ORLANDO, Fla. — The founder of a leading garlic shipper and marketer had never seen or eaten the vegetable when he started the operation that helped transform the way garlic was sold in the nation’s supermarkets.
Today, Andy Caneza’s company, Spice World Inc., sells millions of pounds of garlic and is celebrating its 60th year in business.
Caneza entered the garlic business in New Orleans in 1949 while a senior studying journalism at Loyola University New Orleans.
He started selling garlic to area mom-and-pop grocery stores between classes and when he wasn’t in school.
Andy Caneza, chief executive officer of Spice World Inc., Orlando, Fla., examines some fresh garlic being packed on the line in mid-September. The company is marking its 60th anniversary this year.
While visiting one of the Crescent City’s many corner grocery stores, he saw crude little bags of garlic broken into cloves setting on a table. The store’s owner suggested Caneza enter the garlic-supplying business.
After borrowing $10 from family, Caneza paid $10 for a sack of garlic. He soon changed vendors after finding he could buy garlic from that vendor’s supplier for $7.
Caneza then got in touch with grower Joseph Gubser of the Joseph Gubser Co., Gilroy, Calif., and bought a rail car full of garlic.
Working out of his mother’s basement, Caneza’s mailbox overflowed with orders. Soon, he would find himself selling garlic to up to 2,000 stores.
After years in the business, Caneza said he finds the business as difficult as ever.
“This is a very tough business,” he said. “The risk and reward on fresh just isn’t there. Garlic is very hard now.”
None of the people that were in business when Caneza entered the business remain in the deal, he said.
At 84 years of age, Caneza hasn’t seemed to have slowed down much. He still visits the office three times a week and says he doesn’t have any plans to lessen his involvement.
“He lives and sleeps the business,” said Louis Hymel III, director of purchasing and marketing, and a Caneza second cousin. “I have seen him with his iPhone in a restaurant at 11 o’clock at night talking the business.”
One of the things that helped drive Spice World’s garlic sales success was his frequent summer visits to retailers.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Caneza loaded his wife and five children in a station wagon and drove them to retailers.