Ricos History

The Liberto Family business was founded in 1909 by Rosario Liberto after he arrived in America from Sicily. His son, Enrico Liberto, second generation, revived the business in 1933 after his father filed for bankruptcy during the era of the Great Depression. Enrico’s son, Frank Liberto, third generation, took over the business in 1960 when his father became blind. Frank pioneered concession nachos in 1976. He serves as Chairman of Liberto Specialty Company, Inc. One of Frank’s three children, Tony Liberto, fourth generation, serves as President and CEO.  Megan MacDiarmid, one of Frank’s five grandchildren, makes up the fifth generation of employees.

For over a century, the family behind Liberto Specialty Co., Inc. has been making its mark in history. The business has built its brand name on a strong Texas foundation and continues the Liberto legacy of providing their customers with delicious salty snacks. Liberto Specialty Co., Inc. through Ricos Products Co., Inc. manufactures cheese sauces, ready to eat popcorn, sno-cone syrups, nacho & restaurant style tortilla chips, sliced jalapenos, roasted peanuts, and other fun foods, including the product the company made famous: concession nachos. The products are sold in grocery stores, convenience stores and club stores, movie theatres, stadiums & arenas and other fun food venues throughout the United States. Today, Ricos has a presence in over 57 countries with a network of more than 200 distributors worldwide.

So when you’re planning your next get together or enjoying your next movie or sporting event, make sure you’re enjoying them with our Ricos products!

1874

Rosario Liberto, son of Salvatore Liberto and Venera Serio Liberto is born.

1890

Rosario Liberto immigrates to the United States (New Orleans, LA) from the city of Cefalu, a province of Palermo located on the northern coast of Sicily, Italy at the age of 16.

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Late 1800’s

The family business, known as Crescent Market, is established in Beaumont, TX and run by Rosario Liberto.

1898

Liberto house in Paloma, TX.

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1900

Rosario Liberto contracts malaria and moves temporarily to San Antonio, TX to recover from his illness. After contracting malaria for a third time and on the recommendation of his doctor, Rosario moves permanently to San Antonio. The mosquitos commonly associated with the Beaumont area makes it impossible for him to remain in that city.

1901

Enrico Liberto, son of Rosario Liberto and Angelina Rinando Liberto is born.

1905

Rosario Liberto and brother-in-law Joseph Barranco run Crescent Market in Beaumont, TX.

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1909

Rosario Liberto moves his business to San Antonio and renames it Liberto Market and Grocery, a retail grocery with a butcher market. There he sells, among other things, roasted coffee and roasted peanuts. Rosario’s son, Enrico (nicknamed Rico) works at his father’s side after completing the 8th grade in order to help put his six brothers and two sisters through school. Enrico delivers coffee on horse (Billy) and buggy.

Liberto family starts producing and selling peanuts to circus goers.

1911

The Liberto building on S. Presa. Family 2nd floor balcony.

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1918

As competition grows, coffee is no longer lucrative to sell. Owning one of the few coffee roasters in the city of San Antonio, the Liberto family becomes famous for roasted Virginia peanuts (the JUMBOs). The business, located near a train station, begins to sell peanuts on all the trains on the route and at the circuses which come to town. In a short time, the business becomes one of the first “concession supply jobbers” in the United States.

1921

Frank Liberto & Co. delivery truck decorated for Trades Day Parade during Fiesta San Jacinto. Business sells 400,000lbs of roasted peanuts. (First distribution truck).

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1921

Liberto building at 701 N. Flores. Left to right: Sam Liberto, Enrico Liberto, and Angelina Rinando Liberto. Photographed in San Antonio, TX.

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1926

Liberto building on Durango St. and Flores St.

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1929-1931

Stock market crashes in 1929 and the era of the Great Depression begins hitting San Antonio in 1931.

1933

Frank G. Liberto, son of Enrico and Antoinette Liberto, is born.

