By Alex Altman

Where were you at the end of 2008, when Mexican food giant Grupo Bimbo sealed a $2.4 billion deal with Weston Foods, acquiring Weston’s entire lineup of American brands and making Grupo Bimbo the largest bakery in the U.S.? Operating in the U.S. as Bimbo U.S.A., these stealthy Mexican blondes now sell almost every carbohydrate in the baked-goods aisle. The Bimbo U.S.A. portfolio includes: Arnold, Boboli, Brownberry, Entenmann’s, Francisco, Freihofer’s, Mrs. Baird’s, Oroweat, Stroehmann, Thomas’, and licensing control over Roman Meal and Sunmaid (the dried fruit company). It all plays out like a Food Channel reenactment of the Battle of the Alamo.

According to the Grupo Bimbo website, the name Bimbo was created by mixing “Bingo” with  “Bambi.”  Other names under consideration at the time of the company’s founding were: Pan Rex, Pan NSE (nutritivo, sabroso and económico—nutritious, tasty, and economical), Sabrosoy, Pan Lirio (Iris Bread), Pan Nieve (Snow Bread), and Pan Azteca. Their mascot’s name is El Osito (The Little Bear).

“Bimbo” is a cool word when it doesn’t have any meaning—which it doesn’t in Spanish. But how do you arrive at the top of the U.S. food chain with a name like that? I have two theories. First, they know their name is ridiculous which is why they’ve kept a low profile as they made their move into the U.S.  If they ever decide to go public with their name, I hope they do so by purchasing the naming rights, currently held by Valero, to the Alamo Bowl. In addition to the poetic justice, we’d have the Bimbo Bowl to look forward to every year.

Second, maybe no one in the U.S. thought a company with a name like Bimbo could successfully execute a takeover of the baked-goods industry.  Bimbo was probably the longest running joke at General Mills headquarters. Once everyone wrote them off as…well…a bunch of bimbos, they went for the jugular. Call it the “speak softly, but carry a big stick” naming strategy. I doubt a name like Pan Azteca would have slid under the American radar. Aztecs used to rip people’s hearts out. Bimbos just play with our hearts.

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