I want to publicly extend congratulations and thanks to Albuquerque-based Bueno Foods and the Baca family as they celebrate their 65th anniversary, a tremendous milestone for the family and a source of pride for New Mexicans.
Chile is a New Mexico food staple, and it was the inspiration of the band of Baca brothers who had just returned from World War II. The enterprising brothers started The Ace Food Store which, in addition to groceries, sold carry-out traditional New Mexican dishes. As more families adopted a new technology – the freezer – the brothers envisioned prolonging the enjoyment of each fall’s chile harvest from seasonal to year-round.
By 1951, the brothers founded Bueno Foods. In today’s digital world with smartphones and screens constantly before our eyes, it’s important to remember that in the early 1950s, there was no existing process or equipment to flame-roast green chile on an industrial scale. Resolved in their vision, the Baca family engineered the processes and fabricated the equipment, all in Albuquerque’s South Valley, where they are still headquartered today.
The brothers’ hunch was right about families’ desire for year-round chile, and within years, the rich culinary heritage of New Mexico chile permeated the state in local grocers’ frozen-foods aisles and restaurants, thanks to Bueno Foods. And now, at least 55 percent of Bueno Foods’ 150 gourmet-quality products are exported outside of New Mexico, which means new dollars flow into the state, making Bueno Foods a coveted economic-base employer. Bueno Foods is the poster child of economic development because, as Bueno products are exported, new dollars are “imported.” Those new dollars are plowed into the Albuquerque economy as Bueno Foods employees spend their paychecks and as the company pays its local vendors. Because Bueno Foods is a prime example of the type of company economic developers hope to recruit, ACI and our partners are committed to providing the tools and creating the environment to keep Bueno Foods in New Mexico. We must help keep labor costs low and keep overburdening regulations to a minimum.
Bueno Foods has many stakeholders, and we have seen Bueno Foods demonstrate over these six and a half decades that their employees are Priority One. During all of Bueno Foods’ 65 years, the factory and home office have operated in the Barelas Neighborhood in the South Valley of Albuquerque. The Bacas knew their business opportunity translated to a significant employment opportunity, and they chose their site because the brothers grew up in the South Valley and believed in giving back to their Barelas neighbors by offering them the hundreds of jobs they would create. In 1951, Bueno Foods started with five employees, but now, Bueno Foods employs 275 with a total of more than 400 during peak seasons. That means many thousands of families have benefited from well-paying jobs and many other opportunities that Bueno Foods provides its employees.
Bueno Foods is an exemplary employer, because it has voluntarily and diligently sought every way possible to elevate its employees, providing not just a better livelihood for its employees, but a better life. Employees have benefited from a 401k profit-sharing plan with company contribution; medical, dental, disability, and life insurance; holiday, vacation, illness, and bereavement pay; flex time; tuition reimbursement; and product discounts.
Just as impressive is the company’s ability to work with local farmers and chile producers. The effects on the regional economy ripple throughout the Southwest. Bueno Foods’ farmers are the first farmers to be New Mexico Chile Certified, which means that the certification seal on their products guarantees that those chile products are grown here in New Mexico, protecting our state’s most cherished food product. These purchases from area farmers for locally grown products demonstrate Bueno’s commitment to supporting secondary businesses and employment. Cultural preservation is a cornerstone of Bueno Foods.
And in order to preserve the cultural importance and authenticity of New Mexico chile, as well as its value as an economic driver to the state, Bueno Foods has worked tirelessly through the New Mexico Chile Association to protect New Mexico’s place as a world leader in chile production and processing.
Tonight, as you plan your dinner menu, remember to buy local when possible. Bueno Foods is a shining example of what it means to give back to the community in more ways than one. Over multiple generations, Bueno Foods has helped grow the middle class by providing well-paying jobs for many New Mexicans, as well as an exceptional product to millions.