Interview: Alejandro Sánchez Calvo – PublyCom Brands

Alejandro is a communication entrepreneur engaged in marketing and communication since 2000. He has worked for Coca-Cola de México, Casa Cuervo and, since 2006; in his communication agency, Publycom, where him and his team have collaborated in projects for brands, institutions and political projects in Mexico, the US and Latin America.

For some years now, they have focused on brand development and demand promotion through communication strategies and content creation.

1. In your opinion, how important is the agri-food sector in Mexico?

It is one of the cornerstones in Mexican economy and also one of the fastest growing sectors. It not only feeds our country, but it also promotes employment generation. Being a foreign exchange source, it has very significant potential.

2. Do you think it is important for farming companies to rely on marketing strategies?

Not only is it important but it’s essential: if farming companies want to be truly competitive and remain profitable in a market in which, for a while, being a good grower has not been enough, and must also be a good marketer.

But the agri-food sector is highly fragmented, making it very difficult for marketing strategies to work to an individual company level. Even the largest farmers are only a small percent of the supply in Mexico and the US.

This is why any marketing effort that seeks to make a difference, consumer preference and consumption is important, becomes organized as a coordinated strategy between several (preferably many) farmers united, in order to stand out and obtain results.

3. What are the most important challenges for this sector?

(I will focus on the marketing challenges)

I believe that a real effort can and should be made to position Mexican field products in export markets, emphasizing the US; in order to highlight Mexico as a grower of healthy, safe, excellent quality and tasteful food, coupled with responsible practices with the environment, as well as workers and their communities.

The food producing sector, when united, could achieve extraordinary results: fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and seafood, beverages, dairy, sugar, etc.

Positioning Mexico in food.

Some processed and value-added products have achieved results, beer brands, tequila, and even sugar brands.

When it comes to fresh products, the only ones that have achieved a position are avocado trees. It is truly admirable how the USDA Marketing Order has managed to ensure that farmers comply with quality and food safety standards, and that they comply with the payment of their fees to promote Mexican avocado in the US. They have increased the demand for their product exponentially, which has kept very attractive prices for many years, causing a huge wealth generation and economic revenue.

Global consumer trends are aiming at healthier, less processed, naturally sourced and ethical products. This trend opens an extraordinary opportunity to position fresh products from the Mexican field.

I believe Eleven Rivers is an excellent platform to start a project of this nature, highlighting quality products being produced in those companies which are compliant with food safety, professional, environmental and social ethics.

4. How does the PublyCom agency operate and tell us about your experience with farming companies?

At Publycom we have recent experience in the agri-food sector with companies and brands such as Zulka, SuKarne, Triple H and Kindom Fresh Farms.

At our agency, all projects are custom-made and start from a very accurate diagnosis of each market and product, from the challenges to be solved with clients, buyers and end consumers. This is how proper communication and marketing strategies are designed and activated.

Today we are devoted to a project with Eleven Rivers Management team, in order to propose a communication/marketing path which turns the Eleven Rivers badge into a community of farmers having their products highlighted by quality, food safety, health, taste and social and environmental responsibility standards.

It is not easy to get the market of buyers to set this community apart as different and better, but it is possible. Especially because its promise of differentiation is based on reality, on standards that are met. They are not empty promises.

5. In your opinion, which are the most important market trends that our farmers should pay special attention to?

Freshness, health and ethical origin are trends that farmers can take advantage of.

Frequently, the talk is about added value (packaging, portioning, processed) as the only way to set a product apart. I think it is a possibility, but not the only one.

Freshness and health are great sources to set a product apart today; and more than ever, these are values the client and consumer are looking for.

6. Would you mind sharing a success story about marketing in the farming industry?

Avocados From México, Café de Colombia, Denominación de Origen Tequila, Washington Apples, Got Milk campaign.

What do these have in common? That all of them originate from an agreement between farmers and regulatory committees they create themselves, such as APEAM, USDA, Consejo Regulador del Tequila, Farmers’ Associations, etc.

None of these efforts has been short-term or has yield immediate benefits for members. But in all cases, there has been a demand increase, bringing benefits both collectively and individually.

7. Is it possible to promote an entire sector as a “country brand” to increase demand?

The demand for fresh and healthy products will grow and farmers will benefit without having to do something different.

But this trend opens up the opportunity for Mexico and Mexico’s best farmers, when well organized, to become key players in this growth, to become active drivers of the trend, promoters of demand.

If they choose to do so, they will benefit so much more from the increase in demand, which may also be reflected in better prices by achieving mechanisms to rate or regulate the supply (just as avocado growers, by limiting the regions certified for exports).

8. In terms of marketing, how important is food safety and social responsibility for farming companies?

Food safety and social responsibility are not differentiating factors by themselves. They are requirements: If you do not have them, you may not even enter the markets.

But if these standards are raised and added in a supply which also includes quality, health, professional ethics and the environment, we are now talking about a product category which can be marketed with a badge and these products become appreciated by buyers and consumers.

9. Is there anything else you would like to add?

It is common that farming companies do not have a native culture for marketing. Food producers are entrepreneurs whose calling is in production, increasing productivity, and investing in farming technology.

Their traditional scheme has been to produce very well and delegate the areas of marketing and exports to brokers and marketers in the US, which move the product.

However, in recent years, farming companies have moved closer to the commercial side, they have invested and become a part of the business process.

This has caused that they are not more sensitive to opportunities and possibilities of having badges, or even creating brands that set their products apart from the Mexican competition and even from the US.

I believe it is possible to have a well-known, reputable, great brand if the best fruit and vegetable farmers in Mexico come together; but only the truly best, those who meet the highest standards they set themselves.