Few companies from emerging markets have grown into successful multinational enterprises. One business that has is the packaged-goods company Grupo Bimbo. Founded in Mexico in 1945 by Lorenzo Servitje, the publicly traded company now holds the title of the world’s largest baker, with sales exceeding $10 billion in 2010. Just over half of those sales came from outside its home market—namely China; many Latin American countries, including Argentina and Brazil; and the United States. The company trades under several well-known brands, including Entenmann’s and Thomas’ in the United States, and the ubiquitous Bimbo brand in Latin America.
Servitje’s son, Daniel Servitje, took over as CEO in 1997. Since then, Grupo Bimbo sales have more than quintupled, markedly due to its growing geographic footprint and improved profitability. A few big acquisitions under Servitje have also made Grupo Bimbo the largest baker in the United States—most recently, it purchased the fresh-baked-goods unit of Sara Lee, which is still awaiting regulatory approval, as of early August 2011.
In this interview with McKinsey’s Alejandro Diaz, Servitje discusses the differences in business philosophy between his company and multinationals from developed markets; the challenges of executing mergers and acquisitions; the state of the Latin American consumer; and the increasing attention that Group Bimbo is paying to health and nutrition issues.
The making of an emerging-market champion
The CEO of Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo reflects on the growth path of one of the world’s biggest packaged-goods companies.