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If you’re true to your roots, you probably cringe at the so-called authentic foods you might find in the international aisle of the supermarket. Admittedly, some cultures have it worse than others. For most parts of the country, genuine Latin American fare is hard to come by.
Cociel – a startup coming out of Babson – is stepping in and helping local food producers in Latin America bring their specialty goods to international soil. It boosts their businesses, while also benefiting us, the ones who get to devour these imported foods.
Goya doesn’t cut it
Co-Founders, Diego Pacheco and Andres Valencia, are currently in Costa Rica and Colombia for the holidays, and it was clear that they aren’t pleased with the selection of Latin American goods that grocery stores have to offer. That’s a large part of why they’re trying to make authentic products available to American consumers.
“The reality is, we have observed that there are no real Latin American products here in the U.S.,” said Valencia. “The only brand available is Goya, which is very poor quality. It’s not fair that that brand represents what Latin America means. It’s not a true reflection of our products and culture.”
Pacheco’s father had run a business with a similar premise to that of Cociel 15 years ago. So Valencia and Pacheco decided to revamp that venture – just bringing it into the modern age and introducing technological advancements to create a better experience for producers and consumers alike.
“We like to say that Cociel is the intersection of technology, food and experience,” Pacheco told me.
“It’s not just about a magical taste experience,” he continued. “It’s also a visual experience in virtual reality. We’re trying to connect consumers with where our producers are, like they’re traveling and seeing where their food is made.”
Starting with hot sauce
Cociel launched its first line of products two weeks ago, and it consists of different types of hot sauce. In that time, they’ve sold almost half of the 700 bottles they’ve purchased from Latin America.
After they see how the hot sauces – picked because it’s a trendy product in the U.S. – they’ll be launching lines of other products that they find in their Latin American travels. Within the next few months, Cociel also plans to introduce a subscription option, allowing them to see how people respond to different products by letting customers try an assortment of gourmet foods.
“We want to help producers in Latin America reach the consumers here,” Valencia explained. “They’re hard-working and having an impact in their local community, but they don’t know the language or the market to bring their products to the U.S. We’re going to help them and let people here share the joys of real Latin American flavors.”
Image via Diego Pachecho.