The Business Year

Camila Escobar

COLOMBIA - Agriculture

Camila Escobar

President, Procafecol (Juan Valdez)

Bio

Camila Escobar worked for the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation at the beginning of her career, and was appointed as leader of Procafecol S.A., Company with the license of the Juan Valdez brand in 2018. Before joining Procafecol’s team as President, she was head of the business intelligence and marketing unit at Belcorp. Earlier, she managed high-impact projects at McKinsey Colombia. Camila is an industrial engineer from Los Andes University with an MBA from the University of Harvard.

Juan Valdez is banking on growth by strengthening the brand, consolidating its presence in the Colombian market, and developing an aggressive expansion plan internationally.

What makes the coffee industry in Colombia especially resilient?

Without a doubt, 2020 was a challenge for the whole world. The food and beverage industry was severely affected due to current restrictions; however, this is one of the most resilient industries. Juan Valdez has a presence in more than 30 countries, 13 of which are physical stores. At one point or another, we had 335 stores closed in Colombia and 136 stores closed abroad over the past year. This had a significant impact on the company’s income.

How has recovery faired in comparison to projections, and has Juan Valdez and Procafecol had better recovery than expected?

Recovery in early 2021 was as expected. We reached 100% of the income that we projected, and we had a better result in terms of profitability. 2021 will definitely be a year of recovery. We are optimistic about the projections, even though we know there is still a great deal of uncertainty and vulnerability, and currently Colombia is in a lockdown. We expect the industry to recover but with new habits. Customers all around the globe, especially in Colombia, would like to return to a café or Juan Valdez stores as well as continue consuming coffee at home through new channels such as e-commerce delivery, which grew largely during the pandemic, and will continue to grow. In 2020, we saw a 30% impact on our revenue and a negative EBITDA in our financial results. With that in mind, we made a projection for 2021 based on a recovery that will reach levels similar to 2019 by 2022. In terms of our international expansion, the crisis gave us the opportunity to enter new markets, mostly in Europe and Asia. The most important Latin American markets and countries are still the ones that we are heavily betting on to a rapid recovery.

What does the B Lab Certification awarded to Juan Valdez mean for brand identity and business development?

Being awarded as a B-Corp in February 2021 is an important accomplishment for the company. It sends an important statement, we not only want to be the best coffee brand in the world, we also want to be the best coffee brand in the world. B-Corporation is a group of companies that want to redefine the success of the corporate world not only in terms of economic gains but also in terms of social and environmental impact. We completed this entire certification process in the middle of the pandemic and are extremely pleased and proud. Important companies are moving towards this new way of doing business. Close to 3,700 companies around the world have this certification, but only 70 in Colombia does. That’s why we feel a great responsibility for being part of the B Corp movement, which reaffirms our purpose to create shared value for all our stakeholders.

What campaigns make up the Juan Valdez strategy for international presence, and what countries have you focused on?

We envision important opportunities for Juan Valdez to be one of the most important Colombian brands worldwide. We will do this via three pillars: strengthening the Juan Valdez brand; consolidating in the Colombian market; and capturing an aggressive expansion in the international market. Our income dropped by around 30% in 2020; however, the international market grew by 12%. We pursued a large opportunity last year in terms of expansion worldwide, mainly through retail channels. This sector of consumer goods is growing rapidly not only in brick-and-mortar stores but also through e-commerce. Our strategy of international expansion is still alive. We want to deepen our presence in our focus countries, mainly in the Western hemisphere, and reactivate the businesses not only in retail but also stores. We are heavily focused on North America, both the US and Mexico, and we have an important bet on e-commerce through which we can pursue opportunities in retail in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

You may also be interested in...

View All interviews