An Interview with Fernando Avila, Sauza's Master Distiller

por Equipo Casa Sauza | Jan 18, 2022 8:53:41 AM


Fernando Avila, master distiller of Sauza, was interviewed by Ramiro Escoto for the television program En Contexto. In this interview, Fernando tells us about the work that is being done along with Beam Suntory in order to offer the world a world class tequila. This is what he told us:

Ramiro Escoto- Hi, How are you? welcome and thanks for joining us. This is In Context by X Ti TV. As we had already mentioned during this week, and a few minutes ago on the news, we are here, an hour and ten minutes from Guadalajara Jalisco. It's Tequila, the town par excellence that bears the name of the drink that today represents us internationally. I have the pleasure of being in this conversation with Fernando Ávila Murillo, he is the manufacturing development manager of Beam Suntory Mexico and of course, the one that, among other things, safeguards the Sauza brand. Fernando thank you very much for joining us, welcome to our show.

Fernando Avila- It's a pleasure, thanks for this opportunity to talk about tequila.

R. Escoto- How hard was it for Suntory to first understand that Mexico has in Tequila, more than just a name?

F. Avila- Well, with Suntory in particular, since it's one of the leading companies in Japan, the whole topic is quality. And because of this, since we are a part of them, Sauza has delivered -we had already been tequila suppliers in Japan for years-, we have been delivering a tequila that has passed all the quality standards that have been requested, and thus, there has been a recognition, there has been an understanding that tequila is a distillate with high quality standards, with a global presence, but that also represents what is done here; that 145 years of tradition that you already mentioned which reflects a whole history, which reflects a pride of belonging, both geographically and to Sauza's family, that has always enhanced what tequila is as a gift from Mexico to the world.

R. Escoto- Let's see, we know that Tequila Sauza is nowadays being exported to many countries and each of them has its own quality standards. We can then say that Sauza has penetrated into the market by teaching the market itself; I'm referring specifically to governments that seem to have a standard more in writing than in practice, and thanks to the arrival of Sauza, it has allowed them to begin to understand and learn more about this industry.

F. Avila- Yes, there are two standards: the formal ones, for example, there are markets that have restrictions on methanol levels, which is an alcohol that is present in the tequilas, so we have to verify the quality parameters of each market, their specific guidelines and fulfill them. But then there are the other standards, let's call them informal, which have to do with the consumers perception, with the idea that has been generated around tequila; that this drink can be very strong, that it gives you a hangover, that it doesn't taste good... That's where we have to position our brands by making our portfolio known, by caring for the quality parameter in this sensory area, by having consumers come and find a liquid that can be tasted, a liquid that can be appreciated, like any high-end distillate. This is what has opened the markets' doors to us, from the main one, which is the United States, to emerging markets in South America, the European market and more recently, the Asian market.

R. Escoto- That's an issue I want to address: Suntory has brought -tell me if I got this right, Fernando- a philosophy where among other things, tries to relate the essence of the brand to the value of the product that we are consuming. This is a very oriental philosophy called Monozukuri. What is this about?

F. Avila- Monozukuri is a concept. It doesn't belong to Suntory, but for Suntory, and for some time now, for Sauza, Monozukuri reflects the confluence of four elements:

  1. First, what we call the gemba. What this Japanese word means is, where is tequila made. Right here, where we are, tequila is being made. That is the gemba. But three elements come together HERE, and that is what the Monozukuri concept is refers to.
  2. The processes. We are surrounded by barrels, the tequila is aging here.
  3. Another element is technology. You asked "why are the barrels arranged this way? Why do you have a climate system based on humidity and temperature?" Because it affects the process, it helps us not to lose so much tequila due to evaporation, it helps us achieve an optimal exchange between the wood notes and the tequila notes in order to create the profiles that we want to obtain.
  4. This Monozukuri concept ends with something that is key: people. The manager of this winery who is verifying it all day after day, is making sure that here, in gemba, the processes are being carried out and that the technology is being used. Monozukuri has to do with the development of people. All within the context that development happens at workplace, and it happens in order to improve processes and to take advantage of the technology that there is.

R. Escoto- When you go out, anywhere, and you see a Sauza bottle, what does it represent to you?

F. Avila- Pride

R. Escoto- We are saying then, that this tradition is also related to an issue called sustainability. The company is precisely generating that: a balance with the environment, a harmony in giving the earth back what some people might think you are taking away.

F. Avila- That is another Monozukuri component, because everything I just described to you, it's not circumstantial, or it's doesn't take place only during a period of time, we must to look towards the future. And when looking towards the future, we realized we must give something back, both to nature and to society.

R. Escoto- We are then talking about sustainability and being socially responsible as a responsible company that cares for both. These aspects happen with the people who are from Tequila, who have first worked in the traditional way, and then have followed a dynamic, as you told me when not being on Air, in which the company has been very persistent about the development of each person. So maybe we can say that Sauza is a company that is becoming, even for Japan's own standard, something like a model to follow.

F. Avila- Yes, our reference, our aspiration, is to be a world class tequila. But not only in the spirits field, not only in the field of food. World class in manufacturing as well. So, what will help us to achieve this world class category, is that confluence that I mentioned before: processes, technology and people. Finding that Monozukuri spirit: What else can we develop from the people? What else can I improve in the processes? What technologies are available so we can bring them here?

An example: a robot that places the bottles in a box. That is a technology that is available today.

R. Escoto- And it doesn't take the job from whoever did it manually, in other words, it isn't reducing staff due to the new technologies that are being brought. You were telling me this is a part of this philosophy

F. Avila- It's because it's part of the development of the person. I am not going to boost a person's development by having him/her place bottles in a box. I am working on people's development when they can improve the processes and their working environment as well. Leave the mechanical task to a robot, take advantage of technology! So I have to constantly de checking what is new out there in the world so that I can bring here in order to improve things, improve processes, improve people.

R. Escoto- Fernando, I really appreciate that you've received us.

F. Avila- Quite the contrary, thanks for the opportunity, for letting me talk about my passion, which is my job here at Tequila Sauza.

R. Escoto- We now know we can truly say that the slogan is real, Sauza is still our tequila.

F. Avila- And it'll keep being, for a long time...

R. Escoto- Thank you very much, Fernando. Thank you for watching our show and see you next week on another En Contexto issue.

And with this words, the interview ended. If you'd like to know more about Monozukuri philosophy carried out at Sauza, click here.

NOTE: After reading this article, one of our customers replied saying he was surprised to hear that tequila contains methanol, and asked if we could elaborate a little more on this, which we did. Here is Fernando's answer: Methanol in Tequila

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