When Medley-based Quirch Foods, a large national and international distributor of fresh and frozen foods, learned that the storage freezer at one of its customers in Palm Beach County had broken down, company executives acted swiftly.
“We immediately sent them one of our refrigerated trucks and left it with them until their freezer was repaired,” said Frank Grande, president of family-owned Quirch Foods.
“It’s a small business, and without a freezer, they would have lost their frozen food inventory and a lot of money. If our customers do well, we do well,” said Grande, who joined Quirch (pronounced ‘keerch’ — it almost rhymes with ‘ear’) in 2007 as vice president of sales after a 21-year marketing career with Procter & Gamble.
This is one example of Quirch’s attitude toward its customers. Understanding their customers’ businesses, making sure the company meets their needs every day of the year and helping them to be successful are fundamental to Quirch’s business, he added.
“We are in the commodity food business, so it is a very competitive environment,” said Grande, who took over as president in September of this year. “At the end of the day, it’s a business where we make a penny or a quarter of a cent on products. Pricing is always changing and very volatile.
“We win if we are consistent 365 days a year and provide solutions to our customers’ problems,” he said.
Quirch competes with a variety of local and national food distributors in different market segments, including South Florida companies like Cheney Brothers, Associated Grocers of Florida and Southeast Wholesale Foods, as well as Houston-based Sysco Corp.
The company puts great emphasis on understanding each customer’s needs, working year-round to ensure that they can call in orders 24 hours a day, receive next-day delivery, be assured of special items they require and always receive quality products.
Quirch Foods was founded in Miami in 1967 and is owned by the Quirch family. (The name originally came from the Catalonia region of Spain.)
The company was founded by Guillermo Quirch Sr., an immigrant from Cuba, and his two sons, Eduardo and Guillermo II. It originally was called E&G Trading and was reincorporated as Quirch Foods Co. in 1997.
Guillermo Quirch Sr. managed a meatpacking and distribution company in Havana. As a result of the 1959 Cuban revolution, the family moved first to Puerto Rico, where they established a meat distribution company, Oriente Comercial, and then to Miami, where E&G Trading was started. E&G began with five employees and sold a few basic meat and seafood products to local businesses.
The modern company’s owners are Guillermo Quirch II and his three sons, Guillermo III, Ignacio and Mauricio. Aside from being owners, the sons are active managers of the company.
Quirch Foods today sells over 9,000 separate products to some 3,600 customers, including independent grocers, big retail chains like Publix and Walmart, food processors, wholesalers, food service companies, restaurants and hotels.
Quirch carries nationally known brands (like Tyson and Smithfield), food items for the Hispanic community and its own line of products, including Panamei frozen seafood, Quirch-branded Hispanic and Caribbean specialties, KirikiriQuirch fresh and frozen chicken, as well as frozen tropical foods co-branded with Chiquita. Among its beef products, Quirch offers premium Certified Angus Beef. At its headquarters in Medley, Quirch has a 180,000-square-foot warehouse for refrigerated and frozen products, and a 30,000-square-foot administrative building. About 300 of the company’s 535 employees work at the Medley site.
Quirch reaches customers throughout the Southeast from its headquarters and from additional warehouses and distribution centers in Orlando and Atlanta. It also has warehouse and distribution facilities in Chicago and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Working around the clock, Quirch’s warehouses receive fresh and frozen meat, poultry, seafood, produce and other products, then ship them to customers in the United States and overseas.
“We don’t make anything,” said Grande, who grew up in Miami and earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising and marketing at the University of Florida. “We are basically distributors of center-of-the-plate protein — beef, pork, poultry and seafood. We sell products that we import or purchase from companies in the U.S.”
Quirch also sells a wide range of frozen vegetables, snacks and side dishes; meats and cheese for deli departments; and other items such as packaged meats, cheeses, yogurt and tropical foods.
About 50 percent of Quirch’s business comes from sales in the U.S., and the remainder from exports to 51 countries, mostly in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
And as the U.S. has expanded its trade agreements, Quirch has explored new export opportunities.
Quirch has 140 trucks in its fleet and delivers products with these and another 30 owned by third parties, plus trucks from other transportation companies. The company also uses Helmsman Freight Solutions to help with its container shipments and transportation in foreign countries.
Grande explained that the company reaches customers in a variety of ways. National packers send products to its warehouses, and Quirch then delivers them by truck (to domestic clients) or loads them on ships (for customers in other countries). Quirch ships its products overseas via the ports in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville.
Quirch also sends its trucks to producers (meat or poultry plants, etc.) and delivers products directly to customers. For some buyers, Quirch purchases products from sources overseas and ships them directly to customers anywhere.
Finally, Quirch consolidates mixed-product shipments for customers, and some clients — including small businesses — can drive up to the warehouse to pick up a crate of frozen chickens.
Working with food means that Quirch has to turn around its inventory quickly — often in a few days or less — to avoid spoilage.
At the massive Medley warehouse, where meat products are stored in either chilled or frozen sections, employees work in shifts 24 hours a day receiving and checking new products, applying magnetic ID stickers to each unit, storing new arrivals and filling orders for the next day.
Fresh products are moved out as quickly as possible, and frozen items are rotated on a specified schedule.
“We deliver 6 1⁄2 days a week, including holidays,” Grande said. “For most customers, orders that come in today are delivered the next day. And we’re always available in case clients need products in an emergency. This is a 24/7 business.”
