A PORTFOLIO OF GOOD AND FRESH

Costa Rica 2018 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Gonzalo Chaves, CEO of Dos Pinos, on the importance of the cooperative model, developing otherwise inaccessible parts of the country, and pivoting from a dairy to a food industry player.

Gonzalo Chaves
BIOGRAPHY
Gonzalo Chaves has an extensive background in multi-national companies, having held senior management positions at the highest regional executive level for countries in Latin America and Asia Pacific, including Ecuador, Brazil, and the Philippines in administrative, financial, and operational areas. After a successful international career, he returned to Costa Rica and joined the Cooperativa de Productores de Leche Dos Pinos R.L. as Auditor General in 2007, reporting directly to the Board of Directors, before becoming CEO. He holds an undegraduate degree in public accounting and an MBA from the Edinburgh Business School. He is a graduate from the CEO management program at Columbia Business School.

What is Dos Pinos' market share in Costa Rica?

According to recent surveys, Dos Pinos is the most important brand in Costa Rica, well above the included global brands. That is a reflection of our permanent commitment to fulfill our value proposal to consumers. We are the absolute leaders in the dairy market in Costa Rica, with large market share in most categories. In Panama, where one of our brands, Chiricana, is the most preferred dairy brand, we are also the leaders in the UHT segment. In Central America, Dos Pinos is one of the 10 most preferred brands, and we enjoy a significant market share. We are very relevant actors in the region.

What is the significance of being a cooperative, and how does this affect your business model?

We are proud to be a cooperative because we have been able to create a model that promotes social development and the democratic distribution of wealth for our cooperative members. Another important factor is the impact the cooperative has had on consumers in terms of the health and the social development of the country. Dos Pinos represents around 2% of the country's GDP, and we have about 2,000 members that are the owners of the cooperative. Most of them are small and medium-sized farmers. Out of these, around 1,500 are farmers and 500 are employees of the cooperative. Therefore, we have this balance between our farmers and workers who all participate in the ownership of the cooperative. We also have more than 5,000 employees in the region and have a direct impact on more than 60,000 families linked to activities related to our business. We have a set of values as a cooperative, including commitment, adaptability, honesty, solidarity, and the discipline to make every single day the best at fulfilling our customers' and owners' requirements. Dos Pinos has been contributing for 70 years, not only to its growth as a business, but also to the country and the region and the health and social development of its people. It has also greatly impacted the development of otherwise hard to access and develop rural areas.

What motivated you to expand?

In 2014, we developed a new strategic plan in which we decided not only to focus on our core business, the dairy industry, but also to diversify and expand our activities into other market segments. One of these is food and beverage. This is why we decided to buy our own beverage facilities, in addition to Gallito, where we see the synergy of bringing in new lines of business built on our existing scale, logistics capabilities, and knowledge of the market. In addition, we wanted to be relevant as a regional leader not only as a dairy cooperative, but also as a food industry player.

What is your assessment of the typical Costa Rican consumer, and how does this profile make Dos Pinos innovate in terms of market offerings?

Dos Pinos is the most valued brand in Costa Rica, a position we have been able to maintain over the years. The Costa Rican consumer is smart and exigent in terms of quality, and we have been able to consistently provide them with quality, variety, and innovation. This is good news for the customer, who is always looking for the next thing from Dos Pinos. Every day we are working to bring something new to our consumers; this is why we introduce to market on average 60 new products every year, ranging from teas, yogurts, cheeses, ice cream, and more. We are always focused on our customers' needs, using innovation and R&D to satisfy our customers. This is our daily challenge.

What are Dos Pinos' plans and goals for 2018?

Dos Pinos still has an aggressive plan for growth, innovation, and diversification. We are going to keep growing in the food industry, especially synergizing Gallito with Dos Pinos, which will bring new products and combinations into the market.