If you were to survey Texans on the things they love most about their state, we can guarantee some of these things would make the list: bluebonnets, barbeque, Tex-Mex, high school football, Dr Pepper, sunsets, George Strait, small towns and Texas businesses. Bluebell, Buc-ee’s and Dairy Queen have the following and admiration of many Texans, but there’s one Texas grocer that has become a shining star in the eyes of residents far and wide: H-E-B.
In fact, the H-E-B bakery tortilla took centerstage in this year’s Super Bowl commercial line up with the tag line “If You Know, You Know” while the song How Do I Live by LeAnn Rimes plays in the background. H-E-B follows up with a statement on the video, “There are certain tortillas, er- things, that Texans just can’t – and won’t – live without.”
How did this Texas business climb the ranks in popularity to become more than just a grocery store? Where did they get their start?
Let’s go back to their roots in the Hill Country of Texas in 1905. Florance Thornton Butt moved her family to Kerrville and established Mrs. C. C. Butt’s Staple and Fancy Grocery with a sixty-dollar loan. It began as a one-room grocery store on the ground floor of the family home.
Fourteen years later, in 1919, Florence turned over the management responsibilities to her youngest son Howard Edward Butt. Howard grew up delivering groceries from the store by wagon and went on to introduce major low-cost distribution innovations that maximized profits by taking out the middleman. He tried four different expansions in Central Texas that failed, but then found success in an expansion in Del Rio, Texas. Howard then purchased three more stores in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It was around this time of expansion that the name changed to Howard’s initials, H-E-B.
The company continued to see success and in 1971, Charles, the younger son of Howard became President. In 1985, corporate headquarters moved to San Antonio. Howard remained the President until 2010. The current president and chief operating officer is Martin Otto.
Today, H-E-B has over 400 stores across the state and northeast Mexico. They have been ranked by Forbes as the 12th-largest private company in the country. They have won many awards as one of the top places to work, with employees who have dedicated 30 plus years to prove it. They’ve also been recognized for their outstanding customer service, as well as community outreach.
Their successes continue to mount as more locations open, partnerships happen, and people continue to flock there daily often making trips across several communities just to shop at H-E-B.
So, what is truly behind this success story? John Steinbeck wrote, “Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.” One could say we Texans have a lot of pride, and that is what H-E-B has tapped into, pure Texas pride. They cater to customers’ true Texas lifestyle from popular food combinations like Big Red and barbacoa packages, to brisket queso, to their community blend coffees like Hub City for Lubbock or Houston Blend. They have a “Quest for Texas Best” which is an open call for locally owned, small food and beverage suppliers to have their items considered for placement on H-E-B shelves. They truly celebrate all things Texas.
This combination of celebrating Texas pride in every way possible, great prices and their extensive selection of items has made H-E-B a business Texans can’t live without. If you know, you know, and if you don’t, we hope you get a chance to encounter the H-E-B experience sooner than later.