Grupo Bimbo: One of the world’s most ethical companies baking bread for billions the world over

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Grupo bimbo, Mexico, Bakery, Daniel Servitje, Environment, M&A, Corporate governance

Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo began as a humble family store in 1945, growing into the largest baking company in the world and a relevant player in snacks, with net sales of $14.2bn in 2017.

The company was founded by the son of a Spanish immigrant, Don Lorenzo Servitje Sendra, who set up the bakery and retail outlet with several business partners in 1945.

Family businesses dominate in Mexico – an oft-used motto there is ‘You trust your blood’ – and Bimbo is no exception: Lorenzo’s brother Roberto began work at the firm while in his teens and rose to CEO and chairman.

Today, Don Lorenzo’s son, Daniel Servitje, heads Bimbo and the family maintains a majority stake with numerous second and third-generation family members heavily involved.

Don Lorenzo’s descendants include eight children, 24 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren.

He died in 2017 at the age of 98.

Product portfolio

The first products launched onto the Mexican market were cellophane-wrapped loaves of white, rye and toasted bread. By late 1948, there were nine Bimbo products on the market.

The line was expanded in 1952 with the production of the Donas del Osito (Bear Cub Doughnuts), along with a new line of buns: Bimbollos, Medias Noches and Colchones.

Today, the Mexican Stock Exchange-listed company owns more than 100 brands sold in 32 countries.

It produces 47 million products daily in 197 plants, with more than 58,000 direct distribution routes to three million points of sale.

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“What we seek is to please and satisfy the palate, because life is made of small moments, but to achieve that in a safe and healthy way.”​ – Daniel Servitje

Rapid global expansion

In 1984, the company began its aggressive expansion strategy by exporting to the US, leading up to a foothold in 10 new countries by 2017 through acquisitions like Ready Roti in India, Grupo Adghal in Morocco and East Balt Bakeries in the US, among others.

“Our focus is organic growth, but we have been quite aggressive with acquisitions in the past 10-15 years.”​ – Servitje

In 1989, Bimbo Central America was created with the opening of a plant in Guatemala. Two years later, the Latin America Region Corporate structure was formed with the addition of Bimbo Argentina.

In 1998, it acquired American bakery Mrs. Baird's, followed by Plus Vita and Pullman in Brazil in 2001.

A year later, it acquired the US West region baking business of George Weston Limited.

Bimbo acquired the Panrico bakery in Beijing in 2007, initiating its presence in the Asian market.

In 2008, it bought Nutrella bakery in Brazil, followed by George Weston Foods Ltd in 2009, which included the brands Arnold, Boboli, Brownberry, Entenmann's, Freihofer's, Stroehmann and Thomas.

In 2011, it established its position as the largest baking company in the world following the acquisitions of Sara Lee in the US for $959m, along with the Sara Lee operations in Spain and Portugal.

In 2014, Grupo acquired Canada Bread, entered the UK market with the purchase of the New York Bakery Co. and procured Ecuador baking company Supan.

The company continues to move into new markets, notably China, where it recently acquired bakery company Mankattan last year.

“We’re the leaders in the baking industry globally, but we see many more opportunities to build market share in emerging economies.

“We try to stick with the industry we are in, because we are still in a very fragmented market and, even as leaders, we have less than 5% of the market globally.”​ - Servitje

Bimbo is dedicated to fostering innovation and entrepreneurs through numerous programs, business accelerators and partnerships.

Its corporate headquarters are based in the borough of Santa Fe in Mexico City, in one of the emblematic buildings of the area built in 1993 by the Eichelmann Architects Office.

The leader and his message

Bimbo CEO and chairman Daniel Javier Servitje Montull was born in Mexico City in 1959 and first became involved in the family business at the age of 16.

Today, he is estimated to have a personal wealth of at least $1.2bn.

He is passionate about the environment and actively promotes the importance for firms to foster purpose rooted in environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Under his watch, Grupo has earned praise for its corporate governance.

In 2012, he announced plans to switch 100% of Bimbo’s electricity consumption in Mexico for renewable energy sources by developing a wind farm in Oaxaca.

In 2011, the company received the ‘Clean Transportation’ recognition from Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment & Natural Resources.

In 2018, Bimbo was nominated – for the second time – as the only Mexican company to be part of the World’s Most Ethical Companies list prepared by The Ethisphere Institute.

The company also supports almost 300 non-profit organizations, championing a range of social responsibility policies and environmental causes, including the construction of windmill park and other measures to minimize environmental impact.

Servitje serves on the Latin America Conservation Council (LACC), a non-profit organization focusing on environmental conservation.

In 2018, he was avowed as one of Fortune’s 50 greatest leaders of the world – in 36th​ position and the only Mexican to have been included.

His home is also reportedly equipped with solar panels, separate trash containers and water waste management system.

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Daniel Servitje

“Our purpose is to build a sustainable, highly productive, and fully humane enterprise, and it has been our continuous purpose for 40 or 50 years.” ​– Daniel Servitje

Last year, Bimbo collaborated with Giant Motors to design the first made-in-Mexico electric car.

Giant Motors – part of the empire of Carlos Slim, Mexico’s richest man – designed the prototype that is being manufactured in a joint venture with Moldex, a subsidiary of Grupo Bimbo.

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