FILLO’S was founded by Cuban Panamanian brothers, Daniel and Antonio Caballero, who wanted to shake up the bland bean category and address the lack of premium Latin American food products by creating a line of sofrito beans (and one lentil product) packaged in 10-ounce microwaveable pouches.
“I felt that there weren’t as many options for high end Latin American food products out there so I thought that sofrito beans would be a good solution because they’re packed with plant protein, they’re very nutritious, made with fresh vegetables,” Daniel Caballero told FoodNavigator-USA.
After participating in and completing FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Accelerator in 2016, the line was launched with three SKUs in the Chicago area.
What is sofrito?
Sofrito is a traditional Latin American base of olive oil, fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices, used to season and flavor a variety of beans. However, the process typically take several hours or all day.
“When we visualized the product we wanted it to be as close, if not identical process, to what you would do at home and that’s really what we’ve achieved. We’ve gotten to a point now where it’s indistinguishable,” Frederick Schlatter, communications director of Sofrito Foods, said.
“We use exclusively fresh vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, ground spices, whole herbs and sea salt—and that’s very rare," Schlatter said.
The process to create a packaged sofrito product – not just a ‘sofrito-flavored’ – that followed traditional cooking methods and used fresh herbs and spices took roughly a year and involved finding the right the co-packer, according to Schlatter.
The company’s six products include flavors featuring different Latin American flavors including Cuban black beans, Panamanian garbanzo, Mexican mayocoba, Puerto Rican pink beans, Peruvian lentils, and Tex-Mex pinto.
“We see people branching out from Mexican food into other Latin American cuisines,” added Schlatter.
Sofrito Foods launched in Whole Foods in the Midwest region in May 2017 and into specialty stores in the Chicago area as well as online through Amazon.
In the past year, the brand has experienced its most explosive growth after signing with KeHE and UNFI, which took the premium sofrito bean pouches into new regions ranging from Florida to Idaho, according to Caballero.
Sofrito Foods has also updated its branding and packaging artwork, which according to Schlatter has helped it engage more store buyers.
Fitting into many eating occasions
The beauty of the company’s sofrito bean pouches is in its versatility, according to Caballero. The company sees consumers taking the pouches to work as a healthy lunch (10-16 grams of plant protein) that is ready to eat in one minute.
The products also work well as a side to a main meal or as an ingredient to a more elaborate dish as consumers take a ‘blended meal’ approach to prepping dinner cooking some items from scratch and using products that have already done the heavy lifting such as an hours-long sofrito recipe.
“The product also is being used by outdoors enthusiasts who take a pouch hiking or camping with them,” Caballero added.
The reception the brand has received has driven it to add more products to its pipelines that will be packaged in pouches as well as other “meal-oriented options” for other areas of the store, Caballero said.
“We have a lot of products in the works, not just beans and We’re working on that as we speak,” Caballero shared.