Pedro Lobo Domínguez was a qualified labor lawyer when he attended a week-long plastics processing seminar in the late 1980s.
Little did he know he would become a product pioneer a decade later.
Lobo launched his own company, Fabrica de Envases Valdo SA de CV, in 1988, soon after completing his crash course. The seminar was run by the educational Instituto Mexicano del Plastico Industrial SC of Mexico City.
A decade later Valdo made his first 5-gallon PET bottle for drinking water, using technology supplied by Nissei ASB Machine Co. Ltd., Lobo said in a recent interview. Valdo was Komoro, Japan-based Nissei's first customer for the technology.
He claims that today, Valdo is Mexico's largest supplier of the reusable bottles, called garrafones in Spanish.
The Mexican market for the containers, which Valdo's rivals make not only of PET but of glass, polycarbonate and PVC, is 20 million units a year, Lobo explained in his office in an industrial area of northern Mexico City.
PET accounts for 50 percent of the market and we have 40 percent of that segment, with another half-dozen companies sharing the rest, he said.
According to Lobo, Nissei recognized the potential for PET garrafones in Mexico and gave Valdo its full support.
We started making them in 1998 with a manufacturing capacity of 65,000 per month, he said. Today our capacity is almost 300,000 per month.
The company employs 300 in six Mexico plants: two plants in Mexico City and one each in Tlaxcala, Guadalajara, Culiacan and Mérida.
It has 300 clients, located principally in areas away from Mexico's main urban areas. Typically the bottles are sold to consumers who use them to store water not only for drinking, but for cooking and personal hygiene.
Valdo injection molds PET preforms at a single plant in Mexico City, and transports them to the satellite plants, where blow molding operations complete the process.
Valdo has four Nisseis among its seven blow molding machines.
An operation it opened in Orange, Calif., in 1999 produces 60,000 garrafones per month, while another in Central America was started a year ago and serves three countries in the region.
The market is consolidating, rather than growing, he said, referring particularly to Mexico. However, proposed legislation in the U.S. to ban the use of bisphenol A in all food and beverage containers could help his business, he believes.
If BPA is banned in the U.S., it is likely to be prohibited in Mexico too, he said, pointing out that the largest marketers of potable water garrafones in Mexico use polycarbonate, which is made with BPA. They include PepsiCo Inc., which has owned the 124-year-old Electropura brand since 1993; Coca-Cola Co., which owns the Ciel brand; and Groupe Danone SA, which owns the Bonafont brand.
I think the future could be very good [for Valdo] if Mexico bans PC for food and beverages applications, Lobo said.