Quirch delivery trucks are loaded early in the morning and, as soon as they leave, a parade of trucks from suppliers moves into the warehouse loading docks to drop off products.
Quirch has a sophisticated system for aligning its dizzying array of inventory items with real and expected sales, Grande noted, to avoid any costly mismatch. “This system is critical,” he said. “Determining prices in a volatile market is essential. We have to buy at the right time, store the right volume of inventory and sell at the right time.”
The company employs a large staff of experts in food markets and purchasing (beef, pork products, poultry, seafood) and skilled salespeople who work closely with clients, understand their businesses and ensure that their needs are met.
Purchasing, sales and inventory data are fed into computers so executives, managers and employees in each department have up-to-date information.
A purchaser of beef and other meats at Quirch, for example, is an expert in the commodity, closely following market pricing and availability for hundreds of different cuts of domestic beef, lamb, veal and pork, as well as an array of imported cuts of goat, mutton, Mexican, Central American and Australian beef, and others. Quirch also has specialists for all its other products, as well as a sales staff of over 150.
Over the past 47 years, the Quirch family has built one of the country’s largest regional and international food distribution enterprises, ranking as a leading Hispanic business in the United States. By investing wisely and expanding into new markets, “Quirch has been able to log double-digit growth in dollar sales over the past five years, even during the Great Recession,” Grande said.
“The Quirch family invests a share of profits each year to expand the business, and this allows us to take risks,” he added. Investments have been aimed at new warehouse and distribution centers, new trucks and equipment, launching in-house brands and adding personnel.
For example, Quirch opened its facility in Chicago in January of 2014 and has 20 employees there. “This new facility now covers the Midwest, and we expect a lot of growth to come,” Grande said.
In fiscal year 2013, the company’s dollar sales grew by 11.5 percent, and in fiscal year 2014, they grew by 14 percent, the Quirch president noted.
While the company did not release its current annual sales in dollars, it is shooting for $1 billion in 2015, which indicates that Quirch likely has already reached a level in the high hundred-million-dollar range.
Now Quirch is looking down the road at the challenge of new growth and business opportunities.
“We’re not a small company, but we’re not huge, either,” Grande said. “How do we get to the next level while we maintain our culture? We should continue to do what we do really well.”
This includes focusing on selling their basic “center of the plate” proteins to an expanded customer base, developing and promoting Quirch’s proprietary brands, investing in information technology and in talented personnel, developing new domestic and international markets, and possibly, acquisitions.
“Expansion is always an option that we explore,” he added.
Quirch’s customers praise the company’s ability to understand their businesses and respond rapidly to their needs.
Western Beef has 28 high-volume, warehouse-style supermarkets offering low prices in New York, New Jersey and Florida, and Jim Carroll manages all three of the company’s Florida stores, located in Pembroke Pines, Boca Raton and Lake Worth.
“Our Western Beef stores have been buying from Quirch since 2008, and they supply us with beef products, pork, ribs, goat, lamb and other items,” said Carroll who has been working in the retail grocery business for 40 years. He said he began buying from Quirch “many years ago” when he opened several Bravo Supermarkets, which Quirch also supplies.
“They provide good quality, good customer relations, and they are great problem solvers. They understand retail grocery, and they get us the prices and quality we need, as well as specialty products for our customers,” said Carroll, whose stores pride themselves on “knowing the neighborhood.”
Broward Meat and Fish Co., which has two stores in Lauderdale Lakes and North Lauderdale, has worked with Quirch since 1991, when Ruben Lujo and his wife, Denise, started their family-owned business.
“We have a lot of Jamaican and Hispanic customers, and we specialize in meats, seafood and produce for the Caribbean and Hispanic communities,” said Ruben Lujo. “Quirch is one of our main suppliers, and they source the goat meat and oxtails we need for our customers.”
Aside from specialty items, Lujo’s stores buy fresh chicken and other products from Quirch. “They are very helpful,” Lujo said. “If I realize I need something at 8 o’clock at night, I call them and they make sure I get delivery the next day. They understand small businesses and what we need.”
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Quirch Foods Co.
Business: Quirch Foods distributes and exports a wide range of food products, with a focus on beef, pork, poultry and seafood. It carries over 9,000 individual products (stock keeping units, or SKUs) and sells to more than 3,600 customers throughout the U.S. and over 50 different countries, offering national brands, private-label Hispanic items and its own line of products. About 50 percent of Quirch’s sales come from the U.S., and the other 50 percent from exports.
Headquarters: 7600 NW 82nd Place, Medley.
Founded: In 1967 as E&G Trading in Miami and reincorporated as Quirch Foods in 1997.
Founders: Guillermo Quirch Sr., an immigrant from Cuba, and his two sons, Eduardo and GuillermoII
Owners: Guillermo Quirch II and his three sons: GuillermoIII, Ignacio and Mauricio.
President: Frank Grande.
Employees: 535 nationwide, about 300 in Medley.
Operations: Headquarters building (30,000 square feet) and an adjacent warehouse for refrigerated and frozen food in Medley (180,000 square feet), plus warehouses and distribution centers in Orlando, Atlanta, Chicago and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The company has a fleet of 140 Quirch-branded trucks and uses 30 others owned by third parties.
Revenues: Annual sales are now in the high hundreds of millions of dollars. The company’s goal is to reach around $1billion in sales by 2015.
Customers: Independent grocers, large food retailers (Walmart, Publix), food service distributors and wholesalers, food processing companies and restaurants.
Source: Quirch Foods