News and Trends Editor Diane Toops recently sat down with Bryce Ruiz, president and co-CEO, Ruiz Foods, Dinuba, Calif. to talk about business and the history of Ruiz Foods. The following is the transcript of their conversation:
FP: In 1964, your grandfather, Louis Ruiz, and your father, Fred, one of the icons in the food industry, laid the foundations for Ruiz Foods to provide authentic Mexican food to consumers in the U.S. Since then, Ruiz has become a multi-million dollar company, the largest food manufacturer of frozen Mexican food, with some 2,600 employees. Could you tell us about their original strategy for success?
BR: Wow … if you talked to my dad, I don’t think you’d hear him say they had a "strategy" back in 1964. I don’t think entrepreneurs have a strategy … even today. I think entrepreneurs inherently just create. They come up with an idea and they’re willing to work hard to see if their idea is good enough to be successful. I do believe dad and grandpa knew early on they had a good idea. My grandma did make incredibly good Mexican food and it was her recipes that they based their burritos, enchiladas and tamales on. But that doesn’t mean they thought it would be easy. In fact, my dad shares a great story of how one time, very early in Ruiz Foods, funds were short and dad didn’t know if they’d make payroll without having to borrow money. What was grandpa’s answer to the pending dilemma? “Well then, we just have to work harder.” For them there was no other option.
To use dad’s own words, their story – i.e. their strategy – is “a story of family and relationships – hard work and dedication – a belief in people and a caring attitude. It is a story of a company where every challenge is seen as an opportunity, and it is a story of trust, leadership, transition, generations and constant learning.”
FP: You and your sister Kim are the third generation to be involved in the company. What is your vision to grow the company, and what would you like your legacy to be?
BR: Our vision is to keep Ruiz Foods a family-owned and family-operated company that continues its legacy of making great food as it demonstrates our passion for making a difference.
FP: What is your management style?
BR: With the foundation of my grandfather – coupled by the building blocks of my dad – I work hard to make sure that each of our team members has a strong understanding of our goals. Kim and I both have a total commitment to the company and we are constantly asking ourselves “what can we do that will make a difference?” As important is the question “what can we do … together with our 2,600 team members … that will make a difference?”
In my position of leadership, I believe I am here to help each of our team members realize their own potential, focusing my energies to foster loyalty, integrity, trust and pride. I am also here to guide activities as they relate to customer satisfaction, quality, innovation and growth. I am here to motivate … and to delegate … to empower and to constantly ensure we are looking for new ways, new ideas, new approaches, new products and services that will benefit Ruiz Foods as a whole, each of our team members as individuals, and our customers and our consumers as well.
How do I accomplish this? By working hard … very hard … to know when to lead and when to step back. To always demonstrate confidence … quietly and with humility. To anticipate roadblocks and challenges and to understand that success takes careful planning. I will also work hard to support the practice that balances direction and control with support and openness as we keep lines of communication open, appreciate different points of view.
I have learned from my dad and my grandfather that it is our values that ground us. We have come to call these values “The Ruiz Way”: safety, integrity, respect, quality, innovation and teamwork. These six powerful words are our code … our promise … our way of approaching each day … the definition of who we are and where our roots have come from. “The Ruiz Way” keeps us focused. We’ll never take success for granted. We’ll always maintain a strong value system, hold each person accountable for his or her responsibilities and always encourage each Team Member to make a difference.
BR: I’m not sure if I would say food preferences change but I do think food preferences broaden … whether it’s the Latino population, the Italian population, the German population, etc. It’s human nature to try new foods, new tastes, new textures and new flavors. And, in most cases, people like what they try … want more and are willing and interested to try more … and so the cycle continues.
FP: What it is about your brands that make them connect with consumers, and are you developing products that help consumers put great meals on the table for an affordable price?
BR: I’m proud to say that from that first day in 1964, Ruiz Foods has been helping consumers put great meals on the table for an affordable price. Dad and grandpa Louis started with my grandma’s recipes for burritos, tamales and enchiladas – quality, authentic Mexican food for families who were also looking for value – in fact, several of our original El Monterey Burrito flavors remain among the top ten items in the frozen Mexican food category.