Efraín Núñez Inc.
In 1979 Efraín Nuñez founded his first bakery supply business in Puerto Rico. The small company flourished and Nuñez took on a business partner in 1984. Five years later, he sold the rest of his share to start another company. In 1989 Nuñez founded Efraín Nuñez Inc. (ENI), a new venture, on a similar premise.
“We started out selling 50 to 60 products to small independent bakeries,” Nuñez recounts. “Eventually we were able to build up a better line of products to serve customers all over Puerto Rico. From smaller businesses we built up relationships with larger clients. We have become a broad line bakery distributor and now we cater to larger food manufacturers and grocery chains, as well.”
With a staff of 74 full-time employees, ENI operates from a single office in San Juan. The costs of shipping from the mainland United States to Puerto Rico are high, so the business also utilizes two consolidation warehouses in New Jersey and Florida in order to be more efficient.
Keeping costs down is a priority for ENI, as well as relationships. Nuñez and his team have established a longstanding partnership with Aqua Gulf Corporation, a logistics business that has assisted the company is managing costs to stay competitive. Through this partnership, ENI has built strong supplier relationships ensuring cost-control.
ENI sources shortening from Huberts Company in Canada and guava from Costa Rica, while other suppliers are based in the United States. The company has worked for many years with Puratos in New Jersey, sourcing improvers, emulsifiers, spices and other top-quality ingredients. The distributor purchases yeast from Lallemande through Baltimores’ American Yeast Sales Corporation.
ENI’s most relevant line has been the Pillsbury brand products, now part of the General Mills portfolio. Since 1989, Pillsbury has been the source of top quality products, providing cake mixes and frozen puff pastry dough, besides other items.
“I don’t like to shop around too much,” Nuñez says. “Peace of mind is important in this business. We maintain long relationships with companies. Honesty and performance are our deciding factors. We have been working with many of the same people for the lifetime of the company.”
Helping Businesses Work Smarter, Not Harder
Over the years, Nuñez and his team have brought many new and improved products into Puerto Rico. While ENI took risks by introducing these game-changing supplies, the gamble has paid off. Through innovation, ENI has been lightening the load on bakers all over the Commonwealth. Nuñez brought the first frozen pastry dough to bakeries in Puerto Rico.
“Nobody was using it,” he recalls. “People were afraid they would lose their jobs. We brought in 6,000 pounds of frozen dough and our customers began to see its value. It has become one of our largest product lines in the company.”
ENI has also made major impacts on the way these materials are delivered. For the first 10 years the company was in business, bakers in Puerto Rico were only able to order flour in 100-pound sacks. “You need two people to lift that,” Nuñez explains. “People can get hurt moving that kind of weight around. We started bringing in 50-pound bags of flour, sold at the same unit price per pound, so our customers did not pay anything for the facility of smaller bags. This improvement has saved our customers high costs of insurance for injuries and accidents. There is less physical stress on employees. We have applied the same basic concept to pie fillings, offering smaller containers that are easier to open. This strategy was emulated by our competitors, and now, it is the norm.”
Innovative thinking and dedicated team members have kept the business growing. While the recession did have an impact on ENI’s business, the crew managed to turn the situation to its advantage. “Instead of downsizing our portfolio of services, we are stepping it up,” Nuñez explains. “We can’t sit around and wait for the market to improve. We have brought on additional staff to offer better service to our customers.”
On top of increasing staff, Nuñez is working hard to make the business operate more efficiently internally. The company has invested in new software to support an improved purchasing system that the company is rolling out in 2014. Nuñez has high expectations for the economic recovery and says he looks forward to growth in the coming year.
“We keep close watch on our numbers,” he says. “It is our policy to be honest with our employees. We keep them informed about what is going on in the company, good or bad, and we have seen a really positive result within our workforce. We are a family-oriented company and we put the success of our employees and their families at the forefront.”
Nuñez is proud to say that ENI’s greatest qualities are commitment and honesty. “Our staff puts in an honest day’s work every day,” he continues. “My sales team knows we cannot count on our competitors’ failures to put us ahead.”
As the company continues to flourish, these values remain the driving force behind ENI’s success. In the years ahead, Nuñez wants to continue to lead a service-oriented business. Efraín Nuñez Inc. values customers, large and small, and will continue to support major grocers and independent bakeries with a strong line of products and services.
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