Earlier this month, Grupo Bimbo placed 83 on Forbes annual top 100 ‘most innovative’ companies list – making it the top-ranking bakery firm ahead of General Mills that placed 91. Bimbo’s sales growth for the year to August 2014 was 2.5%, according to Forbes.
Grupo Bimbo, whose brands include Bimbo, Marinela, Sara Lee, Earthgrains and Thomas, pulled in a net profit of 1.6bn pesos ($123.6m) in its latest financials (Q2 2014) - up 72.6% on the previous year.
BakeryandSnacks.com caught up exclusively with Grupo Bimbo’s vice president of innovation Dr Patricia Villalobos to find out more about what it took to be recognized as an innovative company in the bakery world.
What does it take?
“We think that to be innovative, you have to foster a culture of risk-taking, be willing to fail many times and yet continue trying,” she said.
This took patience and perseverance, she said, particularly when considering the consumer purchase cycle – encouraging them to firstly try your product and then re-purchase it.
Villalobos said the primary judge was always the consumer. “If the consumer likes and buys our products, our brands and the way we are dealing with sustainability, then we can say we are on the right track.”
Developing robust methodologies to work out consumer needs was vital, especially those they didn’t necessarily verbalize, she said.
Dr Patricia Villalobos: R&D teams have to be 'extremely creative and knowledgable' and 'extremely connected' with consumers
The biggest challenges in bakery R&D?
“One of our biggest challenges is to capture our consumers' minds and hearts with health products, without trade-offs of any kind,” she said.
To achieve that, she said Grupo Bimbo’s R&D teams were focused on finding the right science and technology as well as working with research centers, universities and vendors. “Research and development needs to be extremely creative and knowledgeable,” she said.
More importantly, she said R&D teams had to be “extremely connected with consumers”. They had to understand insights and turn these into great products, she said.
“At the same time, R&D needs to keep our processes and packaging as sustainable as possible – we need to reduce waste and recycle as much as possible.”
Breaking down strategy…
Asked how the company structured itself to overcome these challenges, she said Grupo Bimbo focused on no more than three to four strategic initiatives over a period of three to five years. Each initiative was assigned to an executive to oversee progress and keep projects in line with overall annual objectives, she explained.
“When a strategic initiative is mature and it becomes part of our way or working, then we move onto the next challenge,” she said.
Staying nimble as a large company regarding investments was critical, she said.