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1933

Rosario Liberto struggles with the Great Depression and eventually files for bankruptcy. Rosario later pays all his suppliers back to the penny.

1934

Enrico “Rico” Liberto restarts the tradition of running a family grocery store and sells institutional wholesale foods and imported spices, peanuts, and sno-cones under the name Liberto Specialty Co. in San Antonio, TX.

Liberto building on Main Avenue.

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1940

Rosario Liberto passes away. He paid all his debts before he died. In the process, he created a fine reputation for himself as being a man of his word.

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1950’s

Frank G. Liberto continues to assist his father, Enrico, while attending college at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX. He is commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s Field Artillery while attending college and he received a degree in marketing.

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1956

Business moves to 113 West Military Plaza, San Antonio, TX, selling popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy, and sno-cones.

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1956

Frank spends six months on active duty at Fort Sill, OK, however, his military career is shortened. He returns to assist in the business when his father becomes blind. (He completes 12 years in the active reserve as a Captain.)

1960

Frank becomes President of Liberto Specialty Co.

He establishes Dine-A-Mite Foods, a chain of snack bars and concessions operating in malls, shopping centers and discount stores.

First concession stand opens in North Star Mall which is the third enclosed mall in North America. Hot dogs sell for 15 cents and popcorn sells for 10 cents. Frank soon sets up 17 snack bars across Texas. He sells more concessions, designs stands, installs popcorn machines, services equipment, and sells products. He designs some of the most profitable drive-in theatre concessions and installs and sells equipment for fast food concession stands.

1968

Twenty days before the World's Fair held at Hemisfair in San Antonio, TX, a four alarm fire destroys the Liberto Specialty building at 113 West Military Plaza. The building is restored and business continues at that location for another two years.

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1970

Liberto business headquarters is moved to 830 S. Presa, San Antonio, TX.

Liberto distribution located on S. Staples St. in Corpus Christi, TX.

1973

Liberto purchases Corpus Christi Concessions. The offices moved to 514 Powers St. across from the Corpus Christi courthouse.

1974

Liberto distribution bought Houston Popcorn. There was currently no theatre business before this. Liberto distribution gained a location in Harlingen after this purchase. the first theatre business was Henry Hall Theatres. At this time, United Artists Theatres were opening up 3 locations in Corpus Christi. With the purchase of Houston Popcorn, Liberto's was able to handle all the distribution in these theatres. They carried 2,000 line-items and were truly a one-stop-shop for anyone's concession needs.
Liberto's also gained the Tower Theatre business in Corpus Christi.

1976

The company introduces Concession Nachos at Arlington Stadium in Arlington, TX. Baseball fans are treated to a new taste – a delicious dish consisting of fried tortilla chips with cheddar cheese sauce and jalapeno peppers.

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1977

Frank Liberto closes Dine-A-Mite Foods in order to devote full time to Liberto Specialty Co., Inc.

Liberto's bought Associated Popcorn in Dallas - the main supplier in Texas for the Theatre industry. All of the Associated Popcorn chains had regional headquarters which became new distribution points for Liberto's. At the time, the major theatre chains were United Artist, Texas Cinema (now Cinemark), and General Cinemas. The first multiplex was is Dallas, TX. Frank Liberto held regional training seminars, which were done at the multiplex. He served nachos during the training seminars as a way to get people to know about the new snack while they were listening to what else he had to offer. He had no idea nachos would become as big as they are now.

1977

The company introduces Concession Nachos at Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Nachos catch the imagination of everybody including the announcers. Someone gives one of the announcers, Howard Cosell, nachos during the game. He loves them and likes the funny sounding name. That night, Cosell and the broadcast team work references to nachos into the game analysis as often as possible. As part of their usual prattle, they “mix nachos” with their commentary, and whenever there is a good pass or touchdown, they scream in a high pitch, “That was nacho man!” “What a nacho run that was!” and “Hey, that’s nachos all the way!”. Cosell loves describing great plays by calling them “nachos”. He gives the food national recognition, making the term an acceptable adjective for spectacular events, and forever securing its spot as one of the sport watcher’s favorite finger foods. Nachos may have remained a Texas specialty if not for Howard Cosell and Monday Night Football.

