Icolpan - Medellin

By Gerardo José Chacín

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Gerardo José Chacín Sánchez, is currently the business manager at the Instituto Universitario Adventista de Venezuela. He has also served as general manager of Venepan Industries and general manager of Icolpan. He is married to Iraide Mesquita and they have two children.

Icolpan - Medellin is an Adventist food company that was launched in 1972 in Colombia.

Early Beginnings

The emerging Coloveno Industrial Academy, with the abbreviation “Coloveno” (a name it had for only one year), was a modest rented house in Barrio Aranjuez in Medellín. It opened its doors on February 22, 1938, to 36 students from countries as diverse as Colombia, Costa Rica, Curaçao, and Venezuela. Under the direction of George Worth Chapman and his wife, Almeda, classes began with professors who came from different countries. The academy’s curriculum was not only academic, but practical, offering courses in agriculture, music, calligraphy, typing, carpentry, and baking, the latter becoming the most lucrative source of income for the academy.1

The bakery had a modest beginning in a small house. Later, a larger oven was built that made it possible to produce larger quantities of bread. This took place under the leadership of young Polish-born Francisco Koziatek and his wife, Ana, assisted by student Ignacio Carrillo. The business was wisely managed by these three, who could be seen at all hours of the day going back and forth carrying bread pans, large cans of butter, or kneading bread and half-covered in soot from baking bread in the oven. The success of the bakery at that time, under the able leadership of the young, energetic Koziatek, has been duly recognized.2

Over time and with the increasing number of students, it soon became evident that there was a need for a larger facility where students could live in better conditions and receive better quality education. The Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission board of directors and the Coloveno administration began searching for an adequate site. After much searching and overcoming many obstacles, they found a site in the outskirts of Medellín in sector La América-Barrio Santa Teresita, a beautiful, 22-acre ranch called El Noral.3

The ranch was purchased in 1941, and academic activities began. This is where Colombia Adventist University Corporation currently operates and where Icolpan still has its offices and production plant.4 The plant produces and markets health food products especially for those interested in healthy living. It develops human resources by hiring students and people from the community and provides economic support for educational and health programs while proclaiming the Gospel. Currently, the plant generates jobs for 54 workers including needy students who want to pay for their advanced studies.5

The small bakery continued operating in its new location. It became well known for the quality of its products. Initially, its bread was largely to be served to students in the academy cafeteria. Later, as the industry grew, some students began to work for the bakery in order to cover living expenses and their studies.6 Students would also sell bread in the neighborhood, riding their bikes and shouting, “Coloveno bread!” Later on, they shouted: “Colombo bread!” In this way, the small industry began to gain recognition. The community, leading companies, and several hotels and city stores purchased the products. Over time and with God’s blessing, the company’s whole grain rolls became very popular. As production grew, so did the employment of students. With the money earned, they financed their studies.7

Past and Present History

Icolpan was launched as a commercial entity in 1972. Its sales grew exponentially during the first phase of its existence between 1973 and 1990 with the distribution of its products by delivery vans to academies, institutions of higher learning, and various stores in Medellín’s neighborhoods. During the 1980s, Icolpan became one of the leading bakeries in the city. This growth made it possible to think about improving the physical infrastructure, purchasing equipment, and adding personnel.8

Up until 1979, Icolpan was under the Colombian-Venezuelan Institute (Instituto Colombiano-Venezolano or ICOLVEN), which was the new name that replaced the name Coloveno. When the Inter-American Division created the Department of Health Food Industries, Icolpan was incorporated into that entity. A corporation was established of which the Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission held 49 percent participation and the Inter-American Division held 51 percent participation. This gave administrative power to the Health Food Company. In this way, Icolpan became part of the network of health food industries of the Inter-American Division Health Food Company.9

In 1984, four delivery vehicles were acquired in order to respond to market demands. Icolpan’s products, such as American white sliced bread, Vitarrey sliced whole grain, and round whole grain rolls were encoded by chain stores in the city and surrounding metropolitan area. At this time, Icolpan acquired the Pasti Itálica brand from an Italian family who produced and distributed pasta, thereby expanding the company’s portfolio of products to include lasagna; cannelloni; egg noodles; short and long pasta; and carrot, beet, and spinach-based colored rotini. All products were well-accepted in the community and encoded by the city’s chain stores.10

