Interview with Robert Okoński, Sales Director at Wawel S.A.

Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 Food From Poland 31/2018
How important are exports in Wawel’s business mix? The data published by you indicate that this area of your activity is systematically growing.

Wawel has a strong, leading, position in the manufacturing of confectionery in Poland, but indeed we do not forget about exports, which are a very-important part of our business. We are systematically working on our international expansion, and the growing popularity of our sweets, their high quality, and the ready-made system solutions for our product merchandising and sales, all stimulate the good results we achieve. We are prepared for the expectations of modern trade, when it comes to the exposition of our products, sales support and way of packaging adapted to the highest standards. In particular, I mean our modern packages for shelves, racks e.t.c. and interesting forms of display systems  for bulk products as well. We can offer many surprisingly interesting solutions which means to our Business Partners a significant degree of freedom, and a guarantee of successful sales. Our foreign Partners appreciate the fact that Wawel has 100 years of tradition, yet today it is an extremely modern company, with two state-of-the-art production facilities. The two plants meet all the international safety and quality standards required in the food industry, including the Certified Quality Management System compliant with ISO 9001, HACCP (The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point), BRC (The British Retail Consortium), IFS Food (The International Food Standard), and – for selected products – the NO GMO, HALAL and KOSHER certificates, which make our products a very-attractive choice for the Consumers from different countries. However, the quality required for the certification purposes is one issue. Another, and quite an exceptional one at that, is our decision to become the industry pioneer, by improving our products through the removal of any unnecessary additives – something particularly appreciated by Consumers, not only in Poland, but also on foreign markets. All this is having an impact on the stable development of our exports. Our foreign sales are growing, according to forecasts, at the rate of more than a dozen percent annually.

True – for today’s consumers the quality of products is very important. How far advanced is your Good Ingredients project?

Today, our “Good Ingredients” strategy already covers all our products, which means that they have received the simple “clean label.” This is a unique initiative, and our key project, which is being developed continuously and dynamically. Thanks to efficient work on recipes, today we are one of the first, or maybe even the first, large producer in Europe, which has successfully modified the formulation of all its products. We have successfully eliminated artificial aromas, unnecessary preservatives, and the E476 emulsifier, as well as colourants; instead, we now focus on natural raw materials, certified additives, e.g. GMO-free soya lecithin, and the gradual elimination of palm oil; at the moment, it is not contained in any of our chocolates (without filling) any more. We have also increased the content of ingredients which are desirable in a given product, such as nuts and fruit juices. All this to provide the more-and-more demanding Consumer with natural and innovative sweets of the highest quality, with no unnecessary additives. In the process of so-called “label cleaning,” we were advised by outstanding experts – professors of reputable universities, specialising in food technology. We follow Consumers’ expectations, we stay ahead of the trends, and – as you can see – we make no compromises with regard to quality. This strategy is being well received by our Business Partners, and, above all, by the Consumers.

In which countries is there a greater demand for such products? Are “clean label” products more desirable abroad than in Poland?

Our observations show that this is a global trend, and the behaviour and expectations of Consumers, especially in Europe, are becoming more-and-more similar. The vogue for broadly understood naturalness in the FMCG industry is a global trend, and the “Good Ingredients” policy fits in with this perfectly. In its most-recent report, the Mintel research agency, the world leader in market intelligence, presented the trends in the global food and beverage markets in 2018. It turns out that among the basic expectations of the modern Consumer is the “clean product” tag, i.e. free from any unnecessary additives, which still provides 100% taste, and is sold at a fair price. And, according to the researchers, a perfect example of a response to these trends on our domestic market is our project! Since it is an independent report, such a distinction pleases us all the more.

Wawel is one of Poland’s favourite brands. It is also one of the oldest companies which manufacture sweets in Poland. But how are your products being received by foreign customers? Which foreign countries are the major importers of your confectionery?

We have recorded dynamic growth in sales in the countries of the European Union – we are pleased with our success in both the 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 the shelves of the largest trading chains in Germany, the UK, and the Central and Eastern European countries. The tastes of our foreign Consumers match those of the Poles. The top sellers in our export sales include, similarly to those 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 – extremely trendy, not only on the domestic market.

Wawel still manages to surprise its customers with new ideas. What should we expect in the nearest future?

Last year we further developed our production plant, which will not only increase our production capacity by some 20%, but, most importantly, it will improve the quality of our flagship products, and will allow us to include new categories of products in our portfolio. Even as we speak, our new products are entering the market, and this is possible thanks to our most-recent investments. Our Customers can rest assured that all our products leave the factory at their best, and that they are made in a state-of-the-art facility. The coming years will see us actively taking advantage of the investments we have made, and the opportunities here are many. Our constant strategic goal is to produce confectionery of the top quality, and each and every product we sell must meet the highest standards, which we have set ourselves. Additionally, we try to engage our Customers in social activities, mainly through the “Growing Heart” project, under which we are cooperating with the leaders of Poland’s greatest charities, transferring a specific amount from each product for social purposes. 

What are the export plans of Wawel, and what special solutions does it have for its foreign Business Partners?

Our products are already available in almost 50 countries in the world, and this is still not our last word in this regard. Our goal is the consistent development of their distribution in collaboration with the largest European networks, as well as the development of long-term cooperation with Distributors in the more-distant regions of the world. Apart from top-quality products, we provide our Business Partners with a professional and very-efficient service, as well as support in promotion and marketing tailored to the markets on which they operate. Particularly noteworthy is our proprietary system supporting the sale of sweets by weight, the “Freedom of Choice” programme. Our sales modules, available in 4 different configurations, work very well in both the smaller stores and the large retail spaces, and at the present time they are operating in over 4,000 stores in Poland and abroad. Thanks to our solution, our Customers can create their own mixes of their favourite sweets, while simultaneously benefitting from unique offers which go with this programme – either by receiving an attractive gift or by purchasing sweets in specially-designed gift packs for every occasion. So it is safe to say that we are fully prepared for cooperation with foreign distribution networks, and we are in a position to meet any demand.

Thank you

tagi: interview, Robert Okoński, Wawel S.A.,