An appetite for the future

M. Dias Branco Group, Brazil

When it comes to the challenge of maintaining a leading position in the Latin American pasta and cookie market, M. Dias Branco Group focuses on integrated solutions and automation for quality and efficiency. The Group’s appetite to drive the food industry of the future remains insatiable – as does its goal to sustain its reputation as a benchmark producer on the continent.

Ceará is a Brazilian state recognized for the resilience of its people who are constantly facing economic and social survival difficulties, as well as for the beauty of its paradise-like coast of wave-swept beaches. In Ceará, another kind of wave beyond the seas has caused a swell of interest, and that’s M. Dias Branco’s exuberance for offering gastronomic pleasure in the form of delights such as pasta and cookies. From a business venture that emerged as a small bakery, this “wave” caused by M. Dias Branco has washed over Brazil, making it one of the top 10 manufacturers of pasta and cookies in the world.

M. Dias Branco Indústria e Comércio de Alimentos S.A., headquartered in Fortaleza − the capital of Ceará − is a food company that manufactures, markets, and distributes pasta, cookies, wafers, cakes, snacks, toast, wheat flour, margarines, and vegetable fats. Publicly traded since 2006, the company has been growing organically and through major acquisitions, helping to position Brazil as the world’s third largest pasta producer, according to the World Pasta Organization (WPO).

The Group currently has 15 industrial units in the northeast, southeast, and south regions. Among these are seven mills that meet the wheat flour demand for its own production facilities, as well as supplying the wholesale and retail markets. Currently, as one of the largest flour producers in Brazil, 60 % of the production is used in the Group’s own factories, and the remaining 40 % of the flour is distributed to bakeries, other industries and also used for cake mix and household flour production. With over 14,000 employees, the company’s 2018 net revenue was BRL 6 billion (approx. CHF 1.5 billion).

Lasting partnership

A venture of this magnitude is only built with partnerships that add value to the business. This is exactly the case of the cooperation between Bühler and M. Dias Branco Group, which has existed over 40 years. Beat Weilenmann, Milling Solutions Sales Director at Bühler, says that the installation of the automatic flour receiving and handling system for the Fortaleza factory in 1978 was the first project delivered to M. Dias Branco. He recalls with satisfaction: “In 1992, we put into operation the first flour mill at Port of Mucuripe, in Fortaleza. At that time, it was South America’s most modern wheat processing plant. In the course of these more than four decades, numerous deployments were carried out in partnership, in addition to the constant updating of the operating industries, always aiming at improving operational efficiency and increasing food safety.” 

Another example of this synergy can be found in the Piraquê biscuit plant, acquired in 2018 by the M. Dias Branco Group. With a factory installed in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Piraquê is one of the most beloved brands of the southeastern consumer market (the biggest consumer market in Brazil), and the state’s main biscuit manufacturer. The acquisition of the plant with 100 % Bühler and Haas technology was an important step for the company to maintain and expand its national leadership, since M. Dias Branco Group is the largest biscuit producer in Brazil, according to market data from Nielsen Consultants. “Our goal with the acquisition of Piraquê is to refine the production with an increasing focus on quality, innovation, and healthiness, given these seem to be the major trends for the future. In addition, it allows us to offer premium products of a higher added value and price, accelerating our growth in the southeast and south regions, and thus helping us to develop national brands,” says Francisco Ivens de Sá Dias Branco Júnior, Group President and Industrial Vice President of the pasta, cookies, cakes, snacks, and margarines division. And with Bühler’s 2018 acquisition of the Austrian Haas Group – a centennial company and world reference in specialized wafer and biscuit equipment – another great opportunity to expand the historical partnership with M. Dias Branco emerged. 

Jorge Botero, Director Consumer Foods of Bühler South America, explains the relevance of integrating production lines and the ability to offer complete, end-to-end solutions: “The Bühler Group’s portfolio covered raw material handling, flour milling, ingredient handling, and the mixing of raw materials. With the acquisition of Haas, the biscuit manufacturing chain is now fully integrated. Bühler technology now offers the whole process, including dosing, baking, forming, turning, spreading, cutting, and cooling. The end product can later be enrobed with chocolate or other confectionery ingredients. That means our portfolio is 100 % complete and we can cover the entire biscuit manufacturing chain with maximum synergies and optimized resources.”

Botero believes this will give Bühler, and most importantly, its customers, a lot of room for growth in the coming years. The 100 % portfolio also means that customers can operate their plants at optimal efficiency. “Our equipment, especially for the biscuit segments, can offer a reduction of up to 30 % in energy consumption and, for some applications, a reduction in carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions of up to 200 % compared to standard technologies,” Botero explains.

