Interview with Robert Okoński, Sales Director in Wawel SA

Tuesday, 30 January, 2018 Food From Poland 30/2018
How can we recapitulate the year of 2017 at Wawel, both on the Polish market and on foreign ones?

Last year, we introduced many positive changes – above all, we improved our offer. A crucial issue is the pioneering Good Ingredients (Dobre Składniki) project under which we have changed the recipes of all our products, eliminating all unnecessary additives. We focus on top-quality cocoa beans, natural aromas, certified (non-GMO) soy lecithin, lack of preservatives and colourants, gradual elimination of palm oil, and increasing the content of those raw materials which are desirable in a given product, e.g. peanuts or fruit juices. All of this to provide the increasingly demanding consumer with top-quality, natural and innovative sweets without enhancers. In the process of so-called “label cleaning,” we were advised by outstanding experts – professors of reputable universities, specializing in food technology. Our project was highly appreciated by our consumers and we have plans regarding its further development. It is worth noticing that a turn towards broadly understood naturalness in the FMCG industry is a global trend, and the Good Ingredients policy fits in with it perfectly. Apart from this significant change, we have also expanded our factory in Dobczyce near Cracow, enabling it to increase its capacity by approx. 20% and to become one of the most advanced production factories, not just in Poland but in this part of Europe. We have also developed a brand new strategy of communication. Furthermore, our strong market position was substantially affected by this year’s development in exports – foreign sales have been developing in line with the assumptions, at a rate of more than ten percent annually.

How did the expansion of the Dobczyce investment affect the company’s development?

What our new factory brings, apart from the increase in capacity, is above all, improvement in the quality of our flagship products, as well as the implementation of new categories in our portfolio. It is still too soon to reveal the details concerning new products, but I can say we will market them with substantial support as early as spring 2018. With our new investment, the customers can be sure that all our products leave the factory in perfect condition and that they have been manufactured at a state-of-the-art factory. The following years will be a time for us to actively benefit from this investment which provides many possibilities. Our constant strategic objective is the production of top-quality confectionery.

It was, among other things, the modern infrastructure that enabled you to eliminate unnecessary preservatives, artificial aromas and colourants from the recipes of Wawel sweets. This is what the consumer expects manufacturers to do. What are the consumer requirements on European markets?

We have already finished works on the recipes of all our products, which makes us one of Europe’s first major manufacturer who has successfully modified the recipes of their products in this regard. Today, our entire offer corresponds to the Good Ingredients strategy. We have successfully eliminated artificial aromas, unnecessary preservatives, the E476 emulsifier, as well as colourants; instead, we now focus on natural raw materials, certified additives and gradual elimination of palm oil; at the moment, it is not contained in any of our full chocolates anymore. We follow the consumers’ expectations, we stay ahead of the trends and – as you can see – we make no compromises with regard to quality. This strategy is well received by our Business Partners and, above all, by the consumers.

Does the mission of Good Ingredients cover all sweets by Wawel? Will any new products appear in the offer in the nearest future?

This is right, the Good Ingredients strategy already covers all products, as every product in our offer must fulfill the high standards we have imposed on ourselves in this regard. Of course, this also applies to new products. Additionally, we try to engage our customers in social activities, mainly through the “Growing Heart” (Serce Rośnie) action under which we cooperate with leaders of Poland’s greatest charities, transferring a specific amount from each product for social purposes. “Growing Heart” is not just a reason to be proud but it splendidly proves that the Poles are willing to help, they just have to be given an opportunity to do so. Additionally, we are glad with the approach of the Ambassadors of the action to our activities – they are genuinely involved, not just within the main campaign. This shows we are a reliable company with wide possibilities, a company which also watches its environment and has an idea how to reach the ever-changing consumer model successfully.

Confectionery from Poland, including the Wawel brand, enjoys much popularity among both European and worldwide consumers. Which foreign markets are most open to Polish sweets? What products of your portfolio are the favourites of foreign consumers’?

We record dynamic growth in sales in the countries of the European Union – we are pleased with our success in both old and new Union states. We have also managed to go outside the so-called ethnic shelf – our products, in specially prepared export packages, can be found on shelves of the largest trade chains in Germany, the UK or Central and Eastern European countries. The tastes of our foreign consumers coincide with the Polish ones. Top sellers in our export sales include, similarly as on the Polish market, our high-quality chocolate bars, Choco & Fruity agar agar jellies or Fresh & Fruity pectin jellies, as well as Tofflairs and Choco & Peanut candies enjoying cult status on our market and beyond.

What are the directions of Wawel’s foreign expansion?

Our goal is further consistent building of distribution, based on Europe’s largest trade chains, as well as the development of long-term cooperation with distributors in more distant parts of the world. Our products have already been available in almost 50 countries of the world, and this is still not our last word in this regard. Apart from top-quality products, we provide our partners with professional and very efficient service as well as support in promotion and marketing tailored for the markets on which they operate.

What will 2018 be like on the confectionery market in Poland and abroad? What are the global trends?

I think the market will change just as the consumers and their expectations do. The key aspects for the nearest future are quality, the so-called “clean label,” and shopping pleasure. At Wawel, we already respond to all these needs today. As an unquestionable sales leader of bulk sweets, we have successfully launched the unique “Freedom of Choice” sales system that is already present at nearly 4 000 shops in Poland and abroad. Thanks to our solution, customers can create their own mixes of their favourite sweets, while simultaneously being able to benefit from unique offers accompanying this system – either by getting an attractive gift or packing the purchased sweets in specially-designed gift packs for every occasion. To sum up, many things are happening and we have a relentless appetite for more.

Thank you

tagi: Robert Okoński , Wawel SA ,