Feb. 2, 2015

Jelisava Cuka Auad


Jelisava Cuka Auad

General Manager, Marbelize

TBY talks to Jelisava Cuka Auad, General Manager of Marbelize, on contributing to the local economy, innovative new tuna products, and export markets.


Jelisava Cuka Auad studied Business Administration at the Lausanne Business School in Switzerland, where she earned a Master’s in Business Administration. She also speaks English, French, and Italian. Since 2000 she has been General Manager of Marbelize SA, a position that has led her to receive multiple awards, including for “Best entrepreneur” in 2005, “Merit Company” in 2006 and 2007, and “Administrative Merit” in 2013.

Would you say that Marbelize has played an important role in the economic development of Manabí province?

Yes, certainly. We are the biggest exporter on the catering side of tuna pouch bags in Ecuador. The tuna pouch bags are our main business. In 2001, we started bringing the latest technology into the plants. We contribute notably to the economy by directly hiring 1,125 people from Manta, and working with 3,000 indirect workers, and many vessels. In 2008, we also started a company for the mechanical and electronic parts of our operations.

What distinguishes Marbelize in Ecuador's tuna sector?

Marbelize is the fourth largest exporter of tuna in Ecuador. We are also the first to develop new kinds of products. We are innovative; we invest in research to develop new products and create new trends. We were the first company to have tuna in a glass container in Ecuador. Afterwards, the competition followed, and now you have a mixture of seafood in glass jars. We introduced that in 2004, and also export glass jars now. There are two big companies with more than 50 years of experience in the market that focus on cans. To compete against them is impossible, and so we pursue other targets and alternative products. We are going to change the way people eat tuna, for example by flavoring it, and packaging it in glass jars, and we also have Cazuela Manabita (Manabí Casserole). We are developing other products such as tuna nuggets, hamburgers, and meatballs. We also have green olives filled with tuna and then fried. That is a new market in frozen products. You can find these products in the supermarket, but we also deal directly with cafeterias in schools. We work with 900 different brands from all over the world. It is not just my own brand. In the German market, we have a client that wants our tuna meatballs with a different sauce. They are willing to pay for it because they are confident of its quality. We also sell glass jars to Australia. We even make a special product for cruise ships.

What portion of your sales is domestic?

It is not even 2%. We are increasing it considerably, but we don't have the volume here in Ecuador. Most people in Ecuador prefer canned tuna, but that is a small part of our business. We are going with the niche products on one side. Meanwhile, I am developing products for the military, and caterers that supply meals to government schools.

Given the importance of exports, how closely do you work with the Ministry of Foreign Trade to open new markets for Ecuador?

I visited Russia with the President, and also to Chile and Dubai. We work a lot with the government in this area. We have to decrease duties, because with 40% in some countries, 50%, or even 80% in others, exports are hindered. Today, we are developing a strong market here and in South America. Although we don't sell to Venezuela, we do sell a lot to Brazil and Chile. Argentina is opening up again. Asia is starting to work a lot with South America, and that creates export difficulties. However, as soon as people sample our quality, they stay with us.