How Vía Bana works, the cheap ice cream parlor that plans to enter Rosario and alerted local factories

In the last few hours, the firm Grido, through its “low cost” commercial brand Vía Bana, announced a new expansion plan in Rosario, backed by a ruling against the municipal ordinance that limits the number of branches. As reported, the company plans to open some 30 social ice cream shops in popular neighborhoods and irregular settlements in the city, all with a very particular and innovative format. The fact immediately put local manufacturers on alert, who again asked that this possible growth be limited.

a bit of history

At the end of 2019, the owners of the Grido brand (Helacor) launched a new business model: the Vía Bana social ice cream parlors. They began to replicate in the poorest neighborhoods, all that was missing was to open a small window in the house, put a freezer and have a great desire to sell. In August 2020 they had 150, today they number 814. They have a presence in 19 provinces and expect to close the year with 1,000. More than half of these social ice cream parlors were created in the last year.

Although the Vía Bana brand was born with Grido 22 years ago, three years ago it was converted to this format. The founder of Grido, Oscar Lucas, when he read “A world without poverty” by the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunnus, creator of the “bank of the poor”, felt that he needed to do something to improve the lives of the poorest. He began to think of an inclusive business model with quality. A kilo of Grido ice cream is sold for $900, while in Vía Bana the same ice cream costs $450.

To develop this format, he looked for women, heads of households, and if they had children, much better. It is not necessary to have a local, with opening a window you can start selling.

Celeste Santiago, Communications Director of Capital Humano and second generation of the family that owns Grido, recently stated in a dialogue with the Buenos Aires newspaper BAE Business: “Once a month we open the call on social networks, we have a waiting list. In one day we have had more than 600 orders. We filter the selection, they don’t have to be in Veraz, they don’t need to have experience, we train them”.

“To obtain a social franchise, an investment of $110,000 is needed for a freezer and signage that Banco Santander finances at low rates. They are sponsored by a Grido franchisee, who provides them with products and shares experience. Most of these social ice cream parlors have a growth of 30% per year”, he added. At first the franchises were paid in weekly installments, now the bank finances them in monthly installments.

In Grido they created this inclusive business with the aim that each person earns at least a living and mobile minimum wage. Objective accomplished: “social entrepreneurs earn $100,000 monthly”Celeste Santiago assured. One issue is trying to sustain the business throughout the year, but they say it was possible.

The provinces where Vía Bana opened more social ice cream parlors are Buenos Aires 181, Mendoza 110 and Córdoba 104. In the City of Buenos Aires they have orders, but only 3 have opened, an area that will soon have more openings. They opened in Laferrere in La Matanza, Villa 20, Carlos Gardel, Itatí and Barrio Mugica ex Villa 31. “Of the 815 social ice cream parlors, more than half opened in the last year,” Celeste explained.

The success of the model is such that Paraguay is already asking Helacor to export Vía Bana. They are still evaluating it.

“We took the first step, which is the opening of social ice cream shops, but we want to go further. Now that we enter the neighborhoods we want to work on other issues. We were at the Circular Economy Summit and we want to link up with more public and private organizations. Our entrepreneurs are agents of change, we want to detect cases of school dropouts in the communities and through Fonbec, look for people who sponsor them not only economically, but also accompany them in the educational process”, said Celeste Santiago.

A project that seeks to help those most in need and works in parallel to Grido’s business, which already has 1,900 franchised stores, of which 200 have already crossed the border and are in Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. In 2021 they arrived in Bolivia and this year they entered Peru through sales in supermarkets and stores. The development of franchises in Latin America is the next objective.

in Rosario

This business model is what Grido plans to introduce now in Rosario. All after a ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice ratified the unconstitutionality of the local ordinance that limits the number of ice cream parlors by brand.

This was confirmed in the last hours to the newspaper La Capital Javier Díaz Caballero, leader of institutional communication of the company. “We continue with the same concept as in all places, which is to arrive with quality ice cream at the best price. That is the initial concept of Grido, to which we recently added our arrival in popular neighborhoods, where we understand that there is a growing demand for ice cream, which was unsatisfied,” reflected Díaz Caballero, who defended that the company “always respected the times of Justice”.

Within the framework of the firm’s business plan, the current distribution of stores in Rosario “allows us to continue growing,” the executive stressed. For Grido, there is room to grow as long as each branch covers a radius of between 15,000 and 20,000 people. Given that in the city they have 20 openings (due to the limit imposed by the ordinance), the reading is that there could be up to 30 more openings.

“Today we are with 1,900 franchises throughout the country. Our goal for this year is to exceed 2,000. It is in this general expansion plan, which covers not only the Argentine provinces but also the other three countries in which we operate, that we understand the possibilities for Rosario”, stressed Díaz Caballero.

In addition to the opening of new branches, the company is getting ready to disembark in Rosario with the new format offered by Vía Bana.

Despite the fact that Vía Bana “is the business unit that has grown the most” in recent years, it did not reach Rosario due to the same limitations posed by the ordinance passed in 2010. Once this difficulty has been released, the chain from Córdoba is preparing to expand its presence in the city.

It is worth remembering that at the end of March, the Court rejected the complaint filed by the Municipality of Rosario, which raised objections to a sentence issued by the Chamber of Administrative Litigation Number 2, which declared the rule sanctioned by the local Council unconstitutional.

The judicial course had begun in 2017 at the initiative of the local chain Tento (of the same owner as Smart, facing the sector chamber).

In different instances, the Justice stated that the Municipality “lacks the competence to regulate commerce”, putting in a weak state the regulations sanctioned more than a decade ago. At that time the councilors approved -unanimously- a limit to the opening of premises by the same firm, setting a cap of 10% on the total amount. It was a project promoted by the Industrial and Commercial Chamber of Artisan Ice Cream of Rosario, which viewed with great concern the advance of Grido from Córdoba.

On alert

The truth is that the possible landing of Vía Bana put local manufacturers on alert. Ciro Cacciabue, president of the Chamber of Artisan Ice Cream of Rosario, was very harsh in statements to the local radio station Radio 2.

“These franchises (by Vía Bana) only add unskilled labor for customer service, while in an SME you have ice cream masters, administrative staff and delivery. In other words, it mobilizes the entire local commercial circuit”, he pointed out.

“Furthermore, we – for those who sell a more elaborate product and first quality raw materials – we get our supplies from the regional dairy basin,” he said, and stressed that in Rosario “the aspect of quality and price” is taken care of.

“Today there is a growth of SME ice cream parlors, with local factories, so this ordinance has been very good in generating quality jobs. And there is a healthy competition with different brands, different quality and different price”, remarked the ice cream entrepreneur.

For this reason, before Grido’s onslaught, he pointed out: “We are chatting with the Executive to see what position it takes; we believe that it will protect the local and regional industry and also the workforce, because this also affects the union”.

In addition, he announced that a census is being worked on to update the number of outlets in the city. “We calculate that there are 240 or 250 ice cream parlors,” she estimated. And he recalled that local regulations do not allow any company –with its different brands– to have more than 10 percent of the total, although the Supreme Court of Justice confirmed its unconstitutionality.

“This ice cream parlor –in reference to Grido– intended, when it arrived in Rosario, to have 90 branches in three years. In the towns – where it is not limited – it is seen that the artisanal ice cream parlors are disappearing. There may be other brands but also of low quality”, analyzed Cacciabue.

And he attacked the business model faced by the firm from Cordoba: “A few years ago, its managers were imprisoned for tax evasion, its growth was not accidental,” he recalled.

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How Vía Bana works, the cheap ice cream parlor that plans to enter Rosario and alerted local factories