Nutresa México automates the packaging of its Muibon and Cremino chocolate production lines with the Cama Group machines


The history of Grupo alimentario Nutresa dates back to 1920, when the Red Cross National Chocolate Company was founded in Colombia, later becoming Compañía Nacional de Chocolates S.A. With the passage of time and its consolidation in the national and Latin American market, it changed its name to Grupo Nutresa, a name that includes all the food categories of the group and strengthens the link of its brands with health, nutrition and well-being. The company currently has a presence in Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, the United States, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Africa.

In the words of Carlos Toro, Chief Operating Officer of Nutresa Mexico, “Our vision for the future is focused on generating progress and development for everyone. We are inspired by the human being and to promote sustainable development by appropriating the capacities to avoid environmental deterioration and generate prosperity for the communities where Grupo Nutresa operates”. Proof of this commitment is that the company has a presence in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which evaluates the sustainability of thousands of firms listed on the main world stock exchanges.

The chocolate line

The company has nine food lines, among which the chocolate one stands out. Specifically, the production of this sweet is centralized in five industrial plants: two in Colombia, one in Peru, one in Costa Rica and one more in Mexico. In the latter, the company bills more than 60 million dollars a year, which represents 10% of its entire chocolate business, making it the subsidiary with the most growth potential in this area.

Precisely, to meet its business objectives, Nutresa Mexico has been collaborating with the packaging machinery company Cama Group for ten years. During this time they have been able to check the reliability of the equipment of this Italian manufacturer. “We knew their machines and had tried them on our chocolate lines. That gave us the guarantee to acquire new equipment for other production lines such as Cremino and Muibon”” says Toro. Cremino is a praline created from hazelnuts and cocoa. “Its size and texture exceed the conventional, so this cream stands out in all markets for its attractive presentation, fine flavor and competitive price,” recognizes the director, who adds: “For its part, Muibon is a wafer filled with hazelnut cream with a chocolate and peanut flavor”.

Outstanding challenges

In both cases, the heads of Nutresa Mexico had a couple of manufacturing challenges ahead of them when implementing these machines. The first was to increase productivity“ “which means developing more kilos of product with the same man-hours they were logging.” And the second one they wanted to eliminate the pressure on the labor of these products by acting on the very labor-intensive end-of-line, especially for the packaging process. This has forced us to “look for and explore new alternatives such as the IG270 machines for Cremino and IF296 for Muibon,” he says.

For this reason, they decided to take the step and automate a line of the two Muibon lines and the only Cremino line, both with a great advantage that Toro describes: “These Cama Group machines allow us to pack each chocolate bar in different presentations for the different channels we serve: candy wholesaler, supermarket chains and price clubs”. In other words“ “these machines are very flexible integrated solutions that allow us to meet those three presentation needs of these channels,” he says.

However, during the implementation process they had to overcome some other obstacle. According to Toro, it was essential to synchronize the new machines with the solutions they were using in the line to thermoform the trays where the chocolate bars would be deposited. And besides, this should be done as quickly as possible, since they had installed four pieces of equipment that wrap the chocolate and feed the Group Bed machines. “Fortunately, we found a way to make everything work properly”” Toro acknowledges.

In this process they also had the support of two Cama Group technicians for two weeks who helped them in the implementation. In addition, they carried out training sessions for both maintenance technicians, to be able to understand the principles of its operation, and for the operators who would be in charge of handling the machines.

The operation process of both machines is simple. In the case of Cremino, the Nutresa Mexico teams thermoform the trays, the IG270 model takes those trays from a feeder and, thanks to its robotic arms, grabs the chocolates that are transported on some bands, and puts pieces on the trays. As for Muibon, the IF296 machine is a monoblock equipment, which assembles the display box where the wafers will go, loads the wafers inside it and then seals it with hot glue.

Benefits of machines

Once installed, both machines provided Nutresa Mexico with a series of advantages. “First of all, the reliability of the equipment should be highlighted; then, the flexibility to incorporate different formats; and, finally, that these are simple to operate and maintain equipment,” lists the manager, who, in addition, highlights two issues that were of total importance to them. The first is food safety and safety; and the second, health and care at work. “We want equipment that guarantees that they comply with all the issues related to risks, pollution and safety; but we also want machines that ensure that none of our operators suffer any risk of accident at the time the equipment is operating.”

To do this, both machines are presented with reinforced safety, with stainless steel parts, safety guards, avoiding the dangers of entrapments, blows and that the operators have access to the moving parts of the machines. “The goal is that accidents do not occur,” Toro summarizes. And, at the moment, they are getting it. In fact, according to the director, they have had a zero percent risk of musculoskeletal diseases due to repetitive movements. “This is a very valuable thing for us, because above all we want to take care of our workers.”

Of course, these are not the only positive figures that the manager of Nutresa Mexico highlights when talking about these machines. Within the Global Efficient Equipment index, its indicators have gone from an overall efficiency of the line of 84% to one of 86%. In addition, the installation of these machines has allowed them to increase the productivity of the lines by 14%.

That translates into a production of 300 chocolate bars per minute only in Muibon, which being two lines, will be 600 units per minute in the Nutresa Mexico plant. As for Cremino, they can produce 1,080 units per minute. This, added to the other chocolate products that the company sells in Mexico, gives a figure of more than 300 million pieces of chocolate per month. “We continue to grow in the chocolate business in all countries where we have our own production plants, not only above the competition, but also beyond what the category grows in the markets in which we participate”.

New acquisitions in 2023

It is not surprising, therefore, that Nutresa México is already considering for next year a new acquisition of the Cama Group machines to continue automating its chocolate production lines. Specifically, the Muibon twin line, which is currently operated in manual. In fact, the company considers the Italian manufacturer a relevant partner for the development and consolidation of the Nutresa Group in Mexico.

Moreover, Toro defines the relationship between the two companies in two words: closeness and service. “The executive team of Cama Group has always been there when we needed it, and has attended to us at any time and day. In addition, locally we have the company associated with Cama Group, called Huapaq, which provides us with support and immediate response to any need,” says Toro. He even adds, “we have had spaces at local fairs where Cama Group has participated with additional points of contact with the manufacturer’s sales team”. For all this, the manager values very positively the work that Cama Group is doing and how its machines can help them to be more competitive in a market such as chocolate in which differentiation is essential.