When the Covid-19 pandemic struck it forced companies to meet significant challenges never before encountered. From designing a slick financial management strategy to safeguarding employee and customer interactions, the virus can arguably be said to have posed the test of the decade for those organizations having to face it.
Among those most obliged to find business solutions were food manufacturers, considering the significance of the position they hold in a functioning society, and more so during tough times.
Sweet Country - a household name within Georgia - has become a market leader in providing quality sweets within an operating time of just 15 years.
The sheer size of the company and its importance to the Georgian market make it interesting to see how the management coped with the problems presented by the pandemic. Thus The FINANCIAL reached out Kakhaber Kruashvili, Marketing Manager to gain insights into their virus-fighting strategies.
Q. What were the measures taken to ensure continuity of service?
A. While monitoring the unfolding of the pandemic in the media, we were quick to comprehend the significance of continuing our service, as was suggested by government officials. The maximum efforts had to be undertaken by food companies to ensure the continuity of production processes.
Bearing all of this in mind, we quickly took the appropriate measures recommended by the World Health Organization, both in the working, and during the travel and transportation, phases, which continue to this very day.
Every interaction continues to be controlled and employees are being tested, while disinfectant works have become a common routine. As for the transportation and distribution stage, Sweet Country found an optimal risk-minimizing solution in renting additional vehicles to ensure employee safety.
Q. How would you evaluate the demand you’ve been experiencing lately, compared to before the pandemic?
A. The demand for our products remained significant even during the pandemic, so the company was fortunate enough to continue to be able to work full time. We have only spotted a slight recent drop during the removal of the regulations, which may be due to the changing season.
Q. Has there been any need for employee layoffs or wage reductions?
A. We were fortunate to be able to allow all the employees who were eager to continue working during the pandemic with, of course, their salaries remaining the same as in the pre-pandemic period. Those who voluntarily decided (or were forced) to stay at home automatically resumed work once the regulations were lifted.
Considering the additional perks we provided during the pandemic, such as a driver’s service, we were able to provide our employees with even more than we used to.
Q. What were the government regulations in your industry and how did the company cope with them?
A. Fortunately, there were no field-specific regulations that had been implemented, however we were glad to fulfil all the WHO recommendations at their fullest and hence ensure the safety of our staff.
This was an interesting challenge for our company and the management is glad to be coping with it effectively.
Q. The pandemic has had a substantial impact on the majority of Georgian citizens. Has your company contributed to the national cause through any CSR campaigns?
A. As soon as the spread of the virus became a tangible threat we decided to implement an informational seminar on the subject of how to effectively prevent the spread of the virus and the correct recommendations to follow.
When finding the right ways to continue the manufacturing business, the management was eager to share our experience with all partner companies.
As for our contribution to the informational campaigns against Covid-19, we decided to cut our marketing funds and instead divert this spending to charitable deeds, and rightfully so. The beneficiaries included medical staff, law enforcement agencies, and families and children living on the brink of poverty.
Sweet Country remains eager to continue these charity works.
Q. What are your expectations of the future?
A. We have a wide variety of plans for the future. The company is planning to implement several large-scale innovations in various directions. However, one thing is for sure, we will always remain a quality-oriented company; a value that we can proudly state to have maintained during these difficult times.