In subsequent years, more products were added to the sales portfolio including an elongated, crusty bread; whole grain and white toasted bread; raisin bread; wheat bran bread; and soy bread. All of these new products were also well accepted in the marketplace. Between the years 1988 and 1992, Icolpan reached its maximum production and sales, working at 100 percent capacity and covering only some parts of the metropolitan area market since four bakeries served this area, including Icolpan.11 During this period, vegetarian restaurant Viva Mejor opened its doors in downtown Medellín, providing an opportunity to present the message of healthy nutrition through its healthy menu available to the public and the preparation of vegetarian food demonstration classes.12

In the period between 1992 and 1995, the company achieved economic stability, well positioned in the market with sales at a high level, all of which allowed for the development of new bakeries as doors of economic opportunity opened up. Following its development plan, Icolpan opened branch offices in Bogotá, Cali, and Bucaramanga to distribute their products in these and surrounding cities.13

Icolpan eventually requested to be a part of the Commercial Registry, and on February 17, 1999, they were granted this certificate by the Medellín Chamber of Commerce. This certification allowed the industry to function as a commercial establishment.14 During this period, the administration of Icolpan built a block of 10 apartments on the campus of the Colombian Adventist University for staff housing. Up until 2000, Saúl Sierra served as general manager. It was his strong leadership skills that built this industry and, through his able management, gained the success and marketing position Icolpan enjoys today.15

Icolpan enjoyed a stable market position by 2000-2001. As well as moving forward with new projects based on the quality of its products, new ones were introduced, including Soyapac, a soy-based drink that enjoyed an enthusiastic reception not only in Medellín’s market, but also in the surrounding region and throughout the country. Due to the able management of the company’s administration at this time, Icolpan’s products were being sold by leading chain stores and accepted throughout Colombia.16

During 2000-2002, the company began the process of certification through the Quality Management System ISO 9001. After completing the rigorous process required by the government, this valuable certification was granted to the company because it met the high-quality standards required by chain stores where products were already encoded, thereby ensuring the company’s presence in this market’s niche.17

During 2002-2004, the Inter-American Division Health Food Company and Icolpan’s administration decided to expand their operations into the northern coast of Colombia. In collaboration with the Atlantic Coast Conference and with Icolpan having the largest holdings, the Viva Mejor Vegetarian Restaurant was launched in the city of Barranquilla. They also acquired a property located in the sector of Juan Mina, in the industrial district of Barranquilla, in order to establish a bakery industry on that site. On July 19, 2004, the purchase went through, and preparations were made to set up the production plant of the bakery in order to serve two chain stores and the general public. A house for the company manager was also built on that land.18

Icolpan also decided to expand its operations to the capital city of Bogotá where a storage and distribution warehouse was set up to service chain warehouses and city stores. At the same time, the Inter-American Division Health Food Company and Icolpan purchased the vegetarian restaurant and store La Vid in the capital city. After a long legal process, the restaurant’s name was changed to Viva Mejor Vegetarian Restaurant and was owned by Upper Magdalena Conference at 49 percent and Inter-American Division Health Food Company and Icolpan, at 51 percent.19

In 2003, Icolpan was notified by the Association of Small and Medium-sized Colombian Industries (Asociación de Colombianas Pequeñas y Medianas Industrias or ACOPI) that it had received the distinction of “Industrial Link”, awarded to Icolpan-Pasti Itálica through Resolution No. 001, 2003. This award was given for its achievements in all management areas, making it a leading company in the Pyme Antioqueña health food sector. The company was recognized for its contributions to the regional and national development of this sector and for serving as a model of industrial development.20

Future Plans

During 2010-2017, the administration implemented a series of actions and strategies that helped the company remain well positioned in the marketplace. Icolpan continues to have a presence in the city’s chain stores, in the metropolitan area, in neighborhood stores, and in several stores and municipalities in the rest of the country. It continues to compete strongly in Medellín while maintaining the quality of its products.

The current administration has made various investments to improve the company, including the purchase of five delivery vehicles, the implementation of a system to sell by phone, the implementation of the mobile billing system for sales, the purchase of equipment to package and mix Soyapac, the replacement of the toasted bread packing machine, and the purchase of the Inject product-labeling system. Also, a worship room was equipped for employee daily worships.

