Business Monday

IMUSA USA supplies cookware, small appliances to ethnic communities across country

Raul Corzo, president of Imusa USA, in front of a display of products at the corporate office in Doral on June 23, 2015.
Raul Corzo, president of Imusa USA, in front of a display of products at the corporate office in Doral on June 23, 2015. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

IMUSA USA, based in Doral, is the leading supplier of ethnic cookware and small kitchen appliances in the United States, selling about 1,500 individual products to retailers ranging from corner markets to giant chains such as Walmart and Macy’s.

“We specialize in catering to the different Hispanic communities in the U.S.,” said Raul Corzo, president of IMUSA USA, an executive with more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing and business. “But we’ve also gone beyond the large Hispanic population to reach Asian and other markets.”

Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians, Central Americans, Mexicans and other Hispanics here and in their home countries share tastes for some basic foods, he noted, but each national group also has its preferences for specific dishes — and specific cookware.

“Our largest U.S. markets are like a smile spreading through the southern part of the country — from the East coast, across the South and Southwest to California,” said Corzo.

The company makes sure it supplies the right products to the right markets. “We sell the panini press that Cuban-Americans use to make Cuban sandwiches and appliances for preparing Venezuelan arepas and for empanadas,” which are popular in Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, the Caribbean and other countries, said Corzo, who was born in Venezuela and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business and finance and an MBA from the University of Miami.

They also sell cast iron presses for making Mexican tortillas and a smaller press for making tostones and mashing garlic. The panini press also can be used to cook other hot sandwiches, like grilled ham and cheese (“jamón y queso planchado”), a popular dish in Venezuela.

In addition, IMUSA sells items that are used by cooks across all Hispanic cultures, like the “caldero,” a cast-aluminum Dutch oven that is the company’s biggest seller, pressure cookers, rice cookers, hand-powered juicers and coffee makers.

But not all Hispanics use the same type of coffee maker, the IMUSA executive pointed out. “Espresso makers are big sellers in Florida and other markets, but we can’t give them away in California,” said Corzo, who took over as IMUSA USA’s CEO in 2014. The Mexican-Americans there prefer filtered coffee.

IMUSA aluminum, stainless steel and plastic products, part of the company’s Global Kitchen line, are made all over the world and are shipped to IMUSA USA’s warehouses in Doral and California. About 30 percent (especially aluminum products) come from Colombia, while about 60 percent originate in Asia, 5 percent in Mexico and 1 percent in the U.S.

IMUSA USA was founded here in 2006 when Manny Gaunaurd, CEO and founder of The Gaunaurd Group, and Corzo partnered with Colombia-based IMUSA to distribute their products in the U.S. and Canada.

IMUSA was set up in Colombia in 1934 to manufacture aluminum cookware. The firm, whose name represents the initials for Industrias Metalúrgicas S.A., expanded into making other cookware and small appliances and sold its products throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The U.S. company became a subsidiary and offered Colombia-based IMUSA a chance to reach the growing Hispanic markets in the U.S.

In 2011, IMUSA was acquired by France’s Groupe SEB, a major international manufacturer of small domestic appliances and cookware. In addition to its SEB and IMUSA brands, Groupe SEB sells Mirro, WearEver, Moulinex, Krups, Tefal, All-Clad, Samurai and other lines.

Under SEB, IMUSA USA has continued to grow and expand, designing new products for markets in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

While much of IMUSA USA’s success is due to its ability to identify and serve different Hispanic communities all over the country, it also has grown by appealing to Asian communities (with lines of woks and other products), Italian-American cooks and “Anglo foodies,” who are interested in Latin and Asian dishes and look for products they can use to cook ethnic-style meals, Corzo said.

IMUSA’s line of colorful tortilla warmers and granite mortar and pestle sets for guacamole provide an added touch to Mexican-style meals and have become big sellers.

IMUSA USA also has teamed up with celebrity chefs Michelle Bernstein, George Duran and Aarón Sánchez to demonstrate Latin recipes and show how to prepare healthy and tasty Hispanic dishes.

IMUSA USA has 36 employees based here and uses its full-time sales staff and independent representatives to advance their product line throughout the U.S. and Canada. Parent company Groupe SEB has nearly 26,000 worldwide.

IMUSA’s biggest U.S. regional markets include Florida, New York, California, Illinois and Texas, and its push to expand has paid off. IMUSA sells its products to big national retailers like Walmart, Target, Kroger and Macy’s, as well as to small food stores and local Hispanic chains such as Sedano’s.

IMUSA USA’s dollar sales in 2014 were up 12 percent over the previous year, and are projected to increase by 15 percent in 2015, Corzo said.

Once major retailers became aware of how IMUSA’s products were growing in the U.S., they realized that their specialized line would attract new buyers. When IMUSA started selling in the U.S., its first customers were small, local markets in Hispanic neighborhoods. The big retailers eventually saw the appeal of IMUSA’s product lines, and began stocking them across the U.S.

“We began by appealing to Hispanic buyers in the U.S., introduced new products and broadened our market reach,” said Corzo.

“Now we’ve become a one-stop-shop for specialty products to ethnic markets.”

The writer can be reached at josephmannjr@gmail.com.

IMUSA USA

Business: IMUSA designs, produces and sells a wide variety of cookware and small kitchen appliances to retailers in Latin America, the United States and Canada ranging from corner markets to Walmart. The Miami-based subsidiary, IMUSA USA, markets and sells about 1,500 individual products in the U.S. and Canada tailored to the cooking needs and tastes of different Hispanic, Asian and other communities. IMUSA USA got its start in 2006, when two entrepreneurs, Manny Gaunaurd, CEO and founder of The Gaunaurd Group, and Raul Corzo, partnered with Colombia-based IMUSA to distribute their products in North America. In 2011, IMUSA was acquired by France’s Groupe SEB, a major international manufacturer of small domestic appliances and cookware. In addition to its SEB and IMUSA brands, Groupe SEB sells Mirro, WearEver, Moulinex, Krups, Tefal, All-Clad, Samurai and other lines.

IMUSA headquarters: Medellín, Colombia. IMUSA’s parent, Groupe SEB, is based in Écully, France.

Headquarters for the U.S. and Canada (IMUSA USA): 6000 NW 97th Ave., Doral.

Founded: IMUSA, whose original name was Industrias Metalúrgicas S.A., was established in Colombia in 1934 to make aluminum cookware.

IMUSA USA President: Raul A. Corzo

Employees: IMUSA USA has 36 employees, all based in Miami. Groupe SEB has nearly 26,000 worldwide.

Sales: IMUSA USA’s dollar sales in 2014 were up 12 percent over the previous year, and are projected to increase by 15 percent in 2015.

Ownership: Groupe SEB is publicly traded on the Euronext Paris exchange.

Website: www.imusausa.com

Source: IMUSA USA

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