We talk with Tetiana Gurnevych, International Sales Director in one of the most renowned confectionery companies in Poland – Wawel originaly established in Cracow.
What was 2021 like for Wawel? Please provide us with a summary
For Wawel, 2021 was a period of further development of our current product lines and the launch of products with a few good ingredients, made without preservatives, colourings and artificial flavours. Wawel’s portfolio was enriched with new products with fine ingredients, such as the Ekstra Gorzka 100% cocoa bar, made of only one ingredient - certified cocoa beans. The Królewskie Mleczko line, delicate marshmallows covered in chocolate, was expanded with new, seasonal flavours, Raspberry and Cappuccino.
The last quarter also saw the launch of a new advertising campaign for the Wawel brand, „The noble taste of chocolate, worth waiting for”. It refers to what we are best known for: chocolate. It explains that the final taste and texture of chocolate is influenced by time - conching time, which is the thorough mixing of the chocolate. Wawel does not add the E476 emulsifier to its chocolate. Instead of using a chemical additive, we rely on long conching time. So, we refer to the idea of slow life and the belief that good things are worth waiting for.
In 2021, Wawel was awarded in that year’s international Superbrands project. This title is awarded to the strongest brands on a given market (based in Poland on consumer and expert opinions).
What were the biggest challenges in the past year?
One of the major challenges of the past year was the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Prices of raw materials are increasing at a rapid pace – increases of up to several dozen percent compared to a few percent in previous years pose a real challenge for the entire industry. A major problem resulting from this pandemic is the availability of raw materials and logistics. In the case of cocoa pulp, which is our main raw material, we have taken preventive measures to ensure its continuous availability, resulting in increased inventory.
The biggest challenge we currently face and will certainly face in the coming months, not just in our industry, are the dynamically rising costs of running a business.
Has the turmoil of the pandemic or price fluctuations affected your company’s exports?
When it comes to exports, we are more accustomed to there being changes in markets that arise from different reasons. We recognize that overseas sales are a highly volatile environment, so we should react quickly to changes. While we can also feel the impact of the pandemic abroad, both in 2020 and 2021 we were able to generate sales increases, win new markets and gain new customers. As far as price fluctuations are concerned, we are in the same situation as other producers. This is now the market reality and we should learn to react accordingly and, what is more, grow our sales. In times of change, we listen to our customers and strive to be a supportive partner in difficult situations, because we depend on long-term relationships and trust to strengthen our position in our target markets and continue to grow.
In how many countries do you offer your products? What part of production is exported?
Our products are distributed in 60 countries on 6 continents. We focus on building our distribution in Central and Western Europe. Our presence in international networks is helping us to expand in these markets. We also care about the development of our product lines and brand recognition in the Middle East, North Africa, North America. We are consistently expanding our presence in overseas markets by working with new customers, which guarantees us regular sales on a large scale.
At the moment, exports account for a dozen or so percent of our entire production.
What products is Wawel famous for on markets abroad?
Wawel Krówka Mleczna is a real bestseller in Arab countries. This product is very popular, so we make every effort to ensure that the distribution is smooth and the quality of the product is at the highest level. Apart from Krówka, equally popular in tropical countries are Tofflairs sweets, an original combination of the famous caramel taste with soft chocolate filling. Another of our strong categories are pectin jellies with fruit filling - Fresh&Fruity, which have found consumers both in tropical and European countries. In all countries we are known for our Premium chocolate line which, this year, was extended by a new product - Premium Extra Dark 100% Cocoa. We have years of experience with dark chocolate and produce it at the highest quality level. This is recognized by consumers, who are paying more and more attention to the ingredients in products. We are also developing our line of chocolate with no added sugar, which also has a high cocoa content. We are Halal and Kosher certified, which allows us to gain the trust of local consumers and grow continuously by adding new products into distribution.
Please tell us about your recent innovations. Are they also sold on markets abroad?
In 2021 the Królewskie Mleczko z Wawelu line was expanded with other delicious flavours – Cappuccino and Raspberry. Currently there are four flavours of Królewskie Mleczko available on the market: Vanilla, Sweet Cream, Raspberry and Cappuccino. The entire line is also available on markets abroad. The huge popularity of the product and positive feedback from various markets drove us to launch an international equivalent of Królewskie Mleczko Vanilla, marketed under the Your Delicious name.
Another novelty launched this year is the already mentioned Premium Ekstra Gorzka 100% Cocoa bar, available in the export version as Premium Extra Dark 100% Cocoa. As in Poland, it is very popular among consumers. It is a Product consisting of only one ingredient - certified cocoa beans. With the deep aroma of Forastero cocoa beans from Ghana, the new Extra Dark takes us on a journey full of original flavour sensations. The thin bar was created through a long, careful conching process that gives it its velvety flavour. The perfectly smooth structure and characteristic gloss emphasizes its natural ingredients and deep aroma. The bar was packed in an elegant cardboard box with an attractive design, evoking to the tradition of the Wawel brand. This is another product with a few ingredients, just a year earlier the „Ziarna Świata” Premium Chocolate from Wawel product line was introduced. Each chocolate is made with cocoa beans from only one region - plantations in Cameroon, Venezuela and Ghana. They are composed of a maximum of three ingredients. By introducing products with few ingredients, we are trying to prove that a sweet snack can go hand in hand with good quality. We appreciate that our consumers are making increasingly conscious choices, so we create high quality products, taking great care about how they taste and are presented.
Do trends in the confectionery market in different countries tend to be similar?
The sweets category varies based on the location of the country, taste preferences, traditions, while more and more people are striving to ensure that savouring a sweet moment is not burdened with subsequent remorse. The consumer wants to feel like they are being fair to their body on the one hand, and to the planet on the other. Hence, when choosing sweets, more and more often the ingredients in the product are an important issue. The trend of experiencing pleasure in a responsible way is something that we notice and which we, as the Wawel brand, respond to, for example through the Good Ingredients programme that we have been running for several years - our products do not contain artificial colourings or flavourings, and our chocolate does not contain the E476 emulsifier.
The second trend that is important is premiumization. We are part of it by offering our customers a line of premium chocolate. This year we have extended our premium line with a 100% cocoa bar. Dark chocolate is gaining momentum around the world, and this is the area where we undoubtedly have a rich chocolate range to offer.
Has the pandemic affected changing trends on foreign markets as it has in Poland?
During the pandemic, in the candy category, we could observe the emergence of the home baking trend, which basically means experimenting with baked goods at home. In Poland, people started experimenting in their kitchens on a large scale. Let’s remember that in the case of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, a large proportion of shopping opportunities is related to baked goods, so as a brand we also benefit from this trend. During the pandemic the market faced a different reality, with new challenges in the form of new consumer trends and higher operating costs due to increases in raw materials, energy and the cost of labour. These price increases have obviously affected confectionery manufacturers not only in Poland, but also on the international arena.
What plans does Wawel have for 2022 in terms of investments, products and export?
For Wawel, 2022 will be the time for increased investments in quality, and so in innovative production technologies, such as lines for preparing chocolate couverture, including conches for mixing chocolate and kitchens for preparing fillings. We are also planning to invest in production automation.
We are also going to continue the „Wawel – the noble taste of chocolate, worth waiting for” advertising campaign, which marked the beginning of the process of implementing the new brand strategy.
We continue to actively expand into new markets, while keeping in mind those we are already in. We are currently focused on intensive development of our product lines and strengthening our position on the South American, Asian and African markets. This is possible thanks to our wide range of product categories, which we can tailor to individual markets.