The FINANCIAL -- Marneuli Food Factory produced more than 5 million cans of a variety of different products in 2013. The company had 15% growth in comparison with the previous year. Next year the company plans to start exporting products. Walnut preserve, wild plum sauce and traditional “ajika” - made in Georgia - have already gained huge popularitywith foreign consumers.
Marneuli Food Factory (MFF) LTD was established in 2007 and has since turned into the largest food processing enterprise in Georgia. MFF has been a part of Margebeli Holding since 2009.
The purpose for establishing Marneuli Food Factory was to utilize the agricultural potential of Georgia, substitute import with local high quality products and supply consumers with more natural and healthy food options. The company offers its consumers 100% Georgian products. The assortment includes products of up to 60 different types and formats.
“The major principles of the company are: to cover the full production cycle from the field to the final product; to use raw materials only of local production,as well as implement the highest production standards in the country,” Irina Gaprindashvili, Director at Marneuli Food Factory, told The FINANCIAL.
Q. MFF was established in 2007. Which year would you single out as the most successful in your company’s history?
A. Since its foundation each year has been important for us. However, I would distinguish 2007 in particular, when we first started processing food and vegetables. In terms of this we installed Italian processing lines. 2012 was also essential for us as we invested a huge amount in the modernization of food factory equipment. We also invested a solid sum in purchasing the necessary equipment and machinery for agriculture - the cultivation of vegetable crops.
Q. What are the main obstacles for investors operating in the Georgian agro sector?
A. Agriculture is a very complex and difficult field. It requires constantinvestment for its development. Attracting finances and human resources are necessary during the harvest season. At the same time agriculture does not forgive you for mistakes. A small mistake may cost a farmer or producer a whole year. The establishment and success of MFF is linked with JSC Healthy Water, a member of our holding. Since 2007 the company has invested more than GEL 40 million in MFF and Marneuli Agro – our agricultural company. The absence of modern technologies and knowledge base in this field in our country has been the main problem for us. Until now we have been cooperating with foreign partners who periodically visit us and suggest how to accomplish various processes.
Q. Even those products that are grown in Georgia are exported and the local population is only offered imported goods. What is the reasonfor this?
A. Replacing imported goods with products made with local raw materials was the main goal behind the foundation of MFF.The main problem is that there is still a lack of the raw materials that are necessary for production. Accordingly, we cannot substitute the import. In this regard we are extremely focused on increasing productivity to increase production.
Q. How much did production amount to in 2013?
A. MFF produced more than 5 million cans of different sorts of production. We had 15% growth in comparison with the previous year.
Q. Following Marneuli other Georgian companies have also started food processing. What is the share of Georgian-made products on our market?
A. The share of local production is still small. We cover approximately 20-25% of demand in a segment of our production. The rest is still imported.
Q. MFF offers a wide assortment of products to its customers. Which of them are the bestsellers?
A. Tomato paste and marinade (pickled cucumber) are the top-selling products, making up over 80%.
Q. What are the main criteria of Georgian consumers when choosing a product?
A. Quality is the most important aspect for Georgian consumers. They appreciate that our products are natural and healthy. Customers pay close attention to productsthat originatedon Georgian soil.
Q. MFF participates in various exhibitions. What are the main demands of foreign customers?
A. International exhibitions are a good preparation stage before exporting. They are attended by the representatives of many countries, who are offered our products. During testing we meet the requirements of each country, deciding which product will be the most appropriate for their particular market. MFF has participated in several international exhibitions and we plan to travel to different countries in the future. Products that are not readily available in their own countries are very strange and hence interesting to foreign customers. Walnut preserve, wild plum sauce and traditional ajikahave therefore gained their appreciation.
Q. When are you planning to start exporting products?
A. MFF has had huge interest from various countries. We are actively working in this direction and plan to start exporting products next year.
Q. Food safety remains a sensitive issue in Georgia. Which steps need to be taken to get closer to international standards?
A. The manufacturing processes at MFF ensure food safety. The factory is fully equipped with European processing technologies. They guarantee that our production is in line with European standards. Planning and implementing every phase of production in accordance with high standards is a must. And MFF is proud to be meeting this.
Q. Which period is the most successful in terms of your company’s sales?
A. Demand for canned products increases in particular in autumn and winter. However, the demand for our products is stable throughout the whole year and is growing year by year.
Q. Which new products will you be offering your customers?
A. We plan to expand our assortment and offer new products of different types of marinades in 2014.