The FINANCIAL -- Most recently, Georgian bakery Ipkli won Golden Brand Award for its achievements in bread and pastry production. Meanwhile, in company’s headquarter leadership says that this year will be even more productive for Ipkli and 2015 will go as an important milestone in the company’s history. Ipkli plans to introduce new products, enhance production process in the factory, improve distribution, and excel at communication with its customers and business partners.
“I would like to thank Golden Brand and our customers for recognizing our work and accomplishments. Since 1993 we do all we can to offer our customers wide assortment of healthy and tasty quality products,” said Shakro Bakuradze, founder of Ipkli, told The FINANCIAL, adding that “quality is our top priority and renewed communications channels will help us determine customer needs. This will help us increase level of customer satisfaction.”
There are quite a few bakery businesses in Georgia. However, in terms of huge enterprises there are only around a dozen. Ipkli’s share of the market in Tbilisi is over 14-16 percent.
The company experienced a 10-15 percent sales increase in 2014.
Ipkli currently offers a wide assortment to its customers. Traditional types of bread, specifically white bread loafs, are the top-selling product. They make up the major percentage of the company’s sales, followed by black loaf, rye and bran bread. Ipkli produces about 35 sorts of bread and 40 confectionery products, of which the most popular are Batoni bread and raisin cookies.
Meanwhile, new sorts of bread and rolls have also been offered to Ipkli customers. Latvian black bread and Ekobatoni white bread were introduced in the summer. As Bakuradze explained, the company chose these products because of the existing demand on the market and now, the products have already its loyal customers.
There are only two Ipkli stores in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, although, Ipkli production is distributed to almost every market throughout Tbilisi.
Q. What challenges does the market face currently and how do you see ways to overcome these challenges?
A. Currently, main challenge is that the customers are not well-enough informed about bread products. There are false claims and believes about bread production. We want to better inform our customers. It’s in both our interests. We offer variety of products for all needs and taste. A well-informed customer can make a better choice. This will increase customer satisfaction.
To overcome information gap, we started using social media channels where we publish useful information about bread and pastry. We pay attention to customers interests and prepare topics accordingly.
Another problem in the market is a traditional one – quality. Today, many companies abandon quality to maintain or lower the price. Our mission is to provide customers with healthy and tasty bread and pastry products. Unquestionably, we are determined in the company to maintain our high quality.
For this reason, we purchase the best raw materials and carry out laboratory tests on a regular basis. To guarantee the quality, at Ipkli we examines both, local and imported flour before a purchase and before its usage. The majority of the flour used by Ipkli is produced locally. The rest comes from Russia.
Furthermore, we cooperate with government and non-governmental institutions on food safety issues and we maintain hygiene in our factory.
As a result, during the 22 years of its existence, Ipkli has offered only quality products to customers and gained their trust and loyalty.
Q. Due to the price increase of wheat, salt and yeast the cost of Ipkli products increased as well. How have the price changes affected sales statistics and how have customers reacted to it?
A. We are not going to disappoint our customers with low quality products. Offering our customers valuable products is what we do. With customer interests in mind, we made a best decision out of available options.
It is a fact that changes in the price of raw materials are reflected in the production itself. Back in 2013 when the wheat price dropped to GEL 35 Ipkli was the only company in the industry which reduced the price of its bread. Since then there have been changes in the prices of raw materials and we have done our best to maintain the low price. But this year there has been no option, but to reflect the changes.
Thankfully, our customers are very understanding.
Q. How safe and good quality is the bread being sold in Georgia’s shops today? What are the conditions on the market in this area?
A. I cannot say what happens in other bakeries, but we care about the standards of our production from the very beginning. Today we have an enterprise of European standards. Our factory is completely upgraded with European, especially German technology.
Black bread has been a subject of discussion in Georgia recently. That’s because one of its ingredients - rye - is almost unavailable in the country. That’s why we purchase it from the Baltics.
So there are no doubts, we label our products and indicate all the ingredients used during the production. For transparency, we host pupils and let them attend the bread baking process at our factory. Furthermore, our team members write on our blog about the concerns of our customers and they offer them all the information they seek.
Open communication with our partners, such as store managers and our customers, help us determine concerning issues and solve the problems. We thank all parties for their feedback that helps Ipkli stand out among others in the industry.
Q. Food safety is one of the regulations directed by the Association Agreement (AA). Georgia has to implement various regulations in this direction. Is Ipkli ready to meet the requirements and apply all the regulations?
A. We know about the regulations. We are already implementing major demands of them.
Before the regulation directed by the Association Agreement becomes effective, we will be already complying with all its requirements. European specialists have visited the Ipkli enterprise several times. We are proud to hear from them how surprised they are to see European standards at work in our factory in Tbilisi.
Q. Ipkli has become a ‘favourite brand’ and received a Golden Brand Award. What were the successful activities that resulted in this award being given to you, in your opinion?
A. Ipkli is producing bread and pastry products for the last 22 years. During this time the company maintained its leading position.
Last year we made significant changes that help us achieve our future goals. We have improved the organizational structure and introduced new products. Today we produce about 75 varieties of bread and pastry products. We will continue introducing more and more novelties to the market.
Ipkli gained the huge respect of customers as a result of the great efforts made on our part, which is the biggest achievement I think.