Jose García Torres, founder of the SUMESA food company, talks about his dream to create the perfect pasta. SUMESA is now one of the most successful food companies in Ecuador and now Mr Torres’ dream is to bring his award-winning semolina pasta to the dinner tables of Italy, which would be no mean feat for this trained pharmacist-turn-gastropreneur. On September 3rd 1973, you, a chemical engineer, created "Productos Fármaco Industriales SUMESA". That’s how it all started. Could you comment on the story of how the company was born and developed?
I started working at age of 16 with my father in marketing. But soon I decided not to stay there, but go to study technology in the U.S. I traded pharmaceutical for food, though retaining that feeling of nostalgia because pharmaceutical was having great success in the markets.
When I finished my studies I started working in oils and as a brew master until I started my own business in a small laboratory of 21 square meters. There I started to do my small, oxidized steel mixer in a completely moisture-free environment. The first product that we launched to the market was a refreshing juice. As soon as we put it on sale all the children went crazy, as did the adults.
The product growth was impressing. It grew so much that I said: “Let’s forget pharmaceuticals". But I also thought, "This may not last for long”. I thought that something that could last for long is pasta. I also had success with pasta. There was a big market for me in Peru. I used to send 20 to 30 trailers with pasta; the machinery to produce it seemed to be never enough. Now we are certainly one of the best pastas in the world and I proudly can say today that we are going to receive an international quality award in Dusseldorf.Which other products would you highlight, besides Fresco Solo and pasta?
We produce gelatine, corn-starch and we opened a line of beverages including water that I would define the purest in the world thanks to the process of reverse osmosis. Through this system first we remove the excess of chlorine which is hurtful to the stomach, and then filter it, we get off the impurities, then use activated carbon to remove odours. Then the process of reverse osmosis begins. Which problems have you had to face?
The problem now is that the consumption of pasta is two and a half kilos per capita per year in Ecuador. For a comparison, in Venezuela currently the consumption reaches 17 kilos per capita. It is the second in the world in consumption of pasta. Italy, which consumes 36 kilos per capita, is a world champion. You have to change the culture a little and the idea that pasta is fattening. I want to launch a communication campaign. I love marketing, so I am preparing the diet of the pasta. Pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as Italians do. In Italy pasta consumption is high but I was in Milan 15 days ago, I started looking at the people there and they are all skinny. Are you planning of exporting to new markets?
Yes, at the moment we are trying to export to Venezuela because that is a big market and a market that consumes quality pasta. How do you intend to enter into the Spanish market?
We want to go there with the latest technology and a great product – hopefully the best. SUMESA has a slogan which is "SUMESA: only quality products."SUMESA has created jobs and wealth. What is, in your opinion, SUMESA’s contribution to the city of Guayaquil and to the whole Ecuador?
First, as I said, I produce quality food, always thinking of consumers. When a nutrient is missing, we add the necessary nutrient for that particular market or country. Nobody else does this. We do what we do because we have the appropriate machineries. In the matter of drinks, we offer the best functional beverages. Unfortunately the product seems to be not yet understood because apparently we are too developed. Here despite heavy investment, product bag and publicity, consumers do not understand the value of the product.What would you like to share with us about the prize that the company recently received?
There is an association called the International Taste & Quality Institute. It is the leading international organization and is dedicated to tasting and promoting superior tasting food. The International Taste and Quality Institute works with the 15 most prestigious European culinary institutions that make up the jury. There are "Maîtres Cuisiniers de France", the "Hellenic Chef's Association", the "Culinary Academy of France", the "Verband der Köche Deutschlands" the "Federazione Italiana Cuochi" and others. Our marketing department was asked one day to send samples of our pastas. So they sent samples to the competition. Finally we won the award for best semolina pasta quality. It is 100% semolina.You are not just the founder of SUMESA but the creator of each one of its products. What has been the engine that has moved you on during these 40 years? And what achievement are you most proud of?
I had this dream of making pasta and everyone told me, "You're not Italian." Today I say, "Maybe one day I will even export to Italy." Recently some Italians from New York came to ask me to do a pasta here for them. They had heard about the quality of the products that SUMESA make. But I only had pasta made with flour and there was not going to be a good quality paste. I said, "With flour I cannot fool you. I'll be honest." Now with the semolina pasta I am able to send pasta to Italy. I have one quality: I am a dreamer. My father always told me, "You are a dreamer. Dreamers do not go very far". I think if you're a dreamer, you face the future; no matter how hard it is, the future is going to come. All you need is persistence, perseverance and quality.