• Goya Foods generates annual sales of about $1.5 billion.
  • Politcians, celebrities, activists called for boycott of Goya
  • Trump is courting the Hispanic vote ahead of elections

Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the U.S, is facing a backlash and calls for a boycott after its CEO praised President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday.

CEO Robert Unanue, the grandson of Goya founder, Don Prudencio Unanue, an immigrant from Spain, said at the Rose Garden: “We all truly blessed, at the same time, to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder… We have an incredible builder. And we pray -- we pray for our leadership, our president and we pray for our country -- that we will continue to prosper and to grow.”

Unanue was attending the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative at the White House where Trump signed an executive order to provide more taxpayer funding for private and charter schools and to “improve access by Hispanic Americans to education and economic opportunities.”

School choice "is a great civil rights issue and may be the great one of our times," Trump said at the meeting.

But Unanue’s comments were widely condemned, given Trump’s past history of insulting Mexican immigrants and his persistent calls to build a border wall to keep Hispanic immigrants out of the country. Trump has also been roundly condemned for his administration’s family separation policy at the border and his efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by Barack Obama.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro tweeted: “Goya Foods has been a staple of so many Latino households for generations. Now their CEO, Bob Unanue, is praising a president who villainizes and maliciously attacks Latinos for political gain. Americans should think twice before buying their products.”

(Castro also served as Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Obama administration.)

Democratic Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez of New York tweeted: “Oh look, it’s the sound of me Googling ‘how to make your own Adobo,” suggesting she will now learn to make the kinds of meals Goya makes on her own from scratch.

Hashtags like #BoycottGoya, #GoyaFoods and #Goyaway proliferated on social media in the wake of Unanue’s comments.

Celebrities Chrissy Teigen and Javier Munoz also vowed to boycott Goya products.

"It's shameful and appalling that the president of Goya Foods is praising the most anti-Latino president in the history of our country," said Latino Victory Fund CEO Nathalie Rayes. "President Trump has disrespected and attacked the Latino community since Day 1. We call for a boycott of Goya Foods products and anyone who stands with Donald Trump and against our community."

United We Dream, an organization for immigrant youths, also called for a boycott, citing they will not support those “who endorse and comply with a white supremacist regime.”

"We all know that Trump has not stopped attacks on immigrants, Latinx folks, Black people, and all people of color... We must show CEO of Goya Foods Robert Unanue that we won’t stand for this. If Goya wants our business, they must respect and fight for our humanity.... Under capitalism, know the power of the dollar in their eyes. We're using it to make a statement," the organization said.

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services Action Fund of Texas even quipped that Goya's "canned black beans aren't even that good. It seems their opinions and politics are worse."

However, Trump is now seeking Hispanic support for his reelection campaign – Latinos now account for 13.3% of eligible voters in the U.S., a record high, according to Pew Research.

On Wednesday, Trump met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and described Mexico as a cherished partner.

But according to the latest New York Times/Siena College poll, Hispanic voters favor Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden over Trump by 36 percentage points.

Goya, a privately owned company based in New Jersey, recently donated thousands of pounds of food to families hurt by the coronavirus pandemic in Harlem and the Bronx.

At the White House event, Unanue also said his company will donate 1 million cans of chickpeas and 1 million pounds of other food to various food banks.

Goya Foods generates annual sales of about $1.5 billion.