A Conversation With Bimbo’s David Benitez
David Benitez, chief executive officer of Bimbo Snacks USA/Dayhoff LLC, divisions of Mexico-based Grupo Bimbo, took some time out recently for a chat with Confectioner. Grupo Bimbo, established in Mexico in 1945, is one of the world’s leading bakeries.
Benitez discussed the challenges and opportunities associated with moving into a new market, with a particular focus on the U.S. Hispanic market.
Confectioner: Give us a bit of background about the objectives of Bimbo Snacks USA.
Benitez: “We want to clone our successes in Mexico in the United States. We know that the size of the Hispanic market in the United States is increasing dramatically. So I think we started at the right time.”
Confectioner: How do you think U.S. companies are doing in terms of meeting the needs of Hispanic consumers?
Benitez: “Naturally, I don’t know what other companies are doing internally, but I can say that I think there is huge gap between the needs and what companies are doing.”
Confectioner: What advice can you offer U.S. companies attempting to reach out more effectively to Hispanics? 
Benitez: “They have to understand that marketing to Hispanics is a lot more than a translation. An overall strategy is needed, especially when it comes to communicating. They need to keep their essence. They should never forget their strengths, although at the same time, key adaptations are needed.”
Confectioner: What about retailers?
Benitez: “The best retailers listen and react; most of all, they try things. Important traits include a willingness to learn and taking a partnership approach vs. a buying and selling scenario.”
Confectioner: As part of a major bakery company, you’ve seen the effect a trend like the low-carb craze can have. How has that influenced the way you view the candy category?
Benitez: “We were very well prepared for it. We actually had the Atkins license. Secondly, when we developed our company position for the next six years, health was one of the core bricks in the strategy. So did low-carb do us any harm? No, because we were prepared.”
Confectioner: Do you see the candy industry changing and being influenced by consumers’ desires for more snack-like products?
Benitez: “We see a big impact of snacking as a coming trend. I think the difference between the two industries is that with snacks — even though technically speaking it’s not true — snacks are perceived as more healthful.”
Confectioner:  Should this perception have an impact on candy product development?
Benitez: “Maybe we can create new categories. In Mexico, we never had licorice. When Mars/Lucas introduced Skwinkles, they introduced a Mexicanized licorice with chili powder, and then it was the fastest-growing segment for the last four years. So it all depends on the innovation part of the equation.” n