Ricos Products Company is established, named after Frank’s father, Enrico “Rico” Liberto, as a subsidiary of Liberto Specialty Co., Inc. It was created to keep up with the demand and to produce products specifically for Nachos. The company’s products are given the name “Ricos.”

Frank Liberto becomes involved in the manufacturing and distribution of the product when a friend suggests he come up with a way to package cheese in a liquid or creamy nonperishable state. He develops a way to add milk to make it creamier, more appealing, lighter and less filling just like Birds Eye had done with Hershey’s when it added milk to chocolate. Frank uses a Westinghouse roaster to melt the cheese and enlists the help of a chip maker from Mexico to come up with nacho chips. He also approaches a manufacturer which sells jalapeno peppers in Veracruz, Mexico and has him develop a way to slice them instead of cutting them lengthwise and calls them Ricos pepper rings for nachos.

Frank markets Nachos to the National Association of Concessionaires and other trade associations. They begin offering his style of nachos, increasing sales of other concession items. Frank discovers a gold mine. It is unbelievable.

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Late 1977

Nachos are actively promoted in tradeshows and fairs across the United States to get the nacho craze started. The biggest challenge is to convince people that nachos are not just a southwestern item, but an item that will increase stadium concession profits across the country.

It is proven that nachos will not cannibalize sales from other products. In fact, it has the opposite effect – it increases sales. Drink sales skyrocket due mainly to the spiced right formula of the jalapeno peppers and cheese sauce, and popcorn and other concession items maintain their profitable positions. It is quickly determined that nachos create “new found money”, not previously spent by the concession customer.

Movie theatres, however, have yet to taste the spice. It doesn’t happen until John Rowley, president of United Artist Theatres, discovers the magic of the spicy snack. Having tasted nachos in one of the drive-in theatres conventions where the snack was being promoted, he instantly places an order for 75 set ups for his theatres.

Still a little skeptical about the snack’s match with “cinematic” ambience, and not prepared to “spoil a relationship with Rowley just over a few cans of cheese,” Frank Liberto cancels the order. On Rowley’s insistence, they decide to try it for 60 days at three of the United Artist Theatres cinemas. After a few months, Rowley’s son-in-law, John Treadwell, calls up Frank telling him, “You know how much money you are costing me by not putting nachos here? Now I want 100 set ups!”

Nachos quickly spread across the US cinema exhibition community. Revenues start multiplying and profitability in cinemas are zooming up. A case of history is being made. For the next 18 months, Liberto is selling 100,000 orders per day.

A 35mm Film trailer is used in movie theatres during intermission to start nachos in that venue. The three stars of the film are Rico, Pepe, and Nacho with personalities you won’t forget, from “Rico” the enthusiastic cheerleader to “Pepe” the bashful pepper ring who would rather be anywhere other than in the film, to “Nacho” who has a lovable, affable personality. It is only a few seconds long but is remembered by all who see it. The animation of the three stars is done by Walt Disney Cartoon Animators for $25,000.

After developing Nachos, Frank Liberto designs a new model to get “identity” for the snack. In place of red and whites stripes, he brings in yellow and red to make it look more appealing.

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1979

Liberto Distribution gained United Artist southeastern business. Shortly after they opened locations in Charlotte, NC and Tampa, FL.

1980

As the spicy snack becomes a “hot cake” and tops the revenue charts in theatres’ concessions, Liberto earns the title “Father of Nachos” and wins recognition from the National Association of Concessionaires for creating the “fourth greatest concession item.”
#1: Popcorn – 1885 – Henry Cretors – Chicago
#2: Hot dogs – 1901 – Harry M. Stevens – New York
#3: Pressurized cold drinks – 1950 – Pepsi Cola
#4: Nachos – 1976 – Frank G. Liberto - Ricos – San Antonio

1980-1981

Liberto Distribution purchases Blevins Popcorn. The headquarters is in Memphis, TN. There were also locations in Florida, the Carolinas, and Oklahoma. There was a very small location in Miami, FL where Liberto's began their international shipping.

