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A Goya boycott has people sharing alternatives for adobo, sazón, and more pantry staples

Activists called for the boycott after the company's CEO heaped praise on President Trump at the White House

Displays of Goya Foods products at the corporate headquarters in Jersey City, N.J. Goya Foods is facing a backlash after its CEO, Robert Unanue, praised President Trump at White House event recently.
Displays of Goya Foods products at the corporate headquarters in Jersey City, N.J. Goya Foods is facing a backlash after its CEO, Robert Unanue, praised President Trump at White House event recently.Mel Evans/Associated Press

For many Americans, a pantry without Goya products is difficult to imagine. The company’s packets of sazón — spice and seasoning blends combining flavors such as garlic, cilantro, annatto — and shakers of adobo are many home cooks’ secret ingredient. Its cans of black beans are a staple.

But now, some are seeking out alternatives to the widely available brand after activists called for a boycott of Goya following an appearance in the White House Rose Garden by the company’s CEO, Robert Unanue, in which the executive heaped praise on President Trump.

"We're all truly blessed, at the same time, to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder, and that's what my grandfather did," Unanue said at the event in which Trump signed an executive order launching a Hispanic "prosperity initiative." And with those words, which quickly permeated social media like strands of saffron into a broth, a boycott was born.

Even after the backlash threatened his business, Unanue did not disavow his words. In an appearance on Fox News's "Fox & Friends" Friday, he noted that he had said positive things about President Barack Obama and had worked with former first lady Michelle Obama and called the boycott "suppression of speech."

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“So you’re allowed to talk good or to praise one president, but you’re not allowed to aid in economic and educational prosperity?” he said. “And you make a positive comment — all of a sudden, it’s not acceptable.”

Many food-related boycotts aren’t so challenging for consumers to adhere to: When people avoided Papa John’s after its owner blamed Black National Football League players’ protests for a dip in sales, they could just call Pizza Hut. Those snubbing Chick-fil-A after its CEO’s comments against same-sex marriage in 2012 could easily go elsewhere.

A pantry without Goya, reportedly the country’s largest producer of Hispanic foods, is difficult for some to contemplate. The company’s products are widely available, and until the controversy, they inspired a lot of brand loyalty. But soon after the Goya backlash began, people started sharing ideas and alternatives.

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One activist asked her followers on Twitter to post their own bean recipes.

"Goya can't insult us & still get our business. Almost all us immigrants have used Goya at least once before.

"But our ancestors & our families made their own beans and juices before Goya! #BoycottGoya& drop all y'alls best homemade bean recipes below!!"

- Juanita La Takuachita (@JuanitaRoars) July 10, 2020

People suggested other brands, such as La Preferida adobos and Badia sazón — but others noted that Badia’s owner appears to be a Republican donor.

"Most ppl reacting negatively to Goya are recommending switching to Badia.

"Wait until they find out they 'can't eat' Badia either."

- Abraham D (@Abraham_D_) July 10, 2020

Still others offered up family recipes.

"my grandmother's adobo recipe and an alternative if you're lazy lol"

- s (@nostalgicuItra) July 9, 2020

And Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, indicated that she would be doing some more home cooking. “Oh look, it’s the sound of me Googling ‘how to make your own Adobo’ “ she tweeted, along with a clip of Unanue’s White House remarks.

Many people supported the idea of shopping instead from smaller and other Hispanic-owned businesses, circulating lists of purveyors. Seattle chef Eric Rivera, who owns the buzzy Addo, promoted his own line of seasonings, offering people a discount code for the boycott. “I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life,” he tweeted. “I make sazón and I’m not a Trump supporter. If you support Goya you support Trump.”

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