Issue Spring 12
With 92 years in the business and a product line that includes over 150 SKUs, La Moderna has a keen insight into the consumers who buy its pasta, cookies, soup packets and flour mixes. But, the business had a rough start. When the Toluca, Mexico-based company began in 1920, pasta wasn’t a popular item for people who centered their diets on bread, tortillas and beans. However, after several improvements to its food packaging and factory locations, the family company has found its way into the hearts and the taste of the Mexican people.
Today, Grupo La Moderna is Mexico’s No.1 pasta producer, and according to Gerardo Palacios, marketing director of La Moderna, part of the company’s success is thanks to the close attention it pays to consumer trends and needs. “We track the consumer, who is the base of the business,” he says. “Generally, we investigate to find what his latest needs are.” And right now, what La Moderna sees at the moment is that people have less time for cooking and are beginning to look for nutritious products that fit into their lifestyle.
Years ago, a housewife would have cooked a homemade menudo or pozole for her family, but today more households have two working parents and live a fast-paced lifestyle that doesn’t allow them to prepare time-consuming soups or dishes. La Moderna focuses its attention on producing food items that make life easier and at the same time provide nutritional value.
While many of La Moderna products offer quick cooking solutions – such as pastas that are ready in 10 to 12 minutes, instant soups, pancake mixes and pasta sauce – the brand ensures its products are nutritious, and especially promotes this importance through its public communication. In Mexico, where nutrition is highly promoted, La Moderna has been contributing to this cause for many years by communicating to its consumers that dry pasta is nutritious. “Most Mexicans consume pasta in broth, called ‘sopa aguada,’” Palacios says. “The nutrients are not lost when you make it as dry pasta. Even when pasta is cooked to al dente it yields the most nutrients.”
The company engages in ongoing campaigns and events with nutrition specialists who relay valuable information and new scientific discoveries that promote and reinforce the benefits of pasta and recommend it as a healthy food. This communication is maintained via social programs, magazines, through opinion leaders and even through world-wide organizations. La Moderna belongs to the International Pasta Organization, which shares the latest innovations in pasta.
While La Moderna is committed to efficiency in production, it also strongly believes in the importance of supporting and caring for the well-being of its employees. Often these two roads can lead in different directions. The company finds an important balance between the two, offering opportunities for workers to boost their professional growth, and training is provided in areas of technical and personal development. “Our company has always communicated that its most important asset is the employees,” Palacios notes. “Fortunately in this company there are people who are very young and others who are older.” It experiences minimal employee turnover, he says, and employees feel appreciated.
For this profoundly sensitive business, social responsibility is yet another part of its distinct standard practice. During the last four years, La Moderna has contributed financially to Teleton, an organization that builds and operates rehabilitation centers for disabled children. With its 15 rehabilitation centers and its Institute of Higher Education in Rehabilitation, Teleton offers Mexico the world’s largest private system for children’s rehabilitation, serving more than 24,000 a year.
Although tortillas continue to be the main source of carbohydrates in Mexico, one of La Moderna’s objectives is to increase the pasta market. Fortunately, the market is growing at an annual rate of three percent.
“In the long run, we don’t want to neglect international trends,” Palacios notes. “We want to keep investigating the consumer and obviously continue to meet his needs.”