Food production is constantly increasing | Iconic stories

Despite the fact that most of what is consumed in Puerto Rico comes from other jurisdictions, an increasing number of local companies are involved in the production of beverages and food, said Anthony Cardona, director of the food and beverage sector at the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, in Spanish ).

It is estimated that there are about 400 food and beverage companies operating in the country, which means an increase of 12.5% ​​compared to last year, when about 350 companies operated.

According to the official, one of the sectors that showed the most growth this year was craft beer production.

“Of course, if you look ten years ago, maybe when you walked into the cooler of any store that sold craft beers, if they were selling 100 labels, maybe 99 were imported and one was local, which was the Old Harbor product back then. Today, the ratio is already 80/20 or 85/15, and the important thing is that the consumer has given priority to the consumption of local products and we see it,” Cardona explained.

According to the RickyCraftBier Instagram page dedicated to craft beer education in Puerto Rico, there are currently 23 craft breweries, which equates to one brewery for every 18.7 linear miles.

For Cardona, developing this industry is important to both the restaurant industry and the government because it is one of the highest revenue-generating sectors and could promote further incentives in the future.

“Another sector that we know has huge potential and that we are particularly interested in is the production of cocoa and chocolate. There were two cocoa farmers on the island who won second and third prizes among the top 50 cocoa in the world. “This… with the significant increase in cocoa prices around the world, puts us in an advantageous position in Puerto Rico,” the official said.

The cost of cocoa increased by 136% between July 2022 and February 2024, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) commodity price monitor.

The price per ton on the futures market exceeded $10,000 for the first time in history on March 26, and in April it reached a new record high of $10,771.

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Cardona’s perspective is consistent with what Hacienda Jeanmarie Chocolat founder Juan Echevarría said in a recent interview in which he described the global market situation as favorable for Puerto Rico’s nascent cocoa and chocolate industry.

He mentioned that Puerto Rico produces more cocoa. Vanilla, aromas are produced, among other crops, thanks to which chocolate products are distinguished by the content of 60-70% cocoa in their creation; and this opens the door to purchase and recognition internationally.


Recognizing that these emerging industries face operational challenges and costs, such as high electricity and water prices in the case of craft beer and labor in the case of the cocoa industry, the Director said the Department continues to push for economic incentives and assistance for these entrepreneurs.

“Typically in all food sectors we work on three basic elements, and now we have added other things. For example, we provide job creation incentives that can range from $700 to $1,500 per job, depending on the location in which they are located. and the average salary it pays. So it’s a one-time payment because it’s a monetary incentive,” Cardona said.

On the other hand, following the example of what is happening around the world in the food sectors, he explained that they encourage the automation of production processes.

“Thanks to this, they become much more efficient, productivity increases, and consequently, production costs begin to fall and their profit increases,” he emphasized.

On the other hand, he emphasized that last year an amendment to the regulation on marketing incentives was approved, which for a long time was limited to people engaged in exports.

Now, with this amendment, 50% of their annual marketing expenses are covered and they have 18 months to redeem them.

“When people visit stores like Costco, the products they use to hand out samples are the products that end up in customers’ shopping carts. We apply the same principle locally with this incentive,” he explained.

Promoting the creation of more companies

Cardona said this increase is a step in the right direction to eliminate food insecurity.

He explained that so far this year, the department has organized five workshops attended by over 300 participants. During the workshops, future entrepreneurs will learn the necessary steps to start their business, such as orientation in seller registration, uniform permit and procedures for obtaining a sanitary license. They also receive recommendations on how to start a factory business, purchase machinery, find suppliers and learn about types of packaging.

Workshops are expected to be announced in the coming months at the Humacao, Ponce and Mayagüez campuses of the University of Puerto Rico.