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  • 02 May 2019

A brand owner’s perspective on Latin America

A brand owner’s perspective on Latin America

Grupo Nutresa, formerly Grupo Nacional de Chocolates, is a food-processing conglomerate headquartered in Medellín, Colombia.

The group’s principal activities are producing, distributing and selling cold cuts, biscuits, chocolates, coffee, ice cream and pasta. In 2004, the group began a program of international expansion, acquiring several companies in Central America and the Caribbean. The company now markets its products under approximately 70 different brands in 65 countries.

For Luisa Garcia, brand manager at Grupo Nutresa, this presents a number of challenges, and opportunities. ‘We live in a changing world with customers that demand clear and relevant information to make their purchasing choices, while at the same time, value design as part of an identity statement. Therefore, our responsibility is to surprise them with brands, designs and labeling that adjust to those expectations and spaces like this allow us to discover new ways of how to get there.


'In Grupo Nutresa we have brands that have reached or are close to becoming 100 years old, and as brand managers we have a challenge to ensure they remain relevant in the modern world, while we keep their traditions and identity.’

Garcia examples its Compañía Nacional de Chocolates brand and how modern printing technology played an important role, ‘helping a beautiful design look even better with special details or effects created around its printing.

‘Packaging is one of the main elements we need to take into account,’ she enthuses, ‘and it’s vital that we can count with allies both in the design and the printing industry, in order to have successful evolutions for our brands.’

Looking specifically at the market in Colombia, Garcia notes the emergence of discount stores in the country, and elsewhere in region, as one of the challenges.

‘This was something that Europe and other regions faced many years ago and is a game changer phenomenon because consumers are more open to try new brands and question the relevance of their traditional products.

‘Branding then, becomes more relevant than ever because we need to make sure customers are aware of what our brands offer, and why there is a premium price they have to pay for them, but most importantly, become one of their favourite brands; those brands that are part of their identity and close to their hearts. It´s a very challenging task with so many products and brands in the market but also one that I´m particularly passionate about because it demands more of your creativity and ability to capture their attention and love. Packaging and what we do to stand out in at the stores is vital for this purpose.’


She is inspired by small entrepreneurs, who are often emerging according to current and future market trends. ‘Therefore, you find these new products with beautiful designs, clean labels, environmentally friendly packaging, etc. that tend to become the new market trend for us.’

She examples Hatsu, a tea beverages brand, that was an entrepreneur development in Medellín that offered a fresh and fun way to enjoy ready-to-drink beverages. Colorful bottles and refreshing products have rapidly gained relevance in the market, says Garcia, and were then acquired by Postobon, one of the biggest beverage companies in the country.

‘We see that many big companies including Grupo Nutresa are interested in supporting entrepreneurs that are aligned with the company’s market interests, so I believe the entrepreneur development is just beginning to grow in Colombia and that these strategic alliances are going accelerate their development,’ states Garcia.

‘Being a brand manager, where creative thinking is really important, it has really helped me in my role as innovation leader at my organization. What I try to encourage in my team mates is an approach towards innovation with three key points: the sky is the limit – dream big first, then you go and validate whether crazy ideas can be materialized or not; no judgement – from a set of bad ideas a very good one may come, it may just need time; and try to think as an entrepreneur – even though we work for a big company with many procedures, sometimes the answer is doing it as an entrepreneur with all that big company resources would do.

‘When working with external clients I believe communication is essential because it allows you to give a clear brief and be available for any questions or suggestions along the way. I find it very useful to give them the liberty to propose and encourage an out-of-the-box approach towards the projects, while you state what the untouchables of the brand are. A co-working creative process has always being the best way to achieve the best final results.’

As a caveat, Garcia notes such creativity must go hand-in-hand with understanding the needs of the consumer. ‘The greatest challenge is to keep it simple while giving customers all the required information they need in order to understand what they are buying. Design is a great ally but we find that every day we are required to include more information while trying to have an attractive design.

‘In Latin America there have been new regulations in the past years regarding the content of certain ingredients (sugar, sodium, etc.) and countries like Chile, Mexico and Ecuador, currently have mandatory labels to inform consumers about this. Colombia is also in a process of making this regulation official and is something we need to take into account because it impacts our own packaging and labeling. In Grupo Nutresa we are collaborating to facilitate this process with our own products and brands.’

Garcia concludes: ‘I believe in Latin America we need to be exactly at the same level as any other label industries in the world and I see that companies in the industry are working hard to make it so.’

Luisa Garcia, Grupo Nutresa brand manager, is to speak at this month’s Label Summit Latin America 2019, taking place May 14-15 in Medellín, Colombia.

Find out more about this and other industry events in the L&L Events diary


James Quirk is group managing editor of Labels & Labeling.

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