In 2019, the administration implemented the following projects: Importation of nutritional pastas from Turkey, Productos Gránix cereals from Argentina, healthy snacks CEAPE products, organic honey from Laboratorios Salud Integral, textured and flavored soy products, assembly of soy liquid in tetrapack, flavored gingerbread cookies and different kinds of whole grain crackers, flaxseed and sesame seed bread, assembly of whole grain bread for chain stores, exports to Bonaire and the Dutch Antilles, elaboration of flavored mini-sausages, and a virtual store.21

In spite of the current ups and downs the country faces, Icolpan continues production and sales. Of all the small industries that began in Coloveno, the bakery is the only industry that has remained and grown through the years under divine direction. Notwithstanding adverse circumstances, it remains in the market and continues to generate jobs and support for students and community church members.22

The current economic recession in Colombia has made sales difficult as it also has been for other industries in the city. However, the Lord has guided and blessed this enterprise that had its modest beginnings in a small oven in an academy with 36 students, and provided people who, under God’s direction, envisioned and brought to maturity what Icolpan is today.

List of Managers

Saúl Sierra Salcedo (1973-2000); José Luis Acosta Bustillo (2000-2001); Nelson Jerez Gómez (2001-2007); Odavis Manuel González Navarro (2007-2010); Gerardo José Chacín Sánchez (2010-2019); Hugo Alcides Vega Arrieta (2019- ).

Sources

Asociación Colombiana de Medianas y Pequeñas Industrias. Distinction “Eslabón Industrial.” 2003, Resolution No. 001. Icolpan Office Archives, Medellín, Colombia.

Basto, Edwin. “2019 Employees Social Security Records.” Icolpan Office of Human Resources Archives, Medellín, Colombia.

Icolpan Administrative Board, “Assigning Apartments to Employees,” Icolpan Administrative Office Archives, Medellín, Colombia.

Icolpan Board of Directors Minutes. November 2, 2003. Icolpan Administrative Office Archives, Medellín, Colombia.

Iglesias Ortega, Enoc. Instituto Colombo-Venezolano. Corporación Universitaria Adventista. Valores y Servicio 1937-2000. Medellín: Litografía ICOLVEN, 2004.

Medellín Chamber of Commerce. “Commercial Registry Certificate,” 1999. Icolpan Administrative Office Archives, Medellín, Colombia.

Sierra Salcedo, Saúl. Business Report, March 1986. Icolpan Accounting Office Archives, Medellín, Colombia.

Valencia, Luisa. “Certificate of Quality Management System ISO 9001,” 2008. Icolpan administrative office archives, Medellín, Colombia.

Notes

  1. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, Instituto Colombo-Venezolano, Corporación Universitaria Adventista: Valores y Servicio 1937-2000 (Medellín, Colombia: Litografía ICOLVEN, 2004), 31.

  2. Ibid., 99.

  3. Ibid., 168, 184, 191.

  4. Ibid., 265-266.

  5. Edwin Basto, Icolpan Office of Human Resources, “2019 Employees Social Security Records,” Icolpan Accounting Office Archives.

  6. Iglesias Ortega, 341-345.

  7. Ibid.

  8. Saúl Sierra Salcedo, Icolpan Business Manager Report, March 1986, Icolpan Accounting Office Archives.

  9. Ibid.

  10. Ibid.

  11. José Acosta, Icolpan accountant, interview by Aydé Jurado, employee of Icolpan, May 20, 2019.

  12. Saúl Sierra Salcedo, Icolpan manager, Business Report, March 1986, Icolpan Accounting Office Archives.

  13. José Acosta, Icolpan accountant, interview by Aydé Jurado, employee of Icolpan, May 20, 2019.

  14. Medellin Chamber of Commerce, “Commercial Registry Certificate,” 1999, Icolpan Office Archives.

  15. Gerardo Chacín, article author, personal knowledge as Icolpan business manager from 2010-2019.

  16. José Acosta, Icolpan accountant, interview by Aydé Jurado, employee of Icolpan, May 20, 2019.

  17. Luisa Valencia, Icolpan quality control technician, “Certificate of Quality Management System ISO 9001,” 2008, Icolpan Office Archives.

  18. Icolpan Board of Directors, November 2, 2003, 013, Icolpan Office Archives.

  19. Ibid.

  20. Asociación Colombiana de Medianas y Pequeñas Industrias, Distinction “Eslabón Industrial,” 2003, Resolution No. 001, Icolpan Office Archives.

  21. Gerardo Chacín, article author, personal knowledge as Icolpan business manager from 2010-2019.

  22. Ibid.

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Chacín, Gerardo José. "Icolpan - Medellin." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 27, 2021. Accessed October 17, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BG4Q.

Chacín, Gerardo José. "Icolpan - Medellin." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 27, 2021. Date of access October 17, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BG4Q.

Chacín, Gerardo José (2021, May 27). Icolpan - Medellin. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved October 17, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BG4Q.