A few weeks ago, I sat down with Nadine Mabiola, the founder and CEO of the Kinshasa, DR Congo based food brand Le Choix de Nadine for an extensive interview. No holds barred: we travelled across her three professional careers, across three continents, and went through the multiple booms and busts that marked her entrepreneurial journey.
Le Choix de Nadine is a food company that’s growing steadily. Currently consisting of three product lines, it sources and produces everything locally with a true lifelong passion for healthy food. Also, it has recently acquired solid support from international investors. So it may well be soon available outside of DR Congo, where it is available at select eateries, fine bakeries and upscale supermarkets. As I am writing this, local consumers want more and more local food brands and are willing to spend more on products that meet international quality standards. That’s precisely what Le Choix de Nadine has become.
I randomly discovered Le Choix de Nadine at a supermarket in a middle-class neighbourhood in Kinshasa. I bought two jars of fruit jam, travelled with them to Europe, where I delighted guests at tea time. They couldn’t believe it was coming from a country never associated with high-quality, highly-finished food products.
Barclays used to offer fast credit to consumers, OMO claims to remove stains faster, Western Union asserts to be the fastest money transfer provider, MTN promises more speed in the adverts for its online access and payment solutions. “Fast” has become a recurrent sales argument for many brands in Africa as they are trying to attract légions of consumers moving en masse to cities, modern lifestyle, and the middle-class. The conventional wisdom is that these consumers now aspire to live a productive, time-efficient, hassle-free life.
A sector has now just entered the “fast” trend: food and drinks. And various Indian brands are taking the lead, advertising and offering packaged, easy-to-cook, ready-in-5minutes meals from breakfast, lunch to dinner, dessert. But perhaps realizing that shifts in consumer tastes represent a huge challenge, the Indians’ other ad slogan is “Try It”. So here I am in Kinshasa DRC ready to try a full set of instant Indian meals.
“Clean” is another word used by Made-in-India in their aggressive courtship of modern consumers. Sales representatives go door-to-door to demonstrate how to easily make clean water at home or at the office. Result: I find myself installing and trying a water purifier that the Indian giant, Tata Group, has just released in the DRC market (see the picture on my LinkedIn)
How big is the scale of unmet consumer needs and untapped opportunities behind simple words: easy, clean, clear, safe, solid?
In March 2015 Mondelez International invested $11 million to install the largest production line in Africa of Oreo, the world’s number one biscuit.
Mondelez International is one of the world’s largest snacks companies. It has annual revenues of around $35 billion, a presence in 165 countries, leading market positions in biscuits, chocolate, gum, and powdered beverages. Its portfolio includes billion dollar brands such as Oreo, LU, Tuc, Belvita and Chips Ahoy biscuits; Cadbury, Cadbury Dairy Milk, Milka and Toblerone chocolate; Trident gum; Jacobs coffee; and Tang powdered beverages.
I sat down with M. Aziz Benjelloun, Marketing Director of Mondelez Morocco & Algeria, for an interview in Casablanca. Mondelez Morocco has 39,1% share in the local biscuit market and 64,5% market share in gums.
We address a wide range of topics from production to distribution and uncover what Moroccan consumers can expect from the ¨Made in Morocco¨ Oreo.
Patrick Gaincko: For a start, perhaps would you like to introduce readers about Mondelēz International presence in Morocco.
Aziz Benjelloun: Mondelez Maroc, subsidiary of Mondelēz International is present in Morocco since 2001. It has two production sites dedicated to biscuits, employs about 2,000 people and produces many much-loved brands, such as Oreo, the number one biscuit in the world, Bimo brands, the number one biscuit in Morocco with Tonik, Tagger, Tango, Merendina, Golden, Okey. Mondelez Maroc leads the gum segment in Morocco with Trident, the leader in the sugar free segment and Clorets, the leader in sugared gums.
P.G.: Indian and Chinese consumers have seen Oreo cookies customized with local flavours. Will Moroccan consumers also see Oreo tailored to their tastes?
A.B.: As for Oreo launches, we are starting with our Oreo classic and we will be focusing on it over the first year. We will not hesitate in the future to pursue other possibilities according to the market and consumer needs. In fact, it is too early to tackle importing or producing other variants of Oreo; we need to assess the need of both the consumer and the market before any further launch.
P.G.: Can you elaborate on the targets in the launch stage?
