The Rio Grande Valley’s ubiquitous tortillerias and tamale factories are well known as producers of popular food products that are staples to Mexican food fans throughout South Texas. But for more than three decades, a Brownsville company has earned distinction as a manufacturer of a food product more familiar in another part of the world.
Since 1985, Dipasa USA Inc. has been processing roasted sesame seeds into tahini, a paste used in ethnic foods and dishes, particularly in Middle Eastern cuisine. Tahini is known worldwide as an ingredient in hummus, salads, baked goods and even as a substitute for peanut butter. And company officials take pride that they do not use any peanuts in any of their products due to the number of people who suffer from peanut allergies.
The Brownsville corporation is part of the larger Dipasa Group, known as a leader in sesame seed research and development throughout Latin America, and for servicing 54 countries around the globe with its products.
Before tahini gained in popularity, the Dipasa USA operation in Brownsville was known as a maker of the kinds of sesame seed hamburger buns consumers get from fast food joints, but that has changed as the business has evolved. “We used to be known as the bread sesame seed company,” Leopoldo Cruz, managing director, said “but that isn’t the case anymore.”
He said Dipasa USA has diversified over the years to compete in a larger segment of the food industry, something which he said thrives regardless of how the economy performs at any given time. “The people have to eat,” Cruz said. “And more so, especially today when it comes to gluten-free, GMO-free and organic products.”
Gary Lowder, vice president of marketing for Dipasa USA, said making tahini remains the biggest part of their operation, although the business has expanded its offerings to handle more than 50 products for hundreds of customers also involved in the food industry.
The company labels and packages such products as avocado oils, some of which are infused with flavors like hot chipotle, chia seeds, agave nectar, syrup and juices. The agave juice and avocado oil comes from Mexico, some of it shipped in 55-gallon barrels. Dipasa USA employees prepare, package and label the final product in accordance to client specifications.
Dipasa USA products are shipped out and sold in all but four states of the Union, while its parent company in Guanajuato, Mexico, handles Latin America and the Caribbean. A third operation, based in The Netherlands takes care of the European and Middle Eastern markets.
Cruz said in the three decades they have been in Brownsville, they have experienced steady and impressive growth. Dipasa USA opened with 10 employees and annual revenues of $5 million. Today, as the business has aged, it has now boasts a workforce of more than 40 and revenues of more than $20 million a year.
“I feel very proud and grateful for what we have accomplished here and for the support we have had from the management team,” Cruz said. “We could have not done what we have today if it weren’t because of the people that work for us.”
Cruz said the company has seasoned workers who have been at Dipasa for 10, 20 or more years, but they also have new blood that are good at learning, good at marketing and good at sales. “Everybody here provides a good quality service,” he said. “We have been doing this for more than 30 years.”