products, adding new flavors, and redesigning its packaging to cater to various consumer markets.
“One of Dulzura’s strengths is the ability to react very quickly to market trends and adjust to consumer and market needs,” Ríos said.
The company has product formats and solutions for different types of stores; it offers options such as mini portions and vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO snacks; and is in the process of developing low-carb and low-sugar snack bars.
“All of which is in line with current market trends,” she said.
In addition to a relentless commitment to growth, innovation and adaptability, a sound leadership philosophy and sound core values have helped the company overcome obstacles and thrive. The leaders are strong believers in having a clear vision, acting with integrity, showing empathy, and keeping communication open and transparent with their team, suppliers, and customers.
“We empower our team to maximize their potential,” Ríos said. “We help them see how their work is aligned with their personal values and aspirations and how it contributes to a larger purpose, which gives them a stronger sense of meaning and motivation. Above all, we demonstrate passion and enthusiasm for the work we do and the vision that we share.”
Earlier this year, the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution (MIDA, in Spanish), recognized Dulzura Borincana with a Manufacturer of the Year and 25-Year Trajectory Award. But this local maker of sweet things is just getting started.
“Our goal is to continue spreading our ‘dulzura’ to the world, to let them know the great products that are made on our island, to be ambassadors, to open the doors to other companies for export,” Ríos said. “If Puerto Rico consumes what the world produces, why can’t the world consume what Puerto Rico produces?”