Owner of popular SoCal Latin food chain drives growth, eyes national expansion

April 11, 2024
Man at grocery store holding package of tortillas
Rolando Pozos with some of the house-made tortillas at the Amapola Market in Downey, California.

Since buying the Amapola Market chain in 2021, Rolando Pozos has increased its employee base and product offerings

For two decades, Rolando Pozos worked as an investment banker specializing in advising companies on mergers and acquisitions. Then he made an acquisition of his own.

It started with a meeting, arranged by a mutual friend, with the owner of Amapola Deli & Market, a chain of three Los Angeles-area stores specializing in Latin American food products, who was looking to develop a succession plan.

“He reached out to me for some friendly advice, knowing I was a Latino investment banker who spoke Spanish,” Pozos said.

Pozos was a loyal customer of Amapola, which opened its first location in 1961, and as he learned more about the business, he became increasingly intrigued and eventually decided he could be the ideal successor.

“I realized it would be a great place for me to start all over again as an entrepreneur and follow a new career path,” Pozos said. “It was something that happened very organically. I wasn’t looking to be in this industry.”

As the new owner of Amapola and a U.S. Bank client, Pozos, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, brought an extensive background in business, having earned an MBA at the University of Southern California before going into banking. He also brought a love of Mexican food, including the homemade tamales, stew and soups his grandmother prepared when he was young.

“We grew up getting together as a family and celebrating with food,” he said.

Pozos has continued that celebration with his wife, Megan, and two young children.

“We are learning how to make tamales as a family,” Pozos said. “It helps our kids stay away from their iPads on Sunday afternoons, and through Amapola Market, we are teaching our kids how to experience and pass on traditions.”

Amapola Markets, a U.S. Bank client, have meat markets, bakeries and service delis, make fresh tortillas and specialize in corn products made without genetically modified ingredients. The markets, according to Pozos, are the region’s largest producer of fresh masa, a ground corn-based dough used for making tortillas, tamales, tostadas and other Latin American dishes.

“During the holiday season, in particular, we sell millions of pounds of masa,” Pozos said. “It’s so important for us to continue to provide the very best of our Latin food heritage to our customers.”

When Pozos acquired the company, he resolved to continue making the company’s products in the traditional way of cooking, grinding and working with corn, but also saw opportunities to expand the offerings.

Under his leadership, the company has expanded its product line to include natural juices, salsas, desserts, dry chilies and other Latin food essentials. He has increased the number of Amapola employees from 250 to 300 and said he has been boosting food production by about 10% a year.

The biggest strategic move, Pozos said, has been further increasing production volumes to sell products through other stores, with Amapola-branded products now being sold by nearly 150 retailers across Los Angeles.

“We can reach more customers and communities at a faster pace if we do it through other retailers,” he said. “We prefer to do what we do best, which is to produce our food, and then we’ll have other people make it available in places across Los Angeles, California and the West Coast.”

In light of these changes, Pozos was named a Greater Los Angeles Entrepreneur of the Year 2023 by Ernst & Young.

Pozos said his goal is to make Amapola a national brand enjoyed regularly by people of all ethnic backgrounds. He plans to open production facilities beyond California, and he’s working to strengthen his supply chain.

U.S. Bank provides Amapola Market credit, treasury management and financial advisory services.

“U.S. Bank is a very important partner for our company,” Pozos said. “They help us manage our day-to-day cash flow needs. They also understand our growth plans and are consulting with us on how we can inject capital into the business to grow our manufacturing footprint in other states.”

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