Sustainability is a major priority for Mexico City-based Grupo Bimbo SAB de CV, a pillar in its business strategy and woven into every business decision. Every work center is expected to meet the goals set forth by the company. 

“Every plant must adhere to mandatory sustainability practices in Mexico,” said Alejandra Vazquez Langle Nieto, global sustainability vice president, Grupo Bimbo. “They don’t have to be in compliance all at once, but they need to have a plan in place for how they are going to achieve those goals.” 

It would be easy to assume that Bimbo Santa María, being the oldest facility, might struggle to keep up, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, Bimbo Santa María is No. 2 in Mexico when it comes to sustainability KPIs, and No. 1 in water reduction.

“Bimbo Santa María is interesting because it’s an old building and different than what we would build today, but it’s an example of how we can adapt,” Ms. Vazquez Langle Nieto said. “You just need the right people, tools and mindset.” 

The building has required extensive renovations to bring it in compliance with food safety and sustainability, from the finish on the walls and floors to replacing glass with polycarbon to installing air exchangers and an air management system to create a positive pressure in the bakery. The building also didn’t have many windows for natural light, but they have since been added to reduce the need for artificial lighting. The lights in the bakery have been updated to motion-detection LEDs. 

As the production lines have been updated and modernized, however, sustainability has been part of the equation. 

“The building may be old, but the production lines are very modern,” said Mauricio Borges Rivera, maintenance director, Bimbo Santa María. “We’re investing in new equipment all the time. We have a continuous improvement mindset, and we’re always looking for capital investment opportunities.”

While efficiency may be the first consideration when looking to upgrade equipment, Grupo Bimbo’s second priority is always to look for equipment that will aid in meeting its sustainability goals.

“It’s worth it because it translates into efficiency and business opportunities,” said Jimena Hernández, global sustainability manager, Grupo Bimbo.

Still, Bimbo Santa María retains its place as a company leader, being the first bakery in multiple ways. 

“Many sustainability projects begin here and are replicated at other facilities because it is the first bakery,” said Uriel Betancourt, Bimbo Mexico sustainability director.

Mr. Borges Rivera noted the bakery eliminated a large boiler through a heat recovery system that now heats all the water used for proofing product and services throughout the building. 

“We were the first bakery in Mexico to do that,” he said. 

A water treatment facility on site allows the plant to reuse 80% of the treated water for services such as restrooms and cleaning. Five years ago, Bimbo Santa María achieved zero waste to landfill; 100% of packaging materials and food waste is recycled. The plant’s electricity comes from clean energy, either wind farms or the solar panels installed on the roof five years ago. 

This article is an excerpt from the September 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Bimbo Santa Maríaclick here.