1983

Ricos is introduced to Sam’s Club in Dallas. Popcorn plant opens in Dallas, TX.

1984

HEB begins buying Ricos products.

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1985

The business’ headquarters is moved to 621 S. Flores, San Antonio, TX.

1987

Frank Liberto named “Man of the Year” by the National Association of Concessionaires (NAC) in recognition of introducing Nachos to the industry.

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1988

Frank Liberto establishes and develops the Associated Network of Distributors, Inc., a computer based service bureau which allows theatre chains to buy from several, non-related distributors, yet feel they are doing business with a national distributor.

1992

A new concept for nachos is introduced to the marketplace. Portion pack cheese for nachos, a portion controlled cheese cup, designed to offer benefits never before associated with concession nachos. This came about because Bob Valone, with United Artist, challenged Ricos to come up with a product that requires no mixing. Since Ricos recommended using 3oz of cheese for each nacho serving, they decided to use the same amount in a user friendly option - a pudding cup. Frank was insistent on a certain shelf life for this product so Ricos went with the hot pack, which gave him that. The item was introduced at ShoWest and customers could not sign up fast enough. It was a hit from the beginning. Ricos, and Frank Liberto, pioneered this new item.

Frank was very instrumental in the design and development of the first cheese dispensing equipment introduced into the market. An aseptically packaged pouch cheese served through an automatic dispenser pump gains in popularity in many theatre and stadium concession stands throughout the world.

1994

Ricos gets their first international customer, Mexico. As theatres invested in business in the international markets, Ricos expanded with them. International expansion continued into the European Union, Korea, Dubai and Mexico.

Frank Liberto named Entrepreneur of the Year.

2006

Tony Liberto, fourth generation and son of Frank and Patricia Liberto, named President of Ricos Products Co., Inc.

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2007

Liberto Distribution sold.

2008

The company opens a tortilla chip and popcorn plant in Lewisville, TX.

Ricos popcorn is introduced to schools.

Nachos continue to be a universal phenomenon for movie theatres (and non-cinema entertainment places). Practically every theatre in the U.S. and many cinemas in advanced markets internationally boast of nachos as one of the main menu items in their snack bars. South Korea and Dubai are some of the top international customers. Tom Cruise even made a comment about how good the nachos are in Dubai.

2009

The Liberto Family business celebrates 100 years!

2010

Ricos Products Co., Inc. and Liberto Cash & Carry move back to 830 S. Presa, San Antonio, TX in a completely remodeled building.

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2011- 2013

Ricos is introduced to the European Retail Market.

Ricos reaches distribution in 57 countries around the world.

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2015

A new brand is created called Texan Original. Texan Original truly captures the special nature of authentic Texas flavors. The brand is steeped in Texas tradition – family recipes handed down through generations. The brand starts with 3 flavors of restaurant style tortilla chips and 3 flavors of hot sauce. Texan Original. Texan Proud.

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2016

Ricos creates and introduces their first Fiesta medal in San Antonio, TX commemorating the 40th anniversary of the creation of concession nachos. The medal beat local favorites Whataburger and the San Antonio Spurs for the Larger Business Medals contest.
As Ricos looks into the future, the company continues striving to be innovative and bring their loyal consumers authentic, quality, fun foods with service, value, and integrity.

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2016

Ricos.com launches its all new website.

The new site features its core Ricos brand plus the newly introduced Texan Original brand in a responsive design.

New features include an expanded, interactive recipe section, newsletter sign-up, product information pages with nutrition facts, a news blog, a visual timeline of the company history, as well as a new section for Business to Business customers.

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