A.B.: We are aiming at making Oreo, the number one biscuit in Morocco. To succeed that, we will be offering it in a range of attractive formats and at pricing that Moroccans can afford. Capitalizing on our large and well-developed distribution network, we intend to make Oreo widely accessible in traditional- and modern-trade stores and widely available to Morocco’s 34 million people. expand the local biscuits market by generating more business for our trade partners with the recommended consumer price of 2 MAD.
We will have the capacity to make as many as 900 million biscuits per year, with the big communication campaign in place, we believe that Moroccans will be tempted to taste Oreo. We are sure that they will love it as the rest of the world.
P.G.: At the price point of 2 MAD, consumers have ample choice between small brands, new brands, white labels, healthy snacks, etc. Beyond affordability, what else can consumers expect from Oreo?
A.B.: Our promise to the consumer is that we are making Oreo according to the highest Mondelēz International standards; that has brought so much joy to billions of people since coming to market more than hundred years ago. We expect, as it does around the globe, Oreo to trigger and magnify great family togetherness /bonding moments through its unique ritual experience coupled with a great tasting experience.
P.G.: Milk consumption in Morocco declined in 2014 and 2015, prompting Fimalait (Moroccan milk producers association) and the Ministry of Health to launch a nationwide campaign to promote milk. How do you adjust, given Oreo’s association with milk?
A.B.: We say Oreo is milk’s favorite biscuit companion. It is coming from a heritage campaign all over the world derived from the ritual of ‘Twist, Lick, Dunk’, which is part of the brand communication since many years. So milk and Oreo are very good friends.
P.G.: Moroccan consumers want to find snacks everywhere – from vendor carts in trains, grocery stores to souks, kiosks, supermarkets and malls.What can you tell us about your distribution?
A.B.: We have a large, structured distribution that covers the whole Kingdom with a presence in a very large portion of traditional and modern stores. Moreover, our portfolio, the expertise of our sales force, the scale of our partners will help drive Oreo distribution extensively in the market.
P.G.: What are the highlights of the marketing campaign?
A.B.: We have based our local campaign on the brand DNA linked to family togetherness moments enabled by the unique brand ritual ’Twist, Lick, Dunk’. This was very well appreciated by Moroccans and we had positive feedback on that.
We have been working to enhance our communication campaign: an example is the Oreo Guinness World Record attempt” we organized July 24th, attempting to beat the record realized in Mumbai in 2013. It was quite an achievement to have grouped 2482 people at the Morocco Mall in Casablanca to taste Oreo at the same time. This record is under study by the Guinness World Record which will come back to us with the exact number in the few coming weeks.
P.G.: Brands entering or establishing themselves in the Moroccan food market center their campaigns around the health benefits of their products. How do you cater to the rising health conscious consumer?
A.Z.: In order to support our growth strategy, Mondelēz International has launched the Call for Well-being – a call-to-action for ourselves, our suppliers and our partners to work together to drive growth by developing new approaches that have a positive impact on the well-being of our planet.
Our Call for Well-being focuses on four areas of action that are critical to the world and where we, as a company, can make the greatest impact which are: Mindful snacking, Sustainability, Safety and Communities.
P.G.: As their country is further industrializing, Moroccans expect a positive social change in their life. What are your social-oriented initiatives?
A.B.: We are a company that aims at giving back to the community, for that we have put in place a community involvement strategy of three years starting from 2014 with our local NGO L’Heure Joyeuse. The goal is to renovate canteens in rural schools across Morocco.
P.G.: How do you ensure that your local suppliers use sustainable agricultural or farming practices?
A.B.: We believe strongly that our suppliers need to comply with our quality standards if they want to do business with us; we are proud to have accompanied our local suppliers during eighteen months to be approved according toMondelez quality requirements
P.G.: With an expanded capacity now under your responsibility, you are in a position to supply neighboring countries: is the Algerian market supplied from Morocco?
A.B.: For the moment, Oreo production is made for Morocco. We will in the future be exploring other markets to export our product as we have the biggest biscuit production site in Africa.
P.G.: There are expectations that Mondelez EEMEA divisions will sustain and increase their share in the overall results. How do you see the future?
A.B.: BIMO is the number one biscuit in Morocco; and Mondelez Maroc is among the top 20 producers of biscuits within Mondelēz International. We would like to enhance our Oreo and our local BIMO brands and introduce other global brands into the Moroccan market.