In the late 1980s in the Peruvian city Ayacucho the Añaños family embarked on a business adventure that would take their name across oceans. With its core business in the soft drink industry, today, the Ajegroup is Peru’s most globalised family business with a presence in over 20 countries stretching from America to Asia. What started out with an idea of a father and his sons is today a multinational enterprise that employs 20’000 people at 22 factories and 120 fulfillment centers. Ambition drives the business further into Asia and it is said that in the near future two-thirds of the world’s population will have access to the products of this Peruvian family business.

Ajegroup is the international name of the business group created by the Peruvian family Añaños Jerí. This multinational Peruvian company thrives on its core business in the soft drinks industry with sales of 3bn liters or approximately US$ 1.5bn up until the year 2011, holds second or third place in terms of market share in 16 countries in America and Asia, including Mexico, the largest soft drinks consumer in the world after the USA. This family business, currently managed by the second generation, is also the most globalised Peruvian company and by 2020 plans to become one of the main 20 multinational companies in the world, a goal which the family hopes to achieve by increasing their consumer base in the Asian market. Throughout the years Añaños family‘s values have been preserved as is demonstrated by its great philanthropic engagement through the Eduardo and Mirtha Añaños foundation, which focuses on supporting entrepreneurship, fostering local production, and providing social aid in Peru.The group’s most global brand is Big Cola, the official sponsor of F.C. Barcelona in Latin America and the English Football league in the Asian market. In addition, the group produces 15 other brands in different categories: soft drinks, juices, re-hydrators, water, beer, bottled tea, soy milk, and energizing drinks.

The business adventure of the Añaños family began in 1988 when Jorge, the eldest of six brothers, and his father Eduardo, obtained a loan and used the money from their savings in order to install a small bottling plant for soft drinks in their house in the city of Ayacucho. Their initial capital was a mere US$ 30’000.

Ayacucho is a city located in the mountains of Peru, 2.746 meters above sea level and over 500 km from the city of Lima. In the eighties, the social and political violence created by the subversive group Sendero Luminoso reached its most critical point, affecting the supply of products to the different provinces of Peru. This situation was even more aggravated by the attacks that the delivery trucks from large companies such as Coca Cola, Pepsi or the Peruvian company Inca Kola suffered. In the face of this crisis, Jorge Añaños convinced his father to open a company in order to supply the internal demand of soft drinks in Ayacucho, with an initial production of 48 crates per day. The business strategy, from the formula of the drinks to the distribution method, was devised by the Añaños family alone.

Ajegroup: The Most Global Peruvian Family Business

The family enterprise was more successful than expected, and in 1991, the other five Añaños brothers (Angel, Arturo, Carlos, Vicky and Alvaro) entered the business, through a drinks factory in Huancayo, a city with a lot of commercial activity in the centre of Peru. Two years later they opened another factory in the city of Bagua, in the northern part of the country. The positive reception in these first markets gave the family the necessary push to take the risk of entering Lima in 1997, which is the capital and, therefore, the main market of Peru with almost a third of the national population inhabiting it. Once this goal was successfully achieved, the next step became clear: Internationalisation.

Venezuela was the first step in the internationalisation path of the Añaños family and was initially chosen because of its hot climate, a higher consumption per capita than that of Peru, and an almost exclusive use of glass containers, which gave the family a competitive advantage by penetrating the market with non-returnable PET containers. Once again they were successful, which encouraged them to penetrate more markets in the region: Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador followed. Brazil is the latest market added to their Latin American strategy.

However, the next step in their global expansion was to be even more ambitious and quite unprecedented for a Peruvian company: The Ajegroup set out to capture the Asian market. In 2005, the group inaugurated its first factory in Thailand, followed a few years later by Vietnam, Indonesia, and India.

The strategy employed to achieve this exponential growth in little over two decades remains clear: to approach markets with an unsatisfied demand due to high prices of competitors, and to maintain a low-cost policy in order to be competitive by delivering quality products but in larger containers. Ajegroup was known to invest only moderately in advertising until they acquired the rights to use the images of F.C. Barcelona and English Football League players in 2010.

Ajegroup: The Most Global Peruvian Family Business
Image courtesy of Ajegroup

The global financial crisis has not presented an impediment for the company´s plans, since their target has always been markets with low resources and, therefore, their products are in higher demand than ever.

The steep growth has led the family to professionalise its structure by hiring managers for their many branches (The group was never listed on the stock market). However, the decision-making of the divisions remains with the Añaños brothers: the group President is Angel Añaños, and his brothers are in charge of the South American markets (led by Alvaro Añaños), North and Central America (led by Arturo Añaños) and Asia (run by Carlos Añaños).

Currently, Ajegroup´s finances are managed from an office in Spain, which allows them to adapt to the time zone in Asia (morning) and Latin America (afternoon); the marketing division is located in Bangkok (Thailand) and the new products or production lines are usually tested first in Peru before they are introduced into other markets.

What began as a small family enterprise between father and son, is now consolidated as the company with the largest global footprint in Peru. Indeed the Ajegroup has spread vaster than large corporations that have been in the market for over 100 years. All of this thanks to a solid family nucleus, a clear vision of target markets, and well defined strategies. In the year 2013 it is expected that 70% of the demand for Big Cola will come from Asia, after penetrating China (possibly during 2012). This would mean that the Añaños family would capture a market of 4bn consumers: almost 60% of the world population will be supplied with a product manufactured by a Peruvian family business.

By José Carlos Lumbreras, Investigation Unit Chief of Peru: The Top 10,000 Companies, Peru

Tharawat Magazine, Issue 13, 2012