WINNING THE HEARTS OF CONSUMERS

Colombia 2018 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Miguel Fernando Escobar, CEO of Postobón, on its strategy to remain one of the most successful private companies in Colombia, its focus on innovation, and its sustainability initiatives.

Miguel Fernando Escobar
BIOGRAPHY
Miguel Fernando Escobar studied business administration at EAFIT University and has a master in economics from Notre Dame University in the US. He previously worked at Owen Illinois in different positions including General Manager of Sales and Marketing in Peru and Colombia, President of OI-Colombia, and President of OI-North America region. He also was General Manager of Brinsa in Colombia. He has been Postobón’s CEO since 2013. He is also part of the board of directors of the National Association of Enterprises, the Private Council of Competitiveness, and Proantioquia.

How has Postobón evolved since its establishment and what has been its role in the development of the country?

2018 is our 114th anniversary and we continue to be one of the most successful private companies in Colombia. In order to achieve growth, we have to support the growth of the country, including that of the population. As a result, our business knowledge base is nationwide, and we have an intensive footprint both in manufacturing and distribution. Postobón made a decision to change and expand its portfolio, and has thus been working on a multi-category concept that covers above and beyond what we have done in the last 114 years. That is why we are investing in the beer market and have signed a JV with a Chilean group, CCU, to invest in Colombia. We are now taking a step forward to penetrate the beer industry, which is a great opportunity for us. We are also trying to understand the opportunities we can tackle based on our knowledge of logistics and distribution and our capacity to build brands and categories.

Can you tell us about the main initiatives the company is taking to reposition itself?

We understand the market trends; innovation is a must for us. Every day we work in R&D to reconfigure our beverages. Our portfolio is truly varied, and we really do not depend merely on carbonated soft drinks (CSD). 50% of our portfolio sales are low-calorie or zero-calorie products. 30% of our portfolio consists of zero-calorie products, and the products that grow the most are not related to CSDs. The per capita consumption of CSDs in Colombia is low compared to other countries, and blaming CSDs for obesity is unjust. Studies from consulting companies have shown sugar in CSDs is less than 2.5% of the daily sugar intake of Colombians. We are confident that regardless of the regulations—which we welcome because they are necessary—we are in a great shape.

In 2016 Postobón registered 14% growth. What is the strategy behind this growth?

The strategy is simple: we work every day to conquer the hearts of Colombian consumers. It is our inspiration for the company. The reason why we have had double-digit growth in the last few years is because we have a great variety of portfolio, especially in terms of options, so we are able to understand all the segments, from value to premium. We have all types of products for all types of consumers in every category. We never increase prices and work hard to design great products for every segment of the population.

Can you tell us about your goals for making the company more sustainable?

In terms of sustainability, the economic portion is fundamental, though we also have social programs with local communities. The environmental sector is fundamental to us because we sell and put packages into the industry every single second of the day. We have a large truck distribution system and a great focus on packaging and transportation to reduce our carbon footprint. In packaging, we use different elements such as glass, plastics, Tetra Pak, and so on. We have a solid program to use recycled content in every single package or bottle that we use every day. We continue to make investments with our PET suppliers to continue to increase the percentage of recyclable material in every bottle.

What are your main goals and priorities for 2018?

2018 will be a challenge for Colombia. The country has worked hard to settle the peace process, and there is a great deal of confusion around that. Therefore, 2018 will not going to be an easy year in terms of consumption, though we are optimistic that we will keep the peace process in great shape and that there will be healthy growth for us.