Q: How was 2017 for Alconor and what are the perspectives for 2018? Did the market meet your expectations?
Norbert Varga: It has been an exceptional year for Alconor, even better than the year before, when we registered an above average performance, and the perspectives for 2018 are yet more encouraging regarding the consumer market. In my opinion, growth will only be registered by those companies that will manage to adapt their technologies in order to increase productivity, and also by those who will pay more attention to developing new products to the same extent as business development.
The market has also exceeded our expectations this year, which can only be a good thing for us!
Q: How was the refreshment drinks market in 2017? Do you see any change in terms of consuming habits?
Norbert Varga: As I said, we are proud to maintain an ascending trend of growth and this year the market was in accordance with our expectations. There have been consumption increases in almost all our segments of products: bottled water, soft and energy drinks. It is well known that the bottled water and soft drinks market registers “a boom” in the summer, in June, July and August, when the demand rises far above average. We hope that all our sustained efforts were not in vain and we were able to fully satisfy our clients.
In Romania, the greatest weight in refreshments consumption is still represented by carbonated beverages. The market offer is increasingly more diversified every year, so that the consumer can have the opportunity to try different product ranges. I believe that consuming habits are shaping every year, as long as alternatives are being offered.
Q: What was the main trigger of Alconor’s activity in 2017? What do you hope to happen in 2018 and what do you not want to happen?
Norbert Varga: The new projects and the opportunities that arose from them were Alconor’s main trigger this year. I am used to setting targets slightly higher than the real ones. I think that optimism is not something that one can learn in school, but is in our nature and it is very important not to divert from your dreams.
I hope that in 2018 priority will be given to the measures that can really stimulate the economy, leading to higher incomes, and not the opposite.
Q: What was the impact of the low interest rate environment in terms of investment on your company?
Norbert Varga: The low interest rate environment has led to increased capital stock profitability which in turn has led to an increase in expenditure for the planned investments. The outcome for Alconor: acquisition of new bottling lines and more performant equipment, which translated into improved production activity.
Q: If you were to describe Alconor in a few words, how would you do it? What is the main difference between Alconor and its competitors?
Norbert Varga: Alconor is a family business that had the chance to develop as much as to be recognized and appreciated at a true business level. This opportunity appeared even since the beginning, 18 years ago, and represents the trust of our partners, both clients and suppliers. They are the ones that have given us the impetus that we needed in those rather difficult times of our development, they have supported us and together, after nearly 20 years of partnership, we have been able to build what we are today. I do not believe, however, that we would have succeeded without all those who enter our gates every day and focus on their activities.
Competition is one of the best things that generally happens in the market. It is one of the main factors that lead us to perfect ourselves, to become better and better. However, I also think that fair play is equally valid in business as well as in sports.
Q: Regarding your customers, what are their main needs and what is their feedback on the products you provide? How do you measure your clients’ overall satisfaction?
Norbert Varga: Our clients’ main need is to be served as expected, of course. And I mean that our products and services are to meet the expectations both qualitatively, an essential element in the food industry, as well as in terms of quantity, that is to be able to meet the demands throughout the year at the required level. The feedback is positive, which is what points out the clients’ satisfaction.
The partnerships developed over time, some of them more than 18 years ago, are the proof of their satisfaction.
The way we understood to “play the game” helped us build fruitful business relationships with a multitude of partners with very varied demands.
We have managed to build a stable market position over the years and the image of a serious partner among Romanian soft drinks producers.
Q:: What’s your view on employment, trade and investment in Romania in 2018 and please give us your point of view on the evolution of your business sector in 2018.
Norbert Varga: In terms of employment in 2018, Romanian companies will face growing vacancies, poorly filled jobs and a major lack of qualified staff. Also, the lack of human resource will lead to wages increases both for qualified and unqualified personnel, which in turn will stimulate consumption and the retail segment.
Regarding the investments, I think that the engine will be the real estate market.
There should be an increase in trade and investment in 2018, but this growth does not seem sustainable in the medium to long term, as it will be influenced by: rising labor shortages, wages increases, RON depreciation which will translate into higher funding costs and ROBOR increases, fiscal uncertainties and tax increases to cover the budget deficit, etc.
Q: Does Alconor see a workforce crisis in terms of keeping its employees and attracting new ones?
Norbert Varga: I believe there is a national workforce crisis, as we can see there is a clear “battle” on certain jobs. Salary is a challenging subject every time and even if it appears to be the decisive factor at the time of hiring, in time we realise that it is not really on top of the list in the candidates’ requirements. The increased interest for the company’s brand and its’ management, or the work environment and the colleagues, the personal and professional development opportunities are now priorities in choosing a job offer.
Q: Alconor was founded in 1999. If you were to go back almost 20 years, what would be your statement on ‘’Romania - then and now’’?
Norbert Varga: The 2000’s represented the beginning of our business. There were times when the economy flourished but there were also times of deep crisis, when both the consuming habits and the way to communicate changed. We are now going through a new age with major changes and only the most flexible companies will manage to survive. But Alconor was able to adapt every time and to embrace the new challenges and seize the opportunity in each of them. And together with our long lasting partners, we’ve successfully become what we are today.