As a non-Mexican, when I think about Mexico, one of the first things that runs through my mind is the cuisine -Tacos, Tortillas, Salsa, Hot Sauce and other such delicious foods that please the taste buds. Home to some of the most vibrant, delicious, fresh and fun food on the planet, Mexico is the grower and supplier of some of the most organic, yet mouthwatering food in the world.
Although one of the highest-ranking consumed foods in the world, authentic Mexican food has always been limited to the Western world due to the geographics of it all, with people in the middle and eastern parts of the globe, never really getting the authentic Mexican food experience.
Enter Mexgrocer Limited, the largest supplier of Mexican food and associated materials in all of Europe. Founded and spearheaded by Managing Director, Katya Torres De la Rocha, Mexgrocer is the leading importer and distributor of Mexican food and drink brands in all of Europe. As the largest importers of Mexican food and beverages in Europe, Katya states, “we stock over 1,000 products, and we specialize [mainly] in products that are socially and environmentally responsible.”
The Start of Something Delicious
Former restauranter turned supplier, Katya has a twenty year long history of being in the food industry. “I had 4 restaurants before, 2 in London and 2 in Madrid and I realised the necessity of a proper importer and distributor of authentic [Mexican] food and drinks for Europe,” shares Katya. With a sharp focus on stocking only environmentally friendly foods procured from socially responsible suppliers, today Mexgrocer has established itself as the home to only the most genuine and original Mexican food and beverage brands.
Established in 2009, Mexgrocer operates out of two large facilities in Luton, UK and The Hague, Holland respectively. Driven by a passion to bring only the best quality Mexican food to our homes, Katya and her team of 30 employees are on the mission to represent and promote what Mexico has to offer to the world.
Guided by their traditional Mexican values, for Katya, the food business is her entire life. This resonates at Mexgrocer where team operate with the intention to establish long-term business partnerships with local suppliers, often offering exclusive deals to them. Ultimately, for Katya it is all about promoting socially and environmentally responsible food manufacturers in the European markets in order to contribute positively to the Mexican market and help improve the quality of life of the Mexican farmers.
“You have to wake up thinking about the business and go to sleep thinking about the business. This is a long run not and not a sprint so patience is paramount.”
Guided by Ambition
For Katya, hard work and dedication is a part of her genes. Her great grandmother migrated to Mexico from Spain at the mere age of 14 with a one-way ship ticket, soon after which she created and ran her own company. Having raised a large family, and fought for worker’s rights back in her day, great grandma De la Rocha has always been an inspiration for Katya.
Due to circumstances, Katya herself started working at the young age of 8 as a rubbish collector. During this time, she learnt about benefits of recycling and reusing, which she soon transformed into a paper recycling shop at the age of 12. It was here where Katya understood the meaning and importance of the supply chain for conducting operations and got introduced to the nuances of the food industry. She has never looked back since.
Today, having been in the hospitality industry for a couple of decades, Katya feels that the food business “is all about passion and is not for everyone.” To young and upcoming hospitality leaders of the future. Katya says, “you have to wake up thinking about the business and go to sleep thinking about the business. This is a long run not and not a sprint so patience is paramount.”
For those who can relate, being a lady-boss, especially from a third world country is no easy feat. Katya remembers how she has dealt with the prejudice of being a woman in-charge herself, having to navigate through awkward meetings with men, who would much rather “talk business” with other men only. This would only make her more determined and focussed on her goals to make a name for herself and her country that has always been dear to her.
Standing Against Social Injustice
Through her organization, Katya’s ultimate goal is the betterment of the socio-economic factors of Mexico. Most of the world is unaware that Mexico is the producer of some of the most delicious fruits and vegetables in the world due to its highly fertile soil. Unfortunately, with a small greedy group of people control the majority of the food industry within the country hence export is an option for more fair business. “I come from a very small town by the Pacific Ocean in Mexico, and there you could see there’s a lot of social injustice. A lot of people that grow vegetables and fruits are not paid fairly for what they produce,” shares Katya.
“I personally hate the social injustice in Mexico, especially in the agriculture area,” says Katya. Having grown up in Mexico, she herself has witnessed the socio-economic imbalance of the country. Through her organization and her initiatives Katya’s dream is to “contribute to improve the quality of life of the Mexican farmers and share the rich gastronomy that we represent.”
“I also believe fair trading should not been a brand, or a choice. It should be the only way and governments should take the lead.” By working with only socially responsible companies and small independent suppliers in Mexico, Katya continues to create opportunities for the Mexican people, uplifting their social standards and promoting the mouth-watering Mexican cuisines that we all so dearly enjoy.
Adapting & Evolving
One of the biggest challenges faced by Mexgrocer in recent times was one that was faced by all – Covid-19. Quickly re-designing their business model, the company saw a 40% growth in 2020 as compared to 2019. “We use digital technology and also sustainable packaging; we recycle all cardboard and plastic in house and all our packaging material is recycled and sustainable.”
Adapting, innovating and constantly scouting for new partnerships, Mexgrocer is without a doubt the number one importer of Mexican food and beverages in Europe. “We run regular due diligences in our suppliers and we are open to very small or even micro companies that wish to export to Europe,” says Katya.
In her free time, Katya can be spotted spending time with her family, fine dining at restaurants and otherwise going out skiing (which she learnt at age 37). She maintains her old Mexican family values and imbibes the same in her children.
For Katya life has been a series of challenges, right from a young age. Having dealt with every obstacle thrown at her as a child, Katya successfully created and now steers Mexgrocer towards greater heights.
Looking back Katya still remembers when she first opened Mexgrocer in 2009, during the great recession and fought to save her organization. In 2017, when her landlord doubled her rent, she was forced to look for a new location and shift in limited time, which brings us to the 2020 pandemic where she not only survived the pandemic, but did so gloriously, substantially increasing her top-line revenue.
Even during Brexit, although Katya voted against it, she took the exit as an opportunity and launched a new wing – Mexgrocer Europe, supplying her tasty Mexican treats to consumers, while uplifting local businesses. “I was born in a crisis, grow up in crisis, made me resilient and adaptable to crisis which I think is my biggest strength, nothing makes me more imaginative than crisis, they are opportunities for whom is prepare to adapt .”