In 1980, Raul Andrade decided to move his cheese import business from Mexico to the U.S. and in 1988 took the bold step of opening his own cheese factory, a company that he and his wife, Gloria, opened in the City of Industry, California.
Today, Los Altos Food Products is the third largest manufacturer of Mexican cheese and sour cream on the West Coast with more than 200 employees, including Andrade’s two daughters, Corin and Alin. Corin oversees the company’s profitable growth as chief financial officer while Alin is an engineer overseeing production.
Early last year, after almost 25 years in business, the family finally achieved a long-awaited goal: to open a factory designed and built specifically to meet the manufacturing needs of the cheese process.
"The other buildings are adapted warehouses, but this one was built specifically as a factory," said Andrade, whose business has warehouses in Southern and Northern California, Arizona and Texas.
The customized factory is proving to be very favorable for business. However, operating a 100,000 square-foot building equipped with state-of-the-art equipment has also created a higher demand for electricity and a spike in energy usage affecting their bottom line.
Gilbert Escamilla, SCE account executive, works with businesses like Los Altos to identify energy management solutions, educating them about their energy-savings programs and financial incentives for business customers.
To optimize the factory’s energy efficiency to save energy, money and the environment, Escamilla helped the family set a plan. With his guidance, Los Altos participated in a business energy saving solutions program. Last year, the business completed the first phase of the plan by installing a 48-kilowatt solar carport project. And later the same year, Los Altos completed its second phase by installing 56 Variable Frequency Drives on process and pump motors to lower their equipment’s energy consumption, helping save 150,613 kilowatt hours.
Escamilla also enrolled Los Altos in SCE’s Energy Efficiency Customized Solutions program. With the two projects, the family qualified for a total of $58,345 in incentives to offset the upgrade technology costs. And the business is saving an estimated $18,000 a year in electricity costs.
"Los Altos Foods is a great example of a customer who understands the importance of working together with SCE to uncover creative solutions in energy efficiency and renewable energy," said Escamilla.
On Oct. 4, Los Altos was recognized and presented with the Business Energy Efficiency Participation Award at SCE’s third annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. The event recognizes the accomplishments of Hispanic businesses, their contributions to the economic growth and service as energy efficiency champions.
What’s next for Los Altos?
According to the Andrade family, they plan to install rooftop solar panels. The entrepreneurial family knows it’s an expensive investment, but one they feel is necessary.
"We believe that the future of humanity depends on knowing how to use and rely on energy, and knowing that energy from fossil fuels will run out, we must work with the energy that we have available all the time," said Andrade.