DAIRY GOOD

Turkey 2016 | AGRIFOOD | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Korhan Korel, CCO of Yörsan, on what the Abraaj Group has brought to the table, increasing exports, and trends at home.

 Korhan Korel
BIOGRAPHY
Korhan Korel was born in 1978 and graduated from Boğaziçi University with a degree in Chemical Engineering. He began his career in 2002 with Lipton Ice Tea & Lipton, moving to Unilever-Pepsi Lipton International in 2004 and later to the Pepsi Bottling Group/Pepsi Lipton JV. In 2009 he moved to Danone Turkey as Trade Marketing & Sales Development Manager, later becoming Business Development Manager after completing his military service. He continued with Danone in a number of positions before taking up the position of Chief Markering Officer with Yörsan under The Abraaj Group in 2014, being appointed Acting CEO in April 2015.

How has The Abraaj Group taken the Yörsan brand and worked to develop it?

Abraaj bought shares in Yörsan and we took over the management of the firm one year ago. Before us, Yörsan was a strong family business. It was already exporting to more than 20 countries in the world. As we took over management affairs, we introduced Yörsan products to our Middle Eastern network. We changed the pack designs and logo in line with the image of Yörsan. We did research everywhere as to what the customers were looking for so we could match their needs. This has already been an enormous job, but it is only the first step. We are aiming to expand our exports five fold, and we want Yörsan to become a global brand. We are working to improve and bring the brand value to the future in the light of the Yörük family's past experiences. We have the widest range of cheese in Turkey, which is attractive for many countries. It is hard to manage such a broad portfolio. While technology is crucial, the people at our production facilities are the backbone of our operations. Our quality is a combination of craftsmanship and modern technology. With this approach, we can manage the complexity of our portfolio. This is a huge advantage for us. We are changing nearly all the layouts, and organized the factory in a more efficient way, in line with global practices. We are flexible, and growing. Yörsan was the fastest growing company in the dairy category this year—more than 38%, while the market grew at just 15%. We became the second largest brand in yogurt in Turkey. Yörsan moved up to third place in cheese sales, and to number one in regional cheese sales. We did all of this in our transitional period. We merged the headquarters, changed the management teams, and grew at the same time. Getting our products on every store shelf is a challenge, and we are still in a developing market. In Europe, supermarkets represent 80% of the market, but in Turkey it's still 50-50. We have more than 160,000 retailers in Turkey.

Is there a danger of Turkish consumers becoming so exposed to foreign products that they move away from Turkish goods?

We need to be ready for this. In Turkey there is a huge market for traditional products, but it will diminish over time. We will have a balance like in Europe, and we will have more supermarkets. But, in spite of increasing urbanization, Turkish people are still nostalgic. They will pay a premium for traditional goods. That is why I am not concerned for the next 20 years. However, in big cities, young people are always looking for new, Western things. Young adults are important for FMCGs, as they follow—and define—trends. These days, trends are driven by social media, so they move faster. Now, the whole world is connected. When there is a trend in the US or Europe, it immediately comes to Turkey. But, it doesn't always take off. When producers tried to bring the snack-pack yogurts to Turkey, they failed. All of us are trying to be modern, but linked with our traditions and habits.

What are your key targets for 2016?

We see ourselves as the masters of cheese and yogurt in Turkey. Up to this point, we have maintained a traditional image and social presence. We have not done any advertising on TV, for example. Despite this, we are in second place in yoghurt. Within one or two years, we want to be the leaders in people's hearts and perceptions. Also, we are not in all cities right now, so we will be increasing our coverage. We changed our pack designs after getting consumer feedback about our visibility. That shows consumers that we are listening to them. They always loved Yörsan, but we need to remind them of our presence, mastership, and 50 year-experience in dairy with our campaigns, availability, and brand visibility.