We passionately pursue and deliver what delights our consumers – Joan Ihekwaba, GM, Marketing, UAC Foods
UAC Foods is a leading manufacturer and marketer of tasty and nourishing convenience foods in Nigeria. The company has, for decades, contributed immensely to the growth of the Nigerian economy. UAC Foods also has a superior value at the core of its many leading brands, representing an integrated offering. In this interview with Brand Communicator, Mrs. Joan Ihekwaba, General Manager, Marketing, UAC Foods bares her minds on the success story of the company and sundry issues: Excerpt…
Foods And Beverages Market In Nigeria
Nigerian Foods and Beverages market has grown phenomenally in depth and breadth. The multiplicity of brands, sub-brands and variants in the last five to seven years has been quite tremendous. What is most interesting about the development of this industry is that the growth is not just being driven by the known blue-chip companies. Rather, we see the emergence of regional brands from small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) springing up. The success of these emerging regional brands is driven largely by the trends in the behaviour of consumers and shoppers. Consumers and shoppers are looking for convenience and will patronize products that are in their faces. They do not have to wait for some big brands that may not be available when they want it. Another key success factor is the price. Most regional brands which do not carry huge operating costs sell cheaper and are, therefore, more affordable to consumers and shoppers.
The market arena is, thus, very competitive. Brands have to continually and creatively come up with strategies and implementation tactics that will give them a competitive advantage. The maxim of ‘survival of the fittest’ could not have been more appropriate than now in describing the market place.
Notwithstanding the competitive landscape and the depressed consumer spending power, there are still opportunities for growth going by the population of the consuming class.
Fortunately, the increasing participation of the SMEs has also helped to support growth in the real sector as the volume of imported brands on the shelves is being gradually taken over by ‘’made-in-Nigeria’’ brands.
Looking at the market from the trade perspective, one sees rapid and phenomenal shifts reconfiguring the market arena. Gone are the days of Alaba market only for major white goods or Oke-Arin for bulk groceries, home and personal care products…you name it! Instead, what we have now is the sprouting of retail hypermarkets, supermarkets, corner shops and pharmacy/general stores. These provide convenient shopping experience for everyone including young and old as well as female and male unlike the traditional trade channels which made it look like the second name for women was ‘shopper.’
Trade members have also evolved from being very loyal customers to as being distributors but they must see financial value in the relationship, otherwise no deal.
Generally speaking, developments in this market present challenging opportunities for any serious player to excel.
UAC Foods and the fight against counterfeiting
Counterfeiting of products is a common phenomenon in developing or developed markets. It is not peculiar to the Nigerian market. When you have a successful brand playing in a market with low to medium entry barrier, counterfeiting or fake products are bound to happen.
In confronting the counterfeiting challenge at UAC foods, we ensure that the integrity of our brands is protected by consistently delivering on our brands’ promises such that consumers will easily recognize when they have been presented with fakes or counterfeit. Where necessary, we have incorporated tamper–proof evidence in our packaging such as in SWAN Natural Spring Water and Supreme Ice Cream.
We also ensure that our products are always available so that little or no gap is created for the counterfeit to take advantage. Where we suspect that our brands are being faked, we seek the co-operation of the regulatory body – NAFDAC – to quash it.
Sustaining and increasing UAC market share
We have distributors and customers across the length and breadth of the country which ensures that we have a robust route–to-market (RTM) capability. Our retail channel penetration and redistribution logistics are also being strengthened such that our products will always be in the face of the consumers.
As I said earlier, we also do enjoy maximum co-operation, like most organizations, with NAFDAC in fighting counterfeiting of our products.
UAC Core values and operational philosophy
UAC Foods’ core values include Customer Focus, Respect for Individuals, Integrity, Team Spirit, Innovation, Openness and Communication (CRITIO). The leadership of the organization ensures that our operating environment supports all employees to live these values.
As a philosophy, we believe that our people make the difference!
At all levels of leadership, this is recognized and respected in the day-to-day running of the business. It is very important because people make things happen. Machines, systems and processes do not run by themselves!
The success of any organization is a reflection of their ability to execute their strategies it is people that execute strategies!
As the popular saying goes, ‘innovate or die.’ In the past couple of years, our innovation had been driven organically. Our efforts in recent times cut across snacks and ice cream brands. These have contributed about 10 percent growth to our top-line. In the near future, we will be focusing on adjacent categories and inorganically driven innovation to drive quantum growth in the business and redefine the business model.
Over the years, UAC Foods has been known to consistently deliver high quality, safe and trusted products to her consumers at a cost that means value.
Our customer management is second to none. This has helped us to keep our customers in the face of stiff competition and increasing trend of customer scramble or wooing by manufacturers.
The pedigree in our name – UAC – has been a big strength for the company. We also have experienced and committed people.
Having pioneered the sausage roll market way back in 1962, Gala remains one of the foremost iconic brands in Nigeria today.
In over 50 years of the brand’s existence, we have come to understand, quite deeply, what is important to the consumers and the trade. We passionately and relentlessly pursue and deliver what delights our consumers and customers.
We listen to our customers and consumers. This is very important to our success story. We operate a toll-free consumer care line 24/7. This way, we are easily accessible to our consumers.
Through the years, Gala has remained relevant in the life of the consumer as the ‘food snack’ that supports the youth on-the-go…as they strive to achieve their goals in life. Gala has remained true to this promise for decades and generations.
By continually refreshing the brand and engaging with her target consumers, the brand has maintained relevance with the target audience and has successfully sustained its leadership in the market.
Gala is the only sausage roll in Nigeria that is enriched with vitamins and minerals including Vitamins B1 & B2, Folic Acid, Zinc, Iodine & Iron. These are clearly indicated on the packaging. Gala is the most innovative brand of sausage rolls, having in her basket, Gala Classic, Gala mini, Gala Cocktail, Gala Chicken and Gala Tinkies
To further entrench the brand leadership and differentiate Gala from the clutter of follower brands, UAC Foods recently signed on HarrySong, one of the Nigerian artistes now trending, as the brand ambassador for Gala. HarrySong will be the face of Gala brand for the next 18 months. Certainly, the brand’s target audience will love Gala even more for this!
UAC Foods’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives in recent times
First and foremost, our corporate social responsibility act is the nutritious, hygienic and safe products that we consistently give to Nigerians! Besides, we also reach out to communities wherein we operate.
Just recently, the company renovated classroom blocks in Mwanghavul Secondary School in Kerang, (home of SWAN Spring water). The community has also been provided with bore holes and water storage tanks to ensure that they have access to clean and safe water.
Additionally, on a monthly basis, the company provides our products to orphanages, homes and schools for children with special needs.
“Doing good” is our corporate mantra and so, we support NGOs on initiatives that resonate with our values and beliefs, especially in the area of education.
Expectations in the nearest future
As mentioned earlier, Nigerians should expect, in the near future, products in adjacent category and more inorganically driven innovation. Our target is to ensure that in every Nigerian home, our brands will be used daily. We see great opportunities in the food and beverage market and we are poised to play meaningfully at UAC Foods.