La Vaquita finding mainstream appeal

Written by Jo Anne Grammond
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DFA’s La Vaquita brand has a loyal following in Texas, particularly with first and second generation Hispanics. The brand’s top seller, queso fresco, has become a staple for many who use the cheese to top off traditional Hispanic dishes from enchiladas and tacos to soups and salads.

The mildly flavored, easy-to-crumble, whole-milk cheese has a strong presence in the Houston market, where it is made at a local DFA plant. However, the brand team’s ambition is to appeal to a broader audience. 

According to La Vaquita General Manager John Farmer, “Queso fresco has a fresh, mild flavor profile that makes it a perfect complement to a variety of dishes. However, it’s relatively unkown among non-Hispanic consumers. The opportunity is to bring it into the consideration set of a wider audience.”

The strategy for La Vaquita is to establish queso fresco as a household staple, like hummus or feta. Farmer says, “We want to show people how simple it is to add an authentic Latin twist to everyday dishes.  All it takes is crumbling La Vaquita queso fresco over tacos, salads, eggs and more.”

To bring this vision to life, the DFA marketing team is focusing on elevating awareness. Digital marketing will allow the brand to target the right consumers. Meanwhile, partnering with local chefs to get La Vaquita incorporated into restaurant menus will introduce queso fresco in a more authentic way. In addition, the team is investing in sampling events at premium retailers like Central Market, an upscale grocer by HEB. Finally, an overhaul of the brand’s visual identity is planned, from marketing materials to website, to make it more approachable and relevant to today’s consumer. 

DFA acquired La Vaquita in 2010 from Castro Cheese Company, Inc., and has maintained the artisanal process and cheesemaking expertise that has been an anchor for the brand’s success since 1971. 

The current La Vaquita product line-up includes a variety of cheeses such as Oaxaca, Panela and Cotija as well as creams like Crema Mexicana, Crema Mexicana Agria and Crema Salvadoreña. The brand is distributed by major retailers in Texas, including Wal-Mart and HEB, as well as Hispanic outlets such as Fiesta and La Michuacana. According to Farmer, the 2016 sales volume for La Vaquita is expected to represent 40 million pounds of milk, based on year-to-date progress.