To those in the baking industry outside of Mexico, Grupo Bimbo SAB de CV, Mexico City, is a force to be reckoned with. In 77 years, it’s gone from a family-owned bakery serving Mexico City out of one commercial bakery to the largest baking company in the world. But to the people of Mexico, Grupo Bimbo is something more. It’s a childhood memory. It’s the dream job. It’s a business that is tangibly giving back to the people and country that helped make it the success it is today, and it’s paid off in a loyal workforce, consumer base and incredible growth.
“Grupo Bimbo is a place that many Mexicans dream of working at,” said Jorge Zarate, global senior vice president of operations and engineering at Grupo Bimbo. “Some of us had the products in our elementary schools. Once in our life we thought, ‘Maybe I could work here.’ And it’s a good place to work. It’s a place that challenges you, teaches you and develops you as a person, but it also allows you to have a lot of success and be proud of what you are doing, to see the results of your hard work. And it’s not easy work, but when you see the brand — our Bimbo bear — and the impact it’s having on the country, there is a pride of wanting to stay.”
From its founding, Grupo Bimbo has striven to provide quality baked goods the right way. Today, the company translates that into a robust business plan that honors its consumers, employees and the planet while simultaneously expanding the business at a rapid rate.
Dec. 2, 1945, is a date that every team member at Grupo Bimbo knows. It’s the day that Panificación Bimbo (Bimbo Bread Bakeries) launched operations at its original bakery in Mexico City. Lorenzo Servitje, Jaime Jorba, Jaime Sendra, José T. Mata, Alfonso Velasco and Roberto Servitje founded Panificación Bimbo with the vision to “make truly good, nutritious, tasty, fresh bread … to do it in the right way, amid cleanliness and as perfect as possible, for nurture and pleasure, reaching every household in Mexico.”
Never could those founders dream that they would one day reach households around the globe as the largest baking company in the world with 216 facilities producing and distributing baked goods in 34 countries and continued plans for growth on the horizon.
While the company has been in business for more than 77 years, the core vision remains the same, though it’s expanded into an extensive business strategy. Today, Grupo Bimbo’s culture runs deep, and that’s intentional. The company philosophy — to build a sustainable, highly productive and deeply humane company — drives it to be better.
“One of our founders, Don Roberto Servitje, said, ‘It is a tension that keeps us moving,’ ” said Raul Obregon, chief information and transformation officer, Grupo Bimbo. “When we become highly productive, we have to ensure we remain deeply humane, and when we become deeply humane, we have to ensure being highly productive. I’m not sure if we’ll ever fully realize this philosophy, but it is a constant tension that moves us forward, and I would say it makes us obsessed with the front line. As leaders we have to be close to our markets, the technology, the bakeries, our associates and the vendors so that we can have a true understanding of if we are being truly sustainable, deeply humane and highly productive.”
Grupo Bimbo has focused these three priorities into seven different beliefs that help balance those tensions: “We value the person; we are one community; we compete and win; we act with integrity; we get results; we are sharp operators; we transcend and endure.”
“If we were having this conversation with our founders, those values from 1945 may have evolved, but I would say the essence is the same,” Mr. Obregon explained. “It’s about the individual and helping them achieve their maximum potential when they’re working at Grupo Bimbo. As we have approached and entered new geographies, this essence of valuing the individual, how they are and what they stand for, is what differentiates Grupo Bimbo when we enter a new country, whether it’s Romania, Argentina or the United States.”
In 2020, Grupo Bimbo SAB de CV, Mexico City, reaffirmed its vision into a plan to become a fully regenerative business. This plan is centered around the company’s purpose: to nourish a better world, which encompasses the commitments the company has made to consumers, its employees, the communities it operates in as well as the environment. These commitments are distilled into three categories: Baked For You, Baked for Life and Baked for Nature, which provide action points to take its vision off the page and make it a reality.
Baked For You encompasses the company’s relationship with the consumer and includes the three beliefs of Best Nutritional Profiles for All, Transparent Sustainable Brands and Enabling Healthier Plant-Based Diets. Baked For Life covers beliefs that aim to improve the lives of everyone Grupo Bimbo reaches: Strengthening Communities and Caring for Our People. Baked For Nature communicates Grupo Bimbo’s commitment to the planet and includes the company’s over-arching sustainability goals: Towards Zero Waste, Convert into Regenerative Agriculture and Net Zero Carbon Emissions. Foundational to these commitments are Grupo Bimbo’s non-negotiables: environmental standards, food safety and quality, human rights and labor standards, and sustainable raw material sourcing.
This level of communicating culture and mission may seem like overkill, but it has been critical in helping Grupo Bimbo make decisions in every aspect of business that help move the company in the direction it wants to grow without compromising on its identity.
“The seven beliefs are the backbone of what we try to do,” said Raul Obregon, chief information and transformation officer, Grupo Bimbo. “It’s implementing technology and enabling change not for the sake of change but for the possibility to maximize the potential for us as a company because we like to compete and win. But it’s also about enabling change and transformations so that everyone wins, not just the company but the individuals who work for Grupo Bimbo and the communities that we operate in.”
While Grupo Bimbo has evolved and expanded across the globe, this extensive manifesto helps the company stay true to itself regardless of where it is and remain true to the founders’ vision, regardless of becoming a publicly traded company and adapting to changes in technology and new regulations.
“Grupo Bimbo changes all the time: the technology, the people, the learnings, but the culture remains,” said Paola Agonizantes, production director at Bimbo Santa María, the company’s original bakery that still operates today. “For me, it’s important to see the work, the technology and the equipment change, but the values, the passion, people, respectability and our consumers are the most important parts of the company, and those cannot change.”
Ms. Agonizantes believes it’s the commitment to this vision that has enticed so many in Mexico and made the company an employer of choice when so many in manufacturing struggle to retain employees.
“The people who work in this company recognize and identify these values, and they spend a long time in the company because we’ve identified our values,” she said.
In its commitment to consumers, for example, Grupo Bimbo aims to improve the nutritional profile and quality of its baked goods, whether they are classified as a daily consumption item like sliced bread or an occasional consumption item like a Gansito snack cake. Many of the goals for Baked For You align with the clean label trend, plant-based ingredients and boosting key nutrients people need.
When it comes to those commitments, Grupo Bimbo aims to make 100% of its bakery and snack products with simple and natural recipes, 100% of its products with nutritional and sustainable transparency on packaging and online, and 100% of bakery and snack products part of a healthy plant-based diet by including whole grains and healthy ingredients.
These 2030 goals are built on goals set and accomplished for 2020 and 2022 and the current goals in progress for 2025. So far, Grupo Bimbo has eliminated high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and fats, caramel 3 and 4, diacetyl and azodicarbonamide, and artificial colors and flavors for daily consumption products such as bread. Occasional consumption products such as pastries no longer contain PHOs, caramel 3 and 4, or diacetyl and azodicarbonamide.
This article is an excerpt from the September 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Grupo Bimbo, click here.