Realizing the potential of a small Guatemalan family business, Cargill opens doors for an international marshmallow powerhouse.
Vanessa Santiago was 18 years old and fresh out of secretarial school in 1988 when she took over the tiny candy business her mother began in 1977. She was not looking for a career in marshmallows, but the teenage Santiago’s ascension to head of the family business was a critical turning point for the company, known today as Guatemalan Candy Company, or Guandy.
In 1992, a pair of Cargill corn syrup sales representatives called on the business, which Santiago was running as head of operations with her husband, Gerardo Araneda, who was in charge of sales and marketing. The Cargill reps said their corn syrup could help improve the quality of Guandy’s marshmallows and make the business more successful. Guandy had been purchasing corn syrup from a supplier in Mexico, but it lacked quality and consistency. Santiago asked for a trial order of two barrels of Cargill corn syrup.
“We were very small,” Santiago remembered. “I said, ‘Please send them to us for free. No charge.’” She also requested the corn syrup ship in yellow, white or blue plastic barrels, because the company sold its used drums to recoup some of their expenses. A few days after placing the order, two drums of Cargill corn syrup arrived—in blue barrels. “I knew right away it was good quality,” she recalled. “It had good viscosity. It was very clear. The marshmallows were great. I immediately called them and said I would like a full container (80 barrels). That was a huge amount for us.”
For the next several years, Guandy purchased between one and five containers of Cargill corn syrup each year. During that period, Cargill sent a food scientist to Guatemala City for two weeks to work on Guandy’s marshmallow recipe. He reworked the formula and added two Cargill starches, significantly improving the taste and quality of the marshmallows.
The results of the change were immediate. Guandy’s revenues have increased between 25 and 40% every year since. Today, the company purchases 30 million pounds of corn syrup from Cargill—50 containers every week—and exports marshmallows and gummy candies to 50 countries on five continents. Cargill ingredients comprise 75% of Guandy’s marshmallows, which are now sold in Walmart stores in Latin America.
“To be a supplier for Walmart, you have to have tight quality control,” Santiago said. Cargill sent five people from quality control to Guatemala to help implement a Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) system at the plant, which they completed in just one month. “Without Cargill’s help, Walmart would not have wanted to do business with us. We tell everyone Cargill is our supplier. It opens doors for us.”
Having defined success as spectacular business growth, elated customers and a brand name synonymous with impeccable quality, Santiago is quick to credit Cargill for helping her business achieve its goals: “You have to have a partner like Cargill to get to the ‘major leagues’ of business. Would we be where we are without Cargill’s help? No way.”