Features

Hugo Garcia – BIA Mexico

Popping the cork on centralized legal processes

Established well over a century ago, Grupo Mariposa-Apex is a food and beverage company that operates across Latin America, in Mexico, Ecuador and Central America. It has several arms, including Pepsi bottling plants, and brings in nearly $3 billion in annual revenue.

As part of its expansion efforts, it opened BIA Mexico in 2019 and promptly acquired a variety of new brands and products in its three main categories: snacks, culinary foods and coffee.

Hugo Garcia | Head of Legal, Mexico | BIA Mexico

Hugo Garcia | Head of Legal, Mexico | BIA Mexico

This move led to rapid growth but also complicated legal and business matters because BIA was procuring families of products rather than single items. For instance, San Marcos, which is part of the snack arm, has a plethora of bottled and canned products: a variety of chili peppers, sauces, vegetables, dressings and beans. The coffee and tea companies include the popular Café Punta del Cielo, Café Caturra, Café de Olla and the tea Vitte.

BIA needed someone to manage the legal side, so it could continue expanding its portfolio. Searching for an attorney with expertise handling similarly large companies with several brands under their umbrellas, it sought out Hugo Garcia. At the time, he’d spent over seven years at Grupo Modela, an expansive brewery company in Mexico that’s part of Anheuser-Busch and known for its popular beers, Budweiser, Michelob, Corona and Modelo, among many others.

Garcia was ready to take on the challenge and became the head of legal Mexico in September 2021.

“BIA’s goal is to become an established competitor of large, global brands like Mondelez International and Nestle within the next 10 years,” he told Vanguard in May 2023.

Funneling disparate methods into a centralized approach

At BIA, Garcia tackles everything from corporate, intellectual property and regulatory matters to disputes, litigation, and mergers and acquisitions. Since its founding in 2019, BIA has acquired several companies and plans to acquire more over the next few years.

With the ever-increasing mountain of products and brands under the BIA umbrella, he’s focused on centralization, especially as many of these products aren’t housed in Mexico but in other Latin American countries.

Every business, such as the snack company San Marcos or the tea producer Vitte, has its specific infrastructure, flowcharts and methods of conducting business; put simply, a bottled herbal drink company will have different needs and operations than a protein snack manufacturer. So, he’s collaborating with BIA’s business and operations teams to standardize and homogenize these processes, which range from recruitment and talent development to marketing and sales.

“We must learn from what these businesses were doing successfully, then apply and integrate that into BIA,” Garcia says.

Part of his role is to recognize what processes are critical to BIA’s success. He considers and analyzes what the acquired company is producing and its market niche, its capabilities to produce at a certain volume and any potential weaknesses. He then works with other teams across BIA to integrate and adapt the best parts of the business.

This is part of the greater company-wide effort to make BIA a prominent and recognizable name not just in Latin America but across the world. Through legal restructuring and redefining the corporate purpose and aims of the acquired companies, he says he can give legal formality to BIA’s commercial and operational needs.

He adds this formality will allow each business unit to function efficiently and permit those at BIA to more easily identify and avail corporate opportunities. This will lead to more practical financing and credit structure, he says.

Garcia wants to complete this standardization and centralization within the next two years. The push to complete it on such a rapid timeline is to save the company money while generating larger revenues—and to avoid litigation and other legal issues.

He says BIA Mexico has no individual compliance area. Instead, it follows the compliance rules and regulations set forth by the main company, Grupo Mariposa-Apex. Leaders at the corporate headquarters in Guatemala oversee this function. Garcia is changing this by integrating compliance onsite in Mexico. He’s developing and providing compliance training while also following up on cases.

“The aim is to gradually integrate and take full control of compliance in order to prevent behaviors unaligned with our code and Mexican laws,” he says.

Building efficiency—and cabins

Garcia is also working on bringing new technology to BIA. He wants to save time, reduce costs and have his legal team focus on complex matters instead of administrative tasks. As such, he’s working with Thomson Reuters to implement a new digital platform.

If the deal is closed and TR is hired, the new software will permit BIA’s legal team to create templates for contracts, easily track the progress of an agreement, and search and quickly pull up documents for litigation or for reference in creating unique agreements.

Introducing efficiencies across the legal team for the recently minted company is how he says he’s making the BIA dream a reality.

At the same time, he’s making his dreams come true as well. He became a father this summer to his daughter Minerva and has also found the time to build a cabin two hours from Mexico City. He says Villa del Carbon is a magical place, and he can’t wait to take his wife and daughter there to stay in the cabin once he completes it later this year.

“My role at BIA is to smooth out present or potential legal obstacles, so we can continue generating success and create an understanding corporate culture,” Garcia says. “I enjoy being the one leading the legal charge and helping BIA take strides towards becoming a major player in the global food and beverages industry.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer IV 2023 Edition here.

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