M. Dias Branco Group’s Technical Director of Industrial Operations, Sidney Leite, sees great promise in the fusion of Bühler and Haas into what is now Bühler’s Consumer Foods segment. “Bühler and Haas have always been two highly respected companies in the world market. They are the reference in technology, innovation, and, above all, in quality. We believe this business merger is beneficial because it forms a pool of solutions that complement each other, facilitating project implementation and reducing the complexity of systems integration,” Leite explains. “We look forward to even higher food safety, operational performance, and greater support for our demands. For example, in terms of sustainability, our goal is to avoid the generation of waste, reduce energy and water consumption, and seek alternative energy sources.”

 

Bühler and Haas are the reference in technology, innovation, and, above all, in quality.

Sidney Leite, Technical Director of Industrial Operations, M. Dias Branco Group

 

Among the major challenges of the milling sector are the constant search for higher energy efficiency and increased grain extraction, making operations increasingly more sustainable. Francisco Claudio Saraiva Leão Dias Branco, Industrial Vice President responsible for the Group’s mill division, summarizes the historical partnership: “We need to gain in volume and efficiency to adjust to the prices that are increasingly more dictated by the market. To this end, we have always counted on Bühler in order to grow based by increasing efficiency and quality.”

In collaboration with its customers, Bühler has bold goals. “We are committed to making the maximum contribution to achieving our global goals of reducing energy, water, and waste in our customers’ value chains by 50 % by 2025. To this end, we are continually running studies at each of the M. Dias Branco Group’s plants to deploy innovations and integrated solutions,” Weilenmann explains.

Among mills operating with Bühler equipment, the unit in Rolândia in the state of Paraná, dedicated to wheat production, was the group’s first in the south of the country. It was established to supply the pasta and biscuit factories located in the neighboring state of São Paulo. This mill is considered the most energy efficient in the group, with 66 kW per metric ton, and a benchmark for one of the highest overall operational efficiency rates, above 99 %. Beyond the focus on operational excellence, what perpetuates the performance of the M. Dias Branco Group in an emblematic way, is its socially responsible management approach. From the owners’ perspective, the company’s main contribution is in the training and development of its employees, and also of communities. The strengthening of the country’s labor force is a great lever for prosperity. A good example is the recent inauguration in Fortaleza of the Ivens Dias Branco School of Social Gastronomy, delivered as a gift to the community to be managed by the State Government. With a capacity for over 5,000 students a year, the school features some of the country’s most advanced infrastructure, comprised of a bakery kitchen, a confectionery kitchen, a kitchen for culinary fundamentals, library, computer lab, classrooms, events terrace, and a restaurant. The training center offers basic and vocational courses in cooking, baking and confectionery, as well as mentoring for product development and projects in creative laboratories.

We need to gain in volume and efficiency to adjust to the prices that are increasingly dictated by the market. We have always counted on Bühler.

CLAUDIO SARAIVA LEÃO DIAS BRANCO, Industrial Vice President Mill Division, M. Dias Branco Group

Ensuring excellence with education

When asked about the main challenge for the future, the management of M. Dias Branco responds in unison: people! That is why the group maintains a corporate university and an industrial technical school. The company’s long-term goal is to ensure excellence in knowledge management to provide solid support for the business and maintain its leadership into the future. Bühler is also a partner on this educational front for technical-industrial training, providing training in various production technologies with over 40 years of joint development. A recent example is the course attended by M. Dias Branco teams in late 2019, focused on technical expertise to perfect crackers and wafers.

The impressive trajectory of the M. Dias Branco Group can be summed up in a lesson on how to be creative, precise, and practical in running a business without ever losing sight of being courageous. The founder was the grandfather of the current senior leaders. The son of humble Portuguese farmers, Manuel Dias Branco immigrated to Brazil at the beginning of the last century with the dream of starting his own business. He became a legendary merchant in Ceará, entering the bakery market with the opening of the Imperial Bakery in the small town of Cedro and later the iconic Fortaleza Bakery, in the capital, in 1936.

It is clear that the family carries in its DNA an entrepreneurial drive that has flourished for three generations. Starting with the pioneering grandfather, Manuel; followed by the industrial expansionist father, Ivens, who raised the company to the level it has today; and currently with his two sons Ivens Júnior and Claudio, who are displaying the same business acumen.

Underpinning M. Dias Branco Group’s recipe for success is a philosophy shared by Bühler: the belief that solid growth requires a clear vision of a sustainable future and a strong commitment to people and education.

Francisco Ivens De Sá Dias Branco Júnior, Group President of M. Dias Branco Group
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