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The ability to engage employees as a competitive advantage

Cerealto is a global food company that manufactures products with the brand of its clients, from large retails to branded food companies. How do you define the strategy or factors that have contributed to the differentiation of the company in the market?

We achieve differentiation thanks to our experience manufacturing over 10 cereal-based product categories, our efficiency and our continuous innovation. Additionally, the fact that we are supported by the most stringent international quality control and food security systems, and that our teams have strong knowledge of worldwide food trends.

All this, allow us to build long-lasting and trusting relationships with our clients, offering them flexibility and differentiation, through our ability to innovate and adapt to their needs with value-added products. Our main goal is to promote win-win relationships with all of them, which means offering the highest quality products at the best possible price.

We currently serve clients in over 40 countries, from our eight plants based in Spain, Portugal, Italy, UK and Mexico. We are constantly striving to show them how they can trust us.

What balance can be made from the company’s performance in 2017? And what is expected for this year?

2017 has been a positive year for Cerealto and one of substantial growth. We’re also seeing that some of last year’s initiatives have started to bear fruit. As a result of this, we’ve ended the year with net sales of 160 million euros, a 72% increase on the figure reached at the close of 2016, with production reaching 111 thousand tones, a 50% increase on the previous financial year.

Our investments exceeded 45 million euros, which has allowed us to expand our productive capacity and carry out technological and efficiency-based improvements.

Among the critical milestones of last year, the incorporation of the factories of Antequera and Briviesca (Spain) stands out as they’ve facilitated our entry into the Spanish market with our own production of pastries and sliced bread. In Italy, after four years of operational activity, we’ve concluded the acquisition of the Pastificio Mediterranea factory, where we produce our top-quality “Made in Italy” pasta range. On the other hand, we’re proud to have concluded the construction of the Worksop factory (in the UK), commencing with the production of biscuits, cereal bars and gluten-free products.

As a result of all this, our workforce has grown to a total of 1,800, with the incorporation of more than 900 new colleagues, who include both colleagues in the new factories as well as 365 new posts that were created in 2017.

Finally, last year we reinforced our bet for innovation. We doubled our investment in R&D, reaching a figure of 7.5 million euros. This allowed us to launch 175 new products onto the market that cover consumer demand for a healthy lifestyle, as well as targeting the specific nutritional requirements of a variety of groups.

2018 lies ahead as a year full of new challenges, including consolidating our presence in the international arena, fulfilling previously acquired commitments with clients and of course continuing integrating our multicultural teams and standardising our ways of working.

This year we will also create around 200 new jobs, most of them in Sintra (Portugal). Thus, we estimate to reach a workforce of 2,000 colleagues by the end of 2018.

I’m convinced that if we continue to work together with the same passion and determination, we’ll emerge stronger than ever.

 

Rut Aranda has been CEO of Cerealto since 2016, a company with operations in more than 40 countries and with its own production centers in Portugal, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Mexico and the United States, with a total of 1,800 employees. What are the main challenges of a position with this dimension?

I believe the challenges vary according to the company’s nature. In the specific case of Cerealto, being an emerging company implies that as we grow we face multiple and diverse challenges, which are completely different from one year to another. In 2017, one of our biggest challenges was to continue expanding while guaranteeing all the necessary production capacities and teams to meet the commitments we have made with our clients. Moreover, since we have acquired most of our factories from other companies, we have had to work hard towards ensuring the integration of multicultural teams with an inherited corporate culture and to initiate the standardization of all processes and ways of working in line with Cerealto’s policies.

Rut Aranda stood out in promoting the integration of multicultural teams and for starting the standardization of the way of working in the company. Is it urgent that leaders and managers of people rethink the management of human capital?

I believe that the management of human capital should be oriented towards ensuring business alignment and towards promoting employees’ engagement.

The ability to engage people is becoming one of the biggest competitive advantages in today’s organizations, so it needs to be consider within the business strategy. It is no secret that engaged colleagues are more inclined to innovation and are far more productive in the path of achieving business goals.

However, anyone who holds or has held a managerial or leadership position knows that getting there is not as easy as it sounds. It is a very slow process that sometimes can even be frustrating. It demands a constant exercise of transparency and conceiving management as a service that we provide to others.

In Cerealto, employee engagement has been a real challenge and we are working very hard to achieve this. In 2017 we reinforced communication through digitization, we provided training to the new factories and promote spaces for the cultural immersion of new colleagues. We also promoted many activities to benefit our colleague’s families as we know this is relevant for our people.

43% of your team is made up of women. In addition, 60% of the directors are also women. Is it a strategy or a sign of a paradigm shift?

I would say it is a strong evidence that we truly believe in generating equal opportunities for all. At Cerealto we focus on our colleagues’ talent, knowledge and abilities regardless their gender, race, age, sexual orientation, political or religious ideology. Knowing that the person will be good for the job is the only critical factor that we take into consideration when hiring and assigning responsibilities.

Moreover, at Cerealto we are commited to the integration of people with barriers to work. Up to date, 6.5% of our entire workforce comes from these groups.

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