“Innovation, key to the survival of Gofio La Molineta”

The weekend of 26/27 January 2013 the newspaper Cinco Días published an article about us, by Maria Jesús Lillo:

The company continues its foreign expansion and diversification

Tradition and innovation are the two words that best define Gofio La Molineta; a family-owned company with more than two centuries of history has its sights set on Japan for exporting its product after its experience in Europe and USA.

Nearly two centuries of hard work, tradition and effort. Nearly two centuries of loving what they do, of caring and of smells that flood the street when toasting the cereal. That is Gofio La Molineta; a family-owned business that has overcome all the obstacles caused by the generational change and has progressed toward an internationalisation that seems is now contributing so that many Canary Island companies dare to follow suit.

Gofio is still produced in the same way. Some of the stones that grind the cereal are about fifty years old and the installations hide in their walls of more than one metre in width all the evolution of a company that has conquered several states of USA, some European countries like Germany and, now, wants to conquer Japan.

José Luis García is the fifth generation miller in a mill that started its business in 1866 and, since then, innovation has become the idiosyncrasy of this family. “The first mill that was built was a mill that had twelve asps instead of the traditional four. The whole system can be turned through 360º from inside, something that nobody had done before. That system was so revolutionary that it was exported to Holland, explains García, who learnt the skill from his father and his grandfather.

“We have all introduced an innovation in the business and that adaptation to the current time is what has made us to continue with the tradition two centuries later. My grandfather for example, brought the first cable and my father the first automated packing machines”.

Innovation came to José Luis García through the internationalisation of the business and of new products that he has in his mind and the start of which he is initiating. “It all started with the participation in trade fairs of foodstuffs and meetings; there is where we started to see that possibilities this product has”.

It was that experience that made them start a market study in Miami to export the product. “A few years passed until the initial idea materialised and nowadays we export to all of Florida, where we have 48 sales outlets, and Orlando, where there are three. Since then, we have the FDA permit to export to Alaska through to Puerto Rico, so we studying the possibility of opening new markets in USA”.

The diversity of the product is one of the strongest points of Gofio La Molineta when being sold abroad. “Tastes change according to the geographical area and therefore we have wheat, corn, and mixed Gofio with diverse degrees of toasting, as well as chickpea Gofio and three cereals Gofio which is good for babies, the seven cereals one….

We have to add the differentiation in the way we commercialise this variety, this is also important for our positioning. “We offer a different and quality product, therefore we do not work with large surface markets but with small shops, that way our operators can supervise all the sales outlets and look after the image of the trademark. In the Peninsula we sell directly online, in Germany we use small shops and directly to end clients and in the United States through a distributor with a system that is very similar to the one we wish to implement in Japan”.

The brand currently has 7 direct employees and a series of indirect employees in distribution and transport companies. In spite of everything, the crisis has not stayed clear of the sector that has seen how a lot of businesses have to end their activity. “The Gofio is a seasonal product. In spite of being produced all year round, it is consumed more in winter due to its use of certain meals and not being only limited to breakfast, like in the summer. Last winter it was not cold and sales dropped”, explains José Luis García.

In 2012, the year when the last detailed study was made, the consumption of Gofio in the Canary Islands was seven million kilos. Currently there are 39 mills; the majority are micro-companies, although a couple of them have industrial production methods.

“The sector gives employment to about 500 workers on the islands among direct and indirect employees”, the inconvenience is that the companies are so small that many have problems for fulfilling certain requirements demanded by state and European bodies that is why it is so important that the EU establishes the ‘Canary Island Gofio’ Protected Geographical Indication declaration.

“We are faced with many problems, the main one being the generational take-over that we have managed to resolve, but that is not always possible, we add to that the bureaucratic tangle when having to implement certain initiatives or the traditional character of the activity that in the majority of cases impedes re-investment and innovation, explains Garcia, who wishes that the tradition is not lost.

Protected Geographical Indication

One of the last battles fought by the Canary Island producers was that of obtaining the ‘Canary Island’ Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), a classification that had already been granted by the Ministry of Agriculture, and that has already sent favourable reports to the European Union. Now we are waiting for this latter to pronounce on the subject, although there are very positive expectations.

This recognition, which the banana, the ancient potatoes and the Tenerife honey already have, means that this product has a national seal of quality waiting for the European Unity to decide about the request for the concession of definite European protection, which will, among other questions, avoid disloyal competition in its commercialisation and possible frauds.

Specifically, the classification will mean that only the Island production under the required controls and certification can be commercialised with indication of the archipelago, that way avoiding disloyal competition and possible fraud. In addition, it allows offering to the consumer a product with a certified origin and differential quality and, what is more important, it creates a collective brand that links the image of the product to the territory, as explained from the Canary Island Regional Council Department of Agriculture.

The Protected Geographical Indication and the Protected Origin Denomination are protection figures that refer to a region, a determined place or, exceptionally, to a country, and that are for designating an agricultural or food product.

The identified names then obtain community recognition and, therefore, can benefit from protection and actions that are established by community directives for foodstuffs with differentiated quality.

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