A Family Business selling meat to Hispanic grocers has become one of the largest food distributors in the U.S.
Quirch Foods might not be a household name, but you’ve probably bought its beef, pork, or fish at supermarket counters. And you may well have eaten its products when you dine at restaurants.
Since 2020, the Gables-based firm has more than doubled its business, thanks to two big acquisitions. Today, it handles more than 200,000 cases of fresh and frozen foods every day, operating two dozen warehouses in 10 states and Puerto Rico and deploying about 500 refrigerated trucks for deliveries. It employs roughly 1,700 people as far north as Oregon. “And we continue to grow,” says President and CEO Frank Grande, a company executive since 2007.
Quirch sells mainly “center-of-the-plate” proteins to independent grocers, national grocery chains, and foodservice companies that supply restaurants. It started out in 1967 as E&G Trading, named by its Cuban immigrant founder Guillermo Quirch for his sons, Eduardo and Guillermo Jr. Initially, it sold meat to Hispanic-owned shops around Miami, building on Guillermo’s experience in meatpacking in Havana.
Over time, the business expanded sales to supermarkets, and in 2015 upgraded corporate headquarters from a warehouse in Medley to the Bacardi building on Le Jeune Road, near the Gables homes of Quirch family members. By 2018, the family wanted to expand faster. So, it sold a majority interest to private-equity group Palladium Equity Partners of New York ($3 billion in assets under management). The new owners opted for acquisitions as a strategy to scale up. Their target: similar private- or family-owned food distributors elsewhere in the U.S., especially those with complementary product lines.
In May 2020, Quirch acquired Tennessee-based Butts Foods, adding four distribution centers in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. In October last year, it closed on an even bigger prize: Colorado Boxed Beef Co., adding 11 distribution centers in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Oregon.
Even with a larger team, Grande is keen to preserve Quirch’s family atmosphere and culture. The walls at corporate headquarters show photos of the founders and display value statements on fairness and integrity. A Quirch family member sits on the board, and Guillermo IV leads the beef department. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie and support for staff, including scholarships for first-generation college students.
Upheaval from Covid
To be sure, the coronavirus pandemic brought challenges. Some 30 percent of Quirch Foods’ sales were previously outside the continental U.S.; that business slumped, as cruises halted and lockdowns hurt shipments to markets in the Caribbean and Latin America. Still, Quirch saw sales soar to grocers and supermarkets in the U.S., with families cooking more at home. Even as restaurants get busier, Grande sees home-cooking staying popular, keeping its supermarket sales strong.
For now, Quirch is integrating the acquired companies. Grande figures Quirch will make only small “tuck-in” acquisitions through 2022, with a “transformational” one not likely before 2023. That strategy has bond rating company Moody’s Investor Service upbeat on Quirch. Moody’s says the company has good cash-flow and an attractive market niche serving Hispanic grocers in the fast-growing ethnic grocery segment. It cautions, however, against increased debt taken on for the 2020 acquisitions.
Such concerns are a long way from Guillermo Quirch’s days running a meatpacking business in Havana in the 1950s. The Quirches still marvel at their name gracing a company employing 180 in Coral Gables and more than 500 across South Florida. That tally is set to rise too, as Quirch Foods keeps growing.