Spice World Inc. had its modest beginnings in New Orleans when Andy Caneza borrowed $10 and set up shop as A&A Spice & Food Co. in his mother’s basement, making deliveries to local grocery stores.
Now the company calls Orlando its home and has evolved into a vertically integrated supplier of fresh and processed garlic and garlic products worldwide, said Louis Hymel, director of purchasing/marketing and a 46-year company veteran.
“I’ve watched how we’ve diversified the business to become vertically integrated and how we’ve diversified the business from a retail focus, which was our beginning, then we started our foodservice division,” he said. “And we also have an industrial segment where we sell garlic as an ingredient to some of the world’s biggest food manufacturers.”
Hymel, 61, credited Caneza with the foresight to diversify.
“He knew we had to be more than just repackers,” Hymel said. “We had to be suppliers and that’s why we started growing garlic out (in California). We needed to control it from seed to plate, especially in today’s food world.”
Spice World does source some garlic from Mexico, South America and China, following a seasonal cycle, but it still grows the bulk of the crop in California.
The company also built a processing facility in Coalinga, Calif., in 1990 to handle Western production and developed its own seed program to provide more control over the end product.
Mitch DiMarco, director of food service, has worked with Hymel for 15 years and said he has a “wealth of knowledge and experience.”
“He knows this thing from A to Z,” DiMarco said. “He grew up in this business as a teenager.”
DiMarco said Hymel has been instrumental in helping him grow the foodservice side of the business.
As food trends changed over the years, Spice World saw them as opportunities, Hymel said. One of the continuing vogues is convenience, which spawned the company’s diced and minced products.
“We’ve made it easier for consumers to use garlic,” he said, acknowledging that peeling an entire head of garlic is time-consuming. “Nobody seems to have extra time to do it, and because of that, it’s helped us create different products to meet their needs.”
Four years ago, the company made what Hymel described as the “bold move” and introduced a squeezable minced garlic. It followed with an organic version.
“That took garlic from an ingredient to a condiment, which people put right on top of their food tableside, whether it’s on a salad or pizza,” he said.