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Consumers are boycotting Goya, but will it work?

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Goya CEO Robert Unanue, left, praised Trump on Thursday, sparking a boycott of the brand.

Goya CEO Robert Unanue, left, praised Trump on Thursday, sparking a boycott of the brand. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

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Goya Foods manufactures all kinds of staples you’ll find in the pantries of Latinx and non-Latinx families, not only in the United States but throughout Latin America: adobo sauce, beans, olives, seasonings. It’s also the largest Hispanic-owned business in the country. Now it’s become the target of a boycott led by Latinx activists.

It all started with comments Goya’s CEO Robert Unanue made at the White House Thursday. 

“We’re all truly blessed to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder,” Unanue said.

The reaction? A boycott.

A couple of hashtags started trending: #Goyaway and #BoycottGoya. Wharton School marketing professor Americus Reed said while the boycott may hurt the brand’s image in the short term, in the long term “boycotts typically do not work.”

“Consumers are distracted by other things,” Reed said. “They have short memories, and if you look at what’s going on in a 24-hour news cycle, there is always another story that hits that will take a bit of oxygen away from that existing story.”

For a boycott like this to work, customers need choices. There are other brands — Conchita, Badia, Iberia — but stores have to carry them. Terry Esper, an Ohio State University supply chain expert, said if they don’t already, “it may be a touch more difficult kind of getting access to some of those competing brands, especially in a situation like this, where those supply chains are already pretty strapped because of just the way things are with COVID-19.”

The stores best positioned to stock the competing brands are big chains or smaller ethnic grocery stores, he said. That’s where Emily Pascual buys her groceries. She grew up with Goya products in New York City.  

“But the marketplace is competitive, and I think so many of us are happy to take our business elsewhere,” Pascual said.

And by us, she means her mom, abuela and tia. They had a group call last night and decided to stop buying Goya. 

The company didn’t respond to request for comment.

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