Interview with Marek Maciejewski, Sales Department Manager, Sertop Sp. z o.o.
What are the prospects of development for the Polish dairy industry? In what way has the private label changed the dairy market?
The current period is not easy for the dairy industry, the market is not stable and its condition is affected by many external factors. As we all know, the Polish dairy market does not vary much from the European standards, similarly evolving and responding to its environment. Nevertheless, it is constantly growing, and this trend is positive. Polish manufacturers are finding new markets, especially in the Middle East but also in the countries of far Asia, such as China, India, Vietnam, and South Korea. In search of new opportunities and market expansion, many manufacturers have decided to produce under the private labels of their customers. As late as several years ago, this category accounted for a small percentage of the products offered on shop shelves in Poland. Currently, private label products comprise a large portion of the shops’ offer. Customers are increasingly eager to reach for products marked by a trade chain brand. For many manufacturers, production under a private brand means compensation for dropping sales of goods manufactured under producer brand.
What does the situation on the processed cheese market look like? What are the consumer and market trends?
Processed cheese consumers, especially in Poland, are rather conservative in their choices, particularly in regard to the cheese types and flavourings used in production. However, their expectations have been changing in the recent years; therefore, we constantly seek to adapt and change our offer. We introduce new tastes or package forms. In the recent period, we have expanded our offer with new items in the 100 g “Jak dawniej” series of long block packed products, as well as the 280 g circle in the family version, i.e. a double-layer package with 16 wedges in a single box. The export market, European or global, is not homogenous. We have to continually adapt our offer to the expectations of local markets. Three attractive tastes: Edam, Z wędzoną Goudą (With Smoked Gouda), and Camembert, are currently available. Nevertheless, different consumer behaviour and preferences can be observed in different countries. They result from varied cultural or historical conditions. For instance, the traditional 100 g block, still the mainstay of the offer in Poland and the Czech Republic, is completely unknown in other European countries. This mobilizes us to create products to find recognition abroad.
What conditions have to be fulfilled so Polish dairy companies could truly compete on the global market?
Sertop is a company with a 100% Polish capital, operating and offering its products for more than 50 years. It also has considerable experience with regard to finding its way on a difficult market. The competition is huge, and we find competition from global companies to be a particularly serious challenge. For such a manufacturer as Sertop, it is extremely important to have support in promotional activities at home and abroad. All kinds of support in participation in foreign exhibitions, trade fairs, or missions is surely great help.
Private label – what are the facts and myths? Are Polish and foreign market consumers well educated on this matter?
Private label products of trade chains have appeared in Poland quite recently. Initially, it seemed that customers treated them warily, as products of a considerably lower quality. However, intense advertising activities undertaken by the chains in the promotion of “their” products have changed this approach. On the other hand, activities of trade chains, aimed at improving the quality of private label products, have also been noticed by the consumers. Currently, such products find many customers. Of great importance is also the affluence of Polish consumers: let us be honest, what makes Poles eager to reach for these goods is their low price. However, in the recent period, a trend can be noticed to reach for Polish products made by Polish manufacturers. Any actions helping to promote Polish goods, smartphone apps, etc. are increasingly popular and constitute a valuable initiative in the area of educating customers. Similar trends, i.e. moving away from the fascination with “Western” food, can be observed on the neighbouring markets. Therefore, Polish products have to compete, above all, through quality and price.
How was the company’s abroad image created? How does cooperation with business partners look like?
Sertop Sp. z o.o., in the legal form it has today, has been present on the market for 25 years, yet its traditions date far back to 50 years ago. Over that time, Sertop managed to maintain its share in the market and has been constantly developing, increasing its potential as well as its presence on foreign markets.
We seek to create an attractive offer, helping us to maintain our position. Nevertheless, an important part we are constantly developing is export.
We are concerned with acquiring “footholds” in countries with a high consumption of processed cheese, i.e. the Arab countries. We work on the adaptiation of our products to the requirements of their markets. A considerable role in these activities is played by our partners and distributors on those markets. It is them who are best oriented in the expectations of local markets. Therefore, strict cooperation by listening and adaptating to the partners’ expectations is extremely important.