Mexico 2018 | AGRICULTURE | B2B

Mexican producers are reacting to—and engendering—a series of healthy eating trends that are slowly revolutionizing the entire food chain.

Edurne Balmori Palacios
Íñigo González
Sesajal Group

What has been your strategy for driving recent growth?

EDURNE BALMORI PALACIOS Metco is ranked second in Mexico's sweetener market, with a 30.9% share. In 2018, we are working hard to increase that to 32-33%. The stevia segment has also grown significantly—around 35% in 2016-2017 alone, and Metco is the leader in stevia products in Mexico with a 51% market share. Our key product in this segment is Svetia, which we created with our R&D team and launched in 2009. The challenge now is that we have many competitors and numerous stevia products coming in from outside Mexico, mostly from the US and China. While China is the number-one producer of stevia as a plant, Metco has been working at its factory to produce its own stevia since 2017. We want to be the main supplier of our own raw material. And in one or two years, we want to start selling our stevia to other companies.

ÍÑIGO GONZÁLEZ Sesajal was founded in 1989. The name Sesajal comes from sesame and Jalisco state, and we started the business with the goal of exporting agricultural products with added value to the US and other international markets. As the years have gone by, we have been able to increase our exports and continue giving importance to domestic sales, but 80% of our revenues now come from outside of Mexico. Since 1999, we have participated in food expositions in Europe, as well as the US and Canada, which has put us on the radar of customers around the world. In 2009, we got certified as ISO 22000 because customers such as Bimbo are now requesting certifications for quality assurance. In 2010, we decided to both export our products to the US and establish a footprint in North America. Hence, we established a company in San Diego to distribute our products while also developing new ones for that part of the world.

What are some aspects of how you add value to your products?

EBP Our mission and vision is always to produce healthy, innovative products: we only want to give customers products that are good for their health. This is difficult to do. While Mexico is taxing sugary food and drink products to combat obesity, we are not seeing as much of a correlation between this and an increase in consumption of our sugar-free products as you might expect. Therefore, we have to be creative in producing healthy and organic products to attract consumers. Our main challenge is that most people still see our products as artificial and link sweeteners with health issues such as cancer. Consumers still see sugar as more natural. This is why the stevia segment has grown a lot and why we are trying to offer stevia in all our product lines. Stevia is the only sweetener that is natural because it is plant-based. Nowadays, you have to produce a product that is healthy, mostly organic, and has no more than around five ingredients to reflect today's clean label trend. And all the ingredients you use have to be as natural as possible. These are the key requirements we are working on.

IG Over the years, we have entered into new areas of business. At first, it was only whole sesame seeds because McDonald's decided at the beginning of the 1980s to put sesame seeds in its hamburger buns. Since we wanted to supply quality raw Mexican materials like sesame seeds, we needed to add value to it. Therefore, we took the skin and exported it to the US. We realized we should not depend on only one product, so we started diversifying and innovating within sesame seeds. Being a leader in sesame and having the purchasing power and supplier in Mexico, we then decided not to restrict ourselves to only sesame seeds. Soon we began milling and refining sesame oil and before long were knocking on doors in the cosmetic industry. As soon as we started diversifying, we realized we needed more resources and that we had the power to go to the main markets around the world. Now we manufacture 85% of what we sell.