ITESM, Religion, and Tortillas GRUMA
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Tec de Monterrey > US Colleges
Religion is decreasing in LatAm
Tortilla giant GRUMA’s international business
Make sure you check out this week’s comment of the week at the bottom!
Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) is Mexico’s largest private university, and has more students than UT Austin, Harvard and MIT combined. With an enrollment of over 94K throughout 25 campuses, it has one of the most extensive student bodies globally. ITESM’s main campus is located in the northern city of Monterrey and it is well known for its business, engineering, and technology academic programs. According to its website, ITESM offers scholarships to more than 30K students annually.
Founded in 1943 by Eugenio Garza Sada, a prominent MIT-educated industrialist and one of the most notable businessmen in the country, the University has always had close ties with Mexico’s elite. In 2019, it was the only LatAm school that appeared on the list of those with the highest number of billionaire alumni. ITESM is also notable for being the first university in the region to be connected to the Internet.
ITESM ranks at #4 in the Times Higher Education’s 2021 Top Latin America University Rankings. The other four are:
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
University of São Paulo
University of Campinas
Federal University of Minas Gerais
About 1/3 of the world’s Catholics are in Latin America. The Catholic Church has been present from the time of the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of the New World in the 1500s, when indigenous people were indoctrinated to adopt the new way of life. According to survey data gathered by Latinobarómetro, though, that way of life is becoming increasingly unpopular in the region. From 1996 to 2020, the percentage of people that identifies as Catholic dropped from 80% to 57%.
The religious mix of each Latin American country remains quite varied. Some countries like Paraguay, Mexico, and Peru maintain a solid Catholic population, all above 70%. In Central America, Evangelism has been rising steadily, with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua all having close to 40% of their populations practicing. Guatemala has elected two Evangelical presidents since 1990. Unlike Catholics, Evangelicals don’t have a centralized authority, relying instead on the Bible as the “ultimate spiritual authority” and believing that they must “be born again” to be saved.
There’s a third growing category described as “non-religious” which represents 18% of Latin America, but it is quite fluid. The category includes people that identify as non-practicing, agnostic, or atheist. Interestingly, a tiny portion of that category describes itself as atheist. In fact, atheism has gone down from 2% to 1% in Latin America since 1996. Atheism is the lack of belief in God or gods. Almost everyone in the region continues to hold spiritual beliefs like life after death, miracles, and an emerging one, which is predominant in Argentina, “spiritual energy.”
Food Industry 🌮
Gruma is a Mexican tortilla company with a phenomenal stock performance between 2013 and 2016 — a +746% return on investment. However, despite its solid financial standing and profitable business model, its stock has stayed stagnant in the past five years. Is it that food companies are unappealing to investors? Or is the Mexican stock exchange (Bolsa Mexicana de Valores) that scares them off?
In any case, Gruma was founded in 1949 in Monterrey, Mexico, and it has been described as “El Rey de las Tortillas” or the Tortilla King. That title is hard to dispute since estimates show that it holds almost 50% of the combined market share of the US and Mexico. Over the years, its Mission and Maseca brands have grown steadily in international markets, which are increasingly interested in tacos.
Gruma’s businesses outside of Latin America now represent about 68% of its revenues. Mexico is a bigger market than the US in terms of tons of product sold — 2M vs. 1.5M — but a ton of product sold in the US brings 3x more revenue than in Mexico. The US segment is also more profitable, with a 14% margin compared to Mexico’s 10%. The company has also had some struggles in Latin America in the last decade. In 2013, it began pulling out of Venezuela, one of its most vital business segments, due to the country’s unfavorable conditions and Hugo Chavez’s expropriation of some of Gruma’s assets.
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Comment of the week, from our Bimbo chart discussion in r/mexico (Spanish):