From a one-store establishment Taste of America, trailblazer for niche supermarkets, now has 8 corporate stores, 11 franchises, store-
in-store presence in gourmet venues
like El Corte Inglés, and an
It was the end of the Cold War which, incidentally, the US superpower won without dropping a single nuclear warhead on the Soviet Union. (The Cold War never turned “hot” because of mutual assured destruction. Remember MAD?) America began dismantling its global network of military bases save what was necessary for its security in a world without the USSR which disappeared in 1991. The Americans exited from the Zaragoza and Torrejon Air Bases, in northeastern and central Spain respectively, staying on only at the Rota Naval Station and Moron Air Base down south.
Suddenly the only guaranteed source of American products – PX – particularly in Madrid is gone. Quite a few expats took to stuffing their suitcases with prized groceries, when they flew home, and lugging them to Spain. Arkansan Dana Knowles, for example. So when her friend Alicia Vaño from Valencia suggested that they set up a store selling US products, Dana fell for it and Taste of America was born. In Madrid.
That store in a semi-sotano along upscale Paseo de la Castellana, which would shortly move to the equally prestigious Calle Serrano, went over big overnight (1994-1995) with what would turn out to be a loyal and demanding clientele. Two decades later this trailblazer for niche supermarkets would have 8 corporate stores, 11 franchises, store-in-store presence in gourmet venues like El Corte Inglés, and an international presence in Morocco. Never mind acquiring exclusive distributorship in Spain of a dozen or so of America’s best lifestyle brands: Pepperidge Farm, Celestial Seasonings, Newman’s Own . . .
It says an awful lot for Dana and Alicia’s business savvy that their once one-store establishment has spread out across a country where the home-cooked meal based on Mediterranean diet still queens it over dinner tables and the stereotype about all American food being junk food isn’t about to fade away any time soon.
Theirs is a sustainable growth. They issue franchises sparingly. It actually took Taste of America some 15 years to decide to take up franchising. They had to make sure that they were able to handle the complicated logistics involved and that their client base could support the expansion.
Surprisingly, the majority of Taste of America’s clients are Spaniards – that species in Iberia who grows up thinking mama cooks best – needless to say, using local ingredients!
Taste of America is now a biggish company. One which must think big while keeping in mind that it was once just a store where people went to buy American all-time favorites: marshmallows, peanut butter, Halloween stuff, and Kisses, preferably with almonds!
Dana said in Womenalia (http://www.womenalia.com/us/today-on-womenalia/156-interviews/item/2406-dana-knowles-taste-of-america): “We had to learn how to think like a big company without losing the essence of what’s great about our small company.”
This innovative supermarket is about “all the flavors and traditions of American culture” which now include organic sugar/gluten-free products. But it’s Madrileño by birth!
Taste of America’s official website and Facebook account