MEXICO CITY — Don Lorenzo Servitje, who along with relatives founded Panificadora Bimbo, died Feb. 3. He was 98 years old.
Born in Mexico City in 1918, Mr. Servitje was the child of immigrants who had come from Spain in search of “broader horizons.” Juan Servitje, his father, began working at a bakery and pastry shop and eventually established the El Molino bakery, which remained popular for generations.
While his son, known as Don Lorenzo, began working at the bakery at the age of 16, he decided to study to become a public accountant. When Juan Servitje died suddenly, leaving a wife and four young children, Don Lorenzo quit school and took charge of the family bakery.
Adopting a business philosophy of “Believe — Create,” the Servitjes began baking loaf bread at a small plant with 35 employees, 10 delivery trucks and formulas to bake four different types of pan bread. Also partners in the business were his uncle, Jaime Sendra, and his brother, Roberto, who would spend the next half century in a leadership position at Bimbo.
According to the company, the objectives were straightforward — “To bake really good, nutritious, tasty and fresh bread under clean conditions and perfection.”
Success did not come easily. Post World War II economics made the purchase of baking equipment and vehicles difficult, and Bimbo was trying to sell pan bread in a market with very different eating habits. To make a splash, Bimbo introduced personal service, a cellophane-wrapped loaf and broadcast radio and television advertising. Demand for its products grew.
“It is acknowledged in Mexico that it was Bimbo that made toast bread and sandwich consumption popular,” the company said.
The Servitjes established Productos Marinela in 1956, baking pastries and cookies for the growing population. With rapid growth in demand for its products, Bimbo built a new baking plant farther north. Bimbo del Norte in Monterrey was opened to serve the northern states of Mexico.
Expansion continued in the years that followed. Bimbo began operations in the northeast, at Hermosillo, in 1966, and in the Gulf of Mexico region, at Veracruz, in 1970. A second Mexico City plant opened in 1972. The company added to its line by introducing a division for sweets and chocolates in 1971.
Product diversification continued in the 1970s, with the introduction of cookies, pies, and fine pastries and the move into snack foods and confectionery.
International expansion began in 1989 with the construction of a plant in Guatemala and has continued rapidly since then. In 1991, the company established a Latin American Division, which has managed the expansion of the company’s business to the far reaches of South America.
In the United States, Bimbo’s initial entry was through the export of product into California and Texas beginning in 1984.
Into the 1990s, Don Lorenzo Servitje served as Bimbo chairman while Roberto Servitje was president and chief executive officer. Today, the company is headed by Don Lorenzo’s son Daniel Servitje.“Seventy-one years after it was founded, Grupo Bimbo still promotes the values and philosophy that Don Lorenzo himself instilled in the company,” Grupo Bimbo noted in a statement. “We will always remember him as the great man, leader and source of inspiration he was to each and every one of us, and we would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the legacy he has left behind.”