EGADE Business School Mexico
This case describes an alliance forged by two completely different organizations: HEB, an American for-profit company that owned and operated a regional supermarket chain, and Monterrey’s Food Bank (BACM, for its acronym in Spanish), a civil society organization affiliated to Cáritas, a Catholic worldwide charitable institution.
Both organizations included a similar goal in their mission –helping the needy. To this end, HEB donated food, and BACM sorted and distributed food –received as in-kind donations or purchased at low cost- to poor communities (direct assistance) and social assistance institutions like homes, asylums, orphanages, shelters, hospitals, and schools (indirect assistance). The case describes how both organizations came together, a process that started when HEB was about to open its first store in Monterrey, Nuevo León, in 1996. At that time, BACM was challenged to expand its assistance to more welfare institutions and more needy communities with better food to mitigate malnutrition.
While several government programs had been launched to fight it, malnutrition remained a severe problem. According to Mexico’s Health Secretary, malnutrition was the fifth cause for child mortality in 1996, when HEB and BACM started their partnership. The National Food Survey (ENAL) showed that 45% of Mexican children under the age of five suffered some form of malnutrition; 36% of the children affected by malnutrition lived in the state of Nuevo León, where BACM was based.
Malnutrition worsened in the southern region of Nuevo León, as 26% to 50% of children under five were affected by it, as reported by the “Nutritional Diagnosis on Families and Children under Five Years of Age in Nuevo León State,” a research study conducted by BACM and Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Nuevo León DIF, and the Health and Assistance Secretariat in 2000-2001. State administrations were further constrained to tackle this issue, as they depended on federal funding. As a result, state programs were very restricted in scope and outcomes.
BACM needed to build an alliance with an organization that would provide the products needed by a food bank, and HEB wanted to find a way to get rid of and distribute the damaged goods that were not fit for sale. For both organizations, food banks (FBs) were core features in their institutional initiatives. The alliance was a means to make FBs feasible in order for both organizations to fulfill their missions.
This case provides an opportunity to understand how alliances deepen over time, as well as to learn to identify relevant agents for their consolidation.