Tell us about yourself! What’s your origin story?
I was born in Brooklyn, New York and I come from generations of artists, businessmen & chefs. By the time I was 4 years old, I already had professional TV & stage credits as a child actor.
Both sides of my grandparents owned restaurants, supermarkets, delis, and commissary facilities. So, I found myself always around food & business. Growing up in South Brooklyn was an education in itself. Living in the toughest neighborhood in the 1970’s led me into the boxing ring at the age of 13. I worked various jobs in and out of food and was inspired by the many different cultures & foods found in my neighborhood. At IBM, I invented the Dip Module counting scale and was rewarded generously for my invention. After that, I headed back into the kitchen and finally knew it was my calling to become a chef. I spent over 16 years in the hotel industry and then entered the world of food manufacturing, where I became recognized as an expert.
What was the shift into manufacturing like?
It was a good move for me because I had a skill set many did not have in the manufacturing world.
My rare skill set allowed me to climb to the top of the industry and allowed me to start my own company. Realizing there was a need for services in the co-packing world, my company Ricardo Food Group was formed to fill a void in the co-manufacturing, co-packing and private label manufacturing marketplaces. By providing focused solutions, quality, efficiency, and the appropriate direction to our clients, Ricardo Food Group became one of the first advisory consulting firms to specialize in the co-manufacturing, co-packing & private label through the eyes of manufacturing experts.
What are some causes you are passionate about?
I am a proud board member of the non-profit Luv Michael Bakery founded by Doctor Lisa A. Liberatore; this bakery is committed to creating and providing meaningful culinary jobs to the autistic population. We train, educate, and employ individuals on the autism spectrum at Luv Michael, and the profits from Luv Michael aid in the growth of our business and allow us to develop new training modules for our employees. We have a great team – Kim Diaz heads Operations and Master Chef Nickie oversees bakery production. It’s a joy for me whenever I get a chance to work with everyone in the kitchen there; we have a lot of fun for a good cause.
What is your favorite part of running your own company and helping entrepreneurs create their own products?
My favorite part is not taking crap from anyone. I only want to work with people who are serious and mean business. We have no time for games. When I go to sleep, I want to wake up happy to continue working on your business. If I cannot feel that, then we should reconsider our working relationship. There is a greater sense of pride and independence when you are in business. It’s a great accomplishment to say “these are my companies” and “these are my business partners” and so on.
Where do you see the alternative protein space going in the next 10 years? What changes are occurring in the food industry?
In 10 years, every single restaurant, food establishment, food service company, airline, catering facility, and franchise will have at least 35 % to 40 % plant-based products in their portfolio. Even an ice cream truck coming down a city street will have at least 35 % of their options be plant-based. Supermarkets and convenience stores will hit it big with whole aisles dedicated to plant-based lines. In 25 years, it will not be a choice; it will be your only option in many places.
What are some cool trends and new opportunities you have noticed through your work?
The ability to test your brand quickly through online platforms is incredibly helpful and everyone should utilize this format. You can find out so much so fast about your product testing online before you go into CPG, which gives you many new opportunities. If you create a costing sales history chart and monitor the activities just from a few online platforms selling your product line, you can find out important metrics that will help make your CPG line successful. This method will teach you the do’s & don’ts for your product and business.
What are you reading these days?
I have read hundreds of cookbooks over the years, but what I truly enjoy reading are screenplays. It’s one thing to see the movie, but when you read the script it was made from, it’s a whole other experience and way to see it. Right now, I am reading Tales of Manhattan, which was written in 1941 and made into a film in 1942. It’s a must-see movie and I recommend it to all entrepreneurs. It’s a great lesson about people and how we misjudge each other.
Any advice or words of wisdom for early stage entrepreneurs?
- Stop procrastinating, get up, and make it happen. I had no business plan, money, or clue in the world how to start, but I jumped right into it and figured it out as I went along.
- Your friends and family can be your worst critics. Dismiss the haters and dream crushers. Stop wasting time worrying about what others think.
- Don’t sit around waiting for answers. I would send out 2000 personalized emails a week just to get back 2 or 3 replies. Networking is about the numbers and being proactive.
- Stop asking for permission with a question mark, because it is a sign of weakness.
Bad Example: Is it alright if I call you? You are giving the customer an out with the question mark (?) and asking for permission.
Good Example: John, I am setting up calls for next Wednesday & Thursday– let me know which day works for you. This statement (instead of a question) conveys a sign of power, confidence, and the will to work with them. So, don’t ask; you must learn to make customers feel reassured you are a sure thing in a polite format.
- Relationships, relationships, and relationships; you must master building relationships in order to build a successful company.
Being an entrepreneur is not a job, it’s a way of life. Your many sacrifices will eventually pay off years later. Learn everything you can about what you are doing, the product, and the industry. Don’t stop learning about your competitors and customers. Focus on building relationships. Don’t connect with people in hopes of using them or getting something from them. Do not let others intimidate you; many will try to do it. Be strong, and remember that you are smart and have power already. Remember the three E’s:
- Extraordinary – stand out by being unusual and remarkable.
- Eunoia – strengthen your skills to be a great communicator and speaker
- Embody – establish a concrete and visible form to your ideas, set quality feelings and be competitive in spirit.
Ricardo Cordero, President & CEO of Ricardo Food Group, has more than 40 years’ experience in all aspects of bakery, food, beverage products and processes. He is a renowned expert in Co-Manufacturing, Co-Packing & Private Label, Former Executive Chef, Former Manufacturing methodology process expert and current Manufacturing Specialist. His hobbies include antique camera collecting and he is considered by many Chefs and food-service professionals as an outstanding Pizza Connoisseur and Innovator.
Ricardo Food Group is a Multi-Company Holding sourcing company for all your co-packing & private label needs. We have formed alliances with 475 US-based food, beverage & bakery manufacturing facilities. Ricardo Food Group is an advisory firm made up of Manufacturing & Production Expert Consultants in the food, bakery and beverage industry. Serving as consultants to businesses regarding partnerships, investors, mergers, performance base equity and acquisitions, leveraged and management buyouts, debt restructuring, capital firm investments, entrepreneur’s investment, and commercial banking investments.