The Business Year

Carlos Ignacio Gallego

COLOMBIA - Economy

Carlos Ignacio Gallego

CEO & President, Grupo Nutresa


Carlos Ignacio Gallego is a civil engineer with a master’s in business administration from EAFIT University. He has also completed various graduate programs at Harvard, Northwestern, and MIT, focused on strategic business management. He has worked with Grupo Nutresa since 1991. He has held, among others, the position of head of production, industrial vice president, and president of Servicios Nutresa prior to his current position.

Focusing on enhancing innovation over the years, Nutresa has implemented new technologies, increased its capabilities in order to be more flexible and provide the services that its consumers truly need.

What factors explain Nutresa’s strong market performance in 2020?

In 2020, despite the adverse circumstances, we experienced 11.7% growth. This growth is the result of a combination of organic and inorganic growth. Over the last decade, Grupo Nutresa has experienced 66% organic growth and 33% inorganic growth. In the latter, we are still developing our activity and pursuing new opportunities for improvement. This growth was mainly driven by a proper management of our portfolio. Nutresa has always been committed to understanding the needs of its customers and consumers in order to customize its portfolio according to their priorities. That said, the strengthening of the brand made us more attractive and a first choice for consumers. Finally, this development is also due to the many different means of reaching the customer, such as alternative channels, food services and experiences, restaurants, access to traditional channels, retail shops, and so on. To sum up, it was the combination of all these factors, plus innovation, that helped the company to reach its current sales level.

In what ways has the company had to adapt due to the pandemic?

Nutresa has always focused on enhancing certain key capacities, such as innovation and change management. Taking that into account, we have made a number of advancements and adjustments to our activities. These include implementing new technologies, increasing our adaptability in order to be more flexible and less traditional, and so on. Innovation plays a fundamental role in all this. It is not only about product innovation, but also processes, services, and business model innovation. Our best example of innovation and adaptability to the pandemic is related to our restaurant services. Prior to the lockdown, our restaurant services amounted to 12% of our total sales. However, although sales dramatically dropped due to the lockdown, we were able to take control of the situation, and by April we were back to selling 40% of our products. This is due to our swift reactive response. For example, we created our own call center, those who worked in our restaurants were switched to delivery service, and we boosted our digital channels. We sent the rest of the staff home, while keeping their jobs intact. At Grupo Nutresa, no one was laid off because of the pandemic. In fact, we finished 2020 with more employees than at the beginning of the year, all thanks to the rapid innovation, which helped to propel a steady recovery. Nutresa adapted its portfolio in order to provide the services the consumers needed, especially during the pandemic. For instance, our portfolio now includes personal care products, such as facemasks and hand sanitizer.

40% of Nutresa’s sales come from outside Colombia. Which strategy made international expansion successful?

Nutresa takes a broad approach to internationalization. Internationalization implies having access to FDI and having distribution networks or plants that supplement the ones we currently have in Colombia. In addition, it also implies having access to raw materials in a competitive manner and new technologies that are globally available. Internationalization is not just about exports, but also includes imports. We have followed this approach for many years now, and it has given us extremely solid results. In fact, over the last 20 years, Grupo Nutresa’s international sales have experienced an annual growth of between 15% and 16% compared to an annual growth of about 8.5% in Colombia. In 2020, Nutresa’s board of directors decided to approve the construction of a new multi-category plant in Santa Marta. This project, known as C3, involves an investment of USD133 million. It will serve different food categories and aims to export 70% of its products and services. We are also working on a project within the Pacific Alliance that would allow the four countries to join forces in order to have access to more developed markets, specifically the US. This would create more jobs and generate taxes in each of these territories.



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