Q: According to statistics, consumers have more disposable income (following a cut in taxation). How does your sector see the 2016 inflow of disposable income in Romania?
Diana Bejan: At Nestle Purina, pets and people who love them are our number one priority. Pet owners want the best for their pets and we bring our knowledge and expertise to meet their needs.
In Romania, the pet food category is still in an emerging phase and there are many opportunities for development. Even so, we can already find all the specific segments, from Economy to Super Premium products and from multi-serving to single serving formats, the signs of a mature market.
Romanian pet owners love their pets very much and they search for high quality products. They are looking for products of latest innovation in pet nutrition, endorsed by sound research.
Last year, Romania had a favorable economic environment, therefore fiscal policies and good economic results increased the consumption in many categories. We registered the same trend in pet food. In this context, the pet owners have started to offer more and better to their pets.
Nestle Purina is always here for them, with innovative solutions. In the past two years, we have launched 18 new products and relaunched four, from our total portfolio of seven brands.
Q: How does the new economic environment, of low taxation and negative inflation, impact your business sector?
Diana Bejan: The fiscal policy implemented by the Romanian authorities helped the market to have more affordable prices in pet food.
Consumers are now more informed and there is a raising trend on knowing more about pet nutrition. Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs than humans and pet food is the right choice for a complete and balanced meal. There is also the aspect of convenience: pet food is ready to be served in any moment of the day.
Therefore, pet owners can offer more qualitative food to their pets or more often, having the peace of mind they can give the best nutritional food, tailored for the pet’s needs.
Q: In the new economic environment, how are the sales at national level?
Diana Bejan: Purina has a rich history of more than 120 years. At global level, we have the opportunity to serve more than 300 million pet owners and about 1 billion cats and dogs.
In Romania, the business is still young and is growing fast, in a healthy way. For Nestle Purina, 2015 was an exceptional year: we have closed the year with +13% growth in sales compared to 2014. 2016 seems to be also a strong one, following the accelerated growth trend of 2015. The drivers of the growth are the cat brands Gourmet, Felix, One but also the dog brands Pro Plan and Friskies.
Q: What are the main opportunities and challenges for your sector, in 2016?
Diana Bejan: In Romania there is a high business potential for this category. As mentioned above, Romanian pet owners are more and more exigent when it comes to the food for their favorite pets and Purina is here to answer the nutritional requests.
Purina is committed to innovation and consistent delivery of high quality nutrition. We invest continuously in Research and Development (R&D) so Romanian pet owners can have the best choice for their pets. Purina has an extended structure for R&D: in the 4 research centers around the world, we work with more than 500 scientists, including nutritionists, veterinarians, experts in pets’ behavior, engineers and technicians who dedicate their work to improve the life of cats and dogs worldwide. Our scientists continuously explore new ways to develop innovative products and make important progress in pet health and well-being. Years of research have resulted in over 2,500 granted and pending patents worldwide.
We continuously adapt our portfolio to be in line with the pet’s needs. One of the trends today is that more and more pet owners have smaller size dogs. To answer this need, we have a full range under the Pro Plan brand, dedicated to Small & Mini dogs. This range has products for puppies (Pro Plan OptiStart) or adult dogs (Pro Plan OptiHealth) or dogs with sensitive skin (Pro Plan OptiDerma).
As a producer, we face the challenge of convincing pet owners that cats and dogs have different nutritional needs than humans. There is a certain number of owners who are feeding their pets with human food. It is a decreasing trend, we see more and more owners understanding their pet has specific nutritional needs. Nestle Purina offers the 100% balanced, tasty and complete food to help support the pets’ health at every stage and needs of their life.
Q: What do you like about the Romanian economic environment? What do you dislike about it, having in mind your experience in other countries like Hungary, Italy or in South Central Europe?
Diana Bejan: From a business perspective, I like Romania because it has a great potential for growth. Beyond this, Romania is my home and I feel I can contribute here.
It has been very inspiring for me to rediscover the special bond that Romanian pet owners have with their pets and it motivates me a lot in my daily activity. I returned to Romania having in mind that I can contribute to a better life for our companions and to the happiness of the people who love them. Purina is here for them.
Q: From an executive’s point of view, taking into consideration ‘the new business equation’, what are the most important variables for your business sector in Romania?
Diana Bejan: Purina is the symbol for passion, a mirror of quality created by embedding innovation in our products. I strongly believe it is key to stay atop on the nutritional facts. The scientific research brings us more and more developments in pets’ nutrition. We must understand and integrate these discoveries into our products. Therefore, we’ll have healthy pets and happy people.