1. You have stated that Romania is a country with many interesting opportunities. Can you detail some of the opportunities unlocked in 2016 and the ones which you foresee for the years to come?
Romania is a market with a great deal of potential in the food and beverage industry and it remains a place for innovation and launching new product categories.
One category which has generated an expected volume in 2016 is juice not from concentrate (NFC), also known as fresh-squeezed juice. Another product which has been welcomed in our market is flavoured cider, launched starting this year under various prestigious, international brands. In the second half of this year and all the more next year, we’re going to see greater concentration on developing these products, we just need further clarifications to be made in the current legislation.
For 2017 and the coming years, we foresee the development of NFC drinks, smoothies, cider drinks, malt-based beverages, still drinks, ice tea, energy drinks, flavoured water and sport drinks.
2. How has your business developed in 2016 compared to other years and what are your prospects for 2017?
2016 has been a very good year, but for 2017 we foresee an evolution just as good as this year, the launch of new tastes, new products, and innovation.
3. How would you characterize, in key figures, the soft drinks market in 2016? What component was the ‘star’ in 2016?
In the first half of 2016, the beverage market grew by a little more than 5%, but it was surprising for us to see that not a single category from this segment registered a decline. This might be due to the appearance of new tastes in the market, or because prices fell due to VAT, or simply because consumers have begun buying juices more than they did in 2015, but no category showed a decline. As I said, there is potential in this market, and we’re going to contribute to its growth each year. The smallest growth was in the category of ice tea (approximately 2%), while the largest growth came in the NFC juice category where we registered a volume 50% greater than the first half of 2015. The leader by volume continues to be the carbonated drinks category, with cola taste being the undeniable leader in our market with over 250,000,000 litres sold in the first half of 2016, a 5% increase on this period in 2015.
4. Please detail the impact of the general VAT cut on your industry in 2016 (following the decrease in VAT for non-alcoholic drinks applied in 2015). Has it proven to be an efficient solution for a ‘sustainable growth’?
The lowering of VAT for food and non-alcoholic beverages was one of the most awaited measures in 2015, with a clear impact on 2016 as well. These tax cuts are a good thing for the population and for the economy in general. Adjusting VAT on food products to 9% will have consequences both macroeconomic and budgetary or social, as foodstuffs represent the greatest share of Romanians’ shopping baskets, which is obviously something good for us, too, in the business we’re developing. These measures that have been taken can contribute to the rebound of domestic consumption by increasing the disposable income of the population, along with lowering prices and less inflation.
Also, these tax cuts have generated greater consumption of premium products, as they are now accessible to a larger slice of consumers.
5. According to one of the company’s mottos, Döhler Romania proudly ‘brings ideas to life’ by turning smart ideas into amazing products. How has 2016 been from this point of view?
It has been that way so far and it will continue to be so: we support our partners, from the initial concept to the final product, with an integrated solution, a comprehensive product portfolio, and solid experience in product development. We will continue to offer all services from a single source: from market and consumer research, development of concepts and recipes, to advice on regulations and support in promoting and marketing products. To meet our partners’ demands, as well as to anticipate their needs, we are going to continually expand our product portfolio and thus provide a full range of products in services in the food segment, along with all its applications for beverages.
With all this, I can say that just like in other years, we managed in 2016 to create together with our partners some products that are a real success in the Romanian market, such as Radler beer blends, cider, energy drinks that are fruit-flavoured or contain fruit, juice not from concentrate (fresh-squeezed), biscuits with fruit pieces, drinking yoghurts and many more.
6. How do you perceive the global consumer trends? Please detail.
As a supplier of natural ingredients and ingredient systems, Döhler is continually developing innovative foods and beverages for its clients. In order to do this, our company monitors the global food and beverage industry so that we can detect trends in good time. However, trends and preferences can vary from one country to another.
Naturalness is still one of the key market drivers in the food & beverage industry. But consumers’ demands go a step further. Along with using ‘untreated’ ingredients to the greatest extent possible, consumers are also looking for an authentic and pure taste as well as products whose production methods are also compelling: just ‘like homemade’! At the same time, demands that foods must provide a healthy nutritional value, and thus support a contemporary and individual lifestyle, are increasing.
Today, organic is far more than just a seal of quality: It’s a way of life which has long since emerged from its former niche existence. The organic movement is booming; the younger generation in particular choose products coming from organic cultivation, and which fit their ‘healthier’ and ‘sustainable’ lifestyle. At the same time, consumers are looking for a greater variety of organic products on the store shelves – products beyond the typical cloudy apple splashes etc.
Another popular tendency among consumers is the growing interest for low sugar products. Consumers around the world are increasingly regarding sugar as being unhealthy. Even governments are initiating measures, such as raising a penalty tax on sugar, in an effort to significantly reduce the use of sugar in foods. In order to meet customer expectations, Döhler introduces tailored sweetening systems and innovative beverage concepts that satisfy the various requirements in different markets.
7. What can you tell us about the trends in the beverage segment in Romania?
Some of the trends in the non-alcoholic beverage space are NFC juices, smoothies, non-carbonated beverages with fruit pulp or fruit pieces, premium carbonated beverages with a 10–15% fruit content and pulp, low-sugar soft drinks, ice tea, energy drinks, and sports drinks.
For all beverage categories, whether water plus, carbonated soft drinks, juices, nectars or smoothies, beer mixes and ciders – Döhler presents the next generation of innovative beverages that are in line with the latest trends and satisfy the wishes of consumers. All these innovations are based on the comprehensive portfolio of natural ingredients consisting of natural flavours, natural colours, health & nutrition ingredients, cereal ingredients, dairy & dairy-free ingredients, speciality ingredients, dry ingredients, fruit & vegetable ingredients and ingredient systems.
Nevertheless, naturalness and health can only win over consumers when the taste of a product is satisfying! Consumers are not only looking for new and extraordinary taste experiences, but also for authentic and pure and unadulterated taste. This is why NFC juices are more successful than ever before.
8. What can you tell us about the trends in the food segment in Romania?
In the food segment, you can see a significant growth in the biscuit category. The trend in the market is for new products to appear, with ingredients as natural as possible (fruit and vegetable purées, natural flavours, food colourings that don’t have an E number, pieces of dehydrated fruit freeze dry, fruit powder). Döhler is actively involved in the food segment and offers a very large range of natural ingredients, while through an applied food laboratory in Romania, opened in 2015, we are supporting our partners with innovative ideas and concepts.
There is nonetheless one trend that can be seen across all food and beverage categories: vegetables as a taste or as a ‘natural flavouring’ ingredient, juices or purées, are becoming increasingly popular in drinks, such as fruit and vegetable-flavoured drinks, isotonic sports drinks, or cucumber-flavoured Aqua Plus beverages. However, the importance of vegetables is growing also in other food product categories, such as yogurt, ice cream, and confectionary. Often these are not used as a sole flavour, or a taste with a dominant note, but rather are ideal for rounding fruit notes and offering something special. At the same time, they give products a healthy, natural image. With its portfolio of fruit and vegetable ingredients, Döhler is constantly developing concepts that contribute to this trend and offer personalized solutions for each product category.