A brand with great taste
When Alka Group was first set up in 1994, in Bucharest, Romania, the family-run business was mainly known for being one of the first coffee processors in Romania. Today, the group has become renowned for a diverse range of edible items, including salted snacks, cakes, biscuits and wafers, as well as continuing with the production of the beverage that started it all. When asked to pick a favourite, CEO Ady Hirsch’s answer is very democratic: “Frankly, I am biased. I know the whole range, salted and sweet, and I love them all!”
While it now has 650 employees and a turnover of £33 million, Ady believes that the values that created the establishment remain the same, and there is the sense that these are still very much part of the company’s day-to-day routine: “There is no time wasted on formalities. Direct, quick and correct communication is encouraged in order to achieve great results. It also means there is more inclusivity, with many colleagues working for us throughout the years, through the ups and downs of the economic cycle.”
Ady also has a firm belief in what the CEO role means, and the level of responsibility that goes into the role: “It is not just about being the ‘Chief Executive Officer’, but also the ‘Chief Energy Officer.’ This means encouraging people when things get harder, believing in the ability of the team and recognising great achievements. Other aspects of the role include; leading the strategy process, ensuring objectives are achieved, responsibly balancing the requirements of various stakeholders in the company and providing professional and personal support for the team members.” Alka Group is savvy in terms of how it adapts those products for various overseas demographics, as Ady explains: “While preparing for export, there have been some adaptations, so this is how something like ‘Toortizi’ becomes ‘Elephant’ elsewhere, or ‘Prajitura Casei’ becomes ‘Home Cake’. There are also local distribution collaborations for other market leaders, such as Chupa Chups, Mentos and Mars.”
In the last seven years, this has meant that the group has achieved an average sales growth of around 14 per cent per year. Ady attributes this to three key strategies that are the main pillars of its company framework: “The first part is choosing products targeted at relevant consumers, using the best quality raw materials, packaging materials and combined with state-of-the-art technology operated by skilled teams. Innovation is also a core part of the products. The second is building the brands, so they are appropriately positioned for the target demographic, and finally a multi-channel approach that combines both modern and traditional trade, both at home and in other territories.”
The company has the capacity to meet this demand, with ten distribution centres in its home territory, selling to over 40,000 stores around the world, while building on this further with a new 11.5 million euro factory set to open in Ploiesti, Romania, something Ady believes can provide a massive boost to the area: “There was a lack of space in the Bucharest factory, and with support from the National Rural Development Programme, it was possible to create a facility that will employ 100 people. The project is important because it emphasises the vital role the group plays in the local area, providing a guarantee for a solid economy and society.”
There is the belief that a strict strategic approach can create a more structured game-plan, one that could be effective to cover development over the next five years, although Ady admits that there still needs to be room for manoeuvre and a certain degree of flexibility: “On a product level, it is crucial to continually provide great new items in our portfolio, treats that will bring joy and pleasantly surprise consumers. There is the drive to continue maintaining growth, as well as entering more territories on an international level. Crucially, this must continue, alongside developing the people and organisational culture alongside the facilities and all other infrastructure. By properly leading all these elements, this will allow the organisation to provide a strong long-term challenge in the future,” he boldly states. Equally, there is also a desire to promote Romania’s positive qualities: “Our products’ range has modern culinary tastes. We definitively don’t produce traditional Romanian products. A lot of this range was established in its home country, while being made to the highest international standards, almost serving as an unofficial ambassador. We are very proud of this. I believe that this is worth more than the thousands of words a politician may say!”
While Alka Group clearly has big ambitions, at its heart is a desire to provide a treat, that it is proud to make and share future pleasant moments with as many people as possible around the world.