Movie magic: Spanish La Vista potato chip sales boom on Korean film cameo

Bonilla, 87, looks at potato chip production during interview with Reuters inside his Bonilla a la Vista factory in Arteixo
Owner Cesar Bonilla, 87, looks at potato chip production during an interview with Reuters inside his Bonilla a la Vista factory in Arteixo, near Coruna, Spain February 17, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

February 22, 2020

By Catherine MacDonald and Silvio Castellanos

ARTEIXO, Spain (Reuters) – Cesar Bonilla is still baffled by a surge in demand for the canned potato chips made by his company in northwestern Spain after they appeared in award-winning Korean film “Parasite”.

The movie this month became the first non-English language film to win an Oscar in the Best Picture category and the 87-year-old Bonilla is grateful to its director Bong Joon-ho.

“I’d say to him a thousand thanks and I have tears in my eyes when I think about it,” Bonilla told Reuters while watching a clip from the dark comedy in which the scheming Kim family feasts on food and drink at the house of their rich employers.

“It was a mystery how this movie showed this can of Bonilla a La Vista, made with so much affection and hope, and then the movie got so distinguished. My hope has been fulfilled,” Bonilla added

Parasite also snapped up awards for the Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature after last year becoming the first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or in Cannes.

Bonilla’s family-run company’s online sales in Spain surged 150% and distributors have been increasing orders at home and abroad. Four more staff have been hired, adding to around 100 employees.

“Now that we are selling a lot with all this impact, we hired people because otherwise we can’t cope,” Bonilla said.

The company makes 540 tonnes of crisps per year, exporting 60 tonnes to 20 countries. South Korea, where the crisps were popular with high-end consumers long before the movie’s release, accounts for the bulk of exports, around 40 tonnes.

Cesar’s father Salvador started the company in 1932 selling from a market stand. A former navy sailor, he modeled the company’s name on his standard reply to a duty officer: “Bonilla here!”

Cesar started delivering the product, fried and canned by his mother, on a motorbike in 1950 and later decided to open a proper factory, sticking to tins as his main trademark packaging because they preserved the flavor so well.

Clients and friends alerted the company after seeing the distinctive can on the big screen.

“We never thought we could get this far with a can of crisps. It moves me a lot as it should move anyone knowing that you are making something that gets so much acceptance. Makes me proud,” Bonilla said.

(Writing by Andrei Khalip, editing by Ed Osmond)