The ambitious target of the third generation of chocolatiers

We spoke with Özokur, who plans a 20 per cent growth in chocolate every year, at Ülker’s headquarters in the Çamlıca district of Istanbul.

1.06.2013 00:00:000
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The ambitious target of the third generation of chocolatiers

I even made summaries for Murat Bey of the business books that had been newly published abroad. Then he surprised me by saying; “I shall pick you up from home and we shall go somewhere.” We went to Pendik Marina and he told me: “We have become an investor here. You like yachts and the sea. You take care of the construction.” This is how I entered the real estate business. I learn the issues related to a new business very quickly. I quickly learned about the marina business and completed the building of the holding’s three marinas. It wasnot easy at first because I was used to doing my own business,

Capital: How did you move to chocolate?
- It was November 2011, One day Murat Bey called me to him and said: “There isn’t much to do in the real estate business, Aren’t you bored? The best thing for you to do would be to become a chocolatier,” Then I became a chocolatier, Over the last nine years I have had a very varied and exciting career at the holding, The chocolate business is the heart and the locomotive of the holding, After three months of preparation, I took over the chocolate operations.

Capital: What kind of difficulties did you face after you moved to chocolate?
- After I moved to this business, I said to myself: “If only I had started lower down in chocolate ten years ago, I really wanted to have worked with the salespeople out in the field and to have been raised there amongst the mud and the dust, Because it is more difficult to go about in the field when you are the 32 year-old group president, In this regard, when I look back, the person I really envy is my elder brother, He started working in the foodstuffs industry at a much younger age, When I took over at the head of the chocolate group, the most important thing I did was to go to the factory, Then I researched what chocolatiers did in other countries, I went to the Godiva factories, I spent as much time as possible in the R&D and quality control departments,
The R&D department is still the place I like most in the factory. Today, 2,700 people work in the chocolate group. 25 per cent of Yıldız Holding’s turnover comes from chocolate. When we add Godiva, then the turnover is around TL 4.1 billion. According to research by Candy Industry, we are the eleventh largest chocolate manufacturer in the world.

Capital: Competition on the market has increased. How have you responded to this competition?
- In the last three years, we have faced very significant competition in the chocolate products segments in which we are active. We conducted a study on how we could more aggressively increase our market share and we decided to compete on price. In this way we increased our market share by 6 percentage points. At the moment, our market share has risen to 48 per cent. In 2013, we are aiming to grow by 20 per cent compared with last year. We have realised this target to a large extent in a market which has become more competitive.

Capital: Apart from price competition, on what other issues have you focused in order to grow?
- Innovation has been the most important item on our agenda in recent years. We have a department which is called the Innovation and R&D Directorate. Everyone from our workers to Murat Bey can submit new ideas into the system. I personally also head all of the innovation projects.

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