Even before stepping inside the Peñafiel plant in Tehuacan, Puebla, you can feel the employees' dedication to the product.
“Make sure you don't have any products we wouldn't want on the grounds,” one of the security guards says at the gate, eyeing any bags that might be entering the premises. He signals that he's looking for a certain type of contraband, "contraband" being any evidence of the competition.
"We have to make sure," he says, with a fervor more indicative of personal conviction than company policy.
In Tehuacan, Peñafiel is sacred.
"We have employees that won't even go to restaurants that serve the competition. They are that serious about it," says Alejandro Talavera-Villegas, head of employee training at the Tehuacan plant, about 4 hours outside of Mexico City.
"We're a family. We're 700 employees, and we all share a strong commitment to the plant. We have generations of families that have worked here, starting with the grandfather, the dad and now the son." And that commitment means much more than the love of a good product.
"Many employees see the plant as a secure source of employment and career advancement ... It was the same for me, I started at Peñafiel with a scholarship and worked my way up," says Octavio Huerta, the director of manufacturing at Tehuacan, the largest Peñafiel plant in the country.
After all, Peñafiel has long been a trusted name in the community - and in Mexico. Founded in 1928, Manantiales de Tehuacan, as Peñafiel was originally called, began selling the town's natural spring water in a spa. They harvested the water underground from the site's five different springs, taking special care to not contaminate it with any foreign materials. Yet, it wasn't until 1948 that the company adopted the name "Peñafiel," a reference to the purity of the product, “peña” meaning “mountain” in Spanish, and “fiel” meaning “true, loyal, and faithful.”
And Peñafiel is true to its source. All of the water harvested at Tehuacan originates from the Pico de Orizaba, the majestic and dormant volcano located on the border of the Mexican states Puebla and Veracruz. As the snow that covers the peak of the mountain melts, it trickles down to Tehuacan, a journey that lasts several years. Over those years, the water is purified as it passes through the different formations in the terrain, picking up vital minerals along the way before finally settling in the springs of Tehuacan.
Tehuacan has always been known for its springs. Even in the pre-Hispanic era, Tehuacan's waters were considered sacred by the Mexica due to the contents of its minerals. If you visit the on-sight museum, you'll see just that depicted in a beautiful mural by the renowned artist Desiderio Hernández-Xochitiotzin.
Yet what's even more remarkable is that in 2017 Peñafiel is still bottled at the source, free from any contaminants, preservatives or artificial flavors. You can even see its on-site springs and the crystal-clear water they harbor, blue-ish in hue due to volume and high mineral content.
However, the production processes for Mexico's #1 sparkling water have changed considerably since 1928. Today there are seven production lines in the Tehuacan plant alone, which are responsible for about 60 percent of the country's Peñafiel supply. Running at full capacity, Tehuacan can produce around 250,000 boxes per day (on average, one box equates to 10.47 liters, yet it can vary slightly due to the different sizes, i.e. the 600 mL and 2L bottles). In fact, in 2016, the plant broke its own record, producing 58 million in one year, thanks to the introduction of the plant's seventh line of production, powered by the German-made Krones Ergobloc system, which has not only cut down production time considerably but reduced the production space as well.
It's innovations like these, says Huerta, that have made Peñafiel so successful in the market.
We're a very innovative group. It's this same drive that permeates through our entire company culture. We work like a family; we work together and with the same objective - to be the best."