Alparslan ÖZGÜÇLÜ, Oba Group: “We are following innovation in machinery”

15 February 20179 min reading

“We are following innovation in machinery for production, and currently our oldest machine is 6 years old. We always follow the latest innovations in manufacturing, packaging and loading, and test them on-site.”

obamakarnaOba Makarna, which is the leader in Turkey and the second in Europe with its manufacturing capacity, has a volume of 250,000 tons in the global pasta market. With its 50 million lira worth of investments between 2010 and 2012, Oba Makarna follows the latest innovations in manufacturing, packaging and loading, and tests them on-site.

We came together with Oba Group CEO Alparslan Özgüçlü and discussed the technologic investments of Oba Makarna, the position of the company in the pasta market and their future projects. We take the details from Alparslan Özgüçlü.

Mr. Özgüçlü, could you introduce us Oba Makarna and its history until today? OBA Makarna was founded in 1966 by Selahattin Öztahtacı. The company was the leader during 1980’s, but had to shut down after the financial crisis in 2000’s. As industrialists from Gaziantep, we thought it was a huge loss for our country to see this facility and brand interrupt its operations, and launched the acquisition process. In 2005, our family business purchased both the brand name and the manufacturing facility. When we resumed manufacture, the facility was not sufficient, so we had to make new investments. We have currently reached 1,000 tons of daily capacity from 80 tons with the power of the brand and the steps we took in exports. Oba Makarna is the first in Turkey and second in Europe with its manufacturing capacity, and has a volume of 250,000 tons of capacity in the global pasta market.

Could you give us information about your manufacturing facility, your capacity and your technologies? Do you undertake the milling process for the wheat used in manufacture or do you purchase as ready-to-use? How much of the manufacture goes to domestic market, and how much goes to the exports? We are manufacturing our products at a high capacity and global standards using the latest Italian technology at our facility, which has a total open area of 110,000 square meters and a closed area of 65,000 square meters, in Gaziantep 4th Organized Industrial Zone.

Raw materials are chosen by our experienced expert staff, with due consideration of every factor that may affect product quality (species of wheat, weather conditions, type of soil, environmental considerations in manufacture). We process 100% hard durum wheat which is cultivated on the fertile lands of Southeastern Anatolia at our own milling facilities to obtain pure semolina. Our products are made of pure semolina and water, and offered to our consumers after totally automatic processes using cutting edge control devices and laboratory analyses at our integrated modern facilities. We export 70% of our output, and distribute 30% to the domestic market.

What is the level of capacity and technology use at your company? What is the future of the technologies used in manufacture of pasta in Turkey? We have a well-deserved pride as the leading company in Turkey and second company in the world with a daily capacity of milling 1,500 tons of wheat and of manufacturing 1000 tons of pasta per day, thanks to the 50 million euros of investment we made between 2010 and 2012. Our innovativeness in products also plays an important role in our manufacture.

We follow the innovations in machinery for production and currently our oldest machine is 6 years old. We follow the latest innovations in manufacturing, packaging and loading, and test them on-site. The technologies used in pasta production in Turkey has to be aligned with our times, otherwise, it will decrease productivity in manufacture and affect product quality. The biggest mistake would be failing to catch up with the changes, lagging behing, failing to innovate the technology and ignoring customers’ expectations. Of course here, change means change through development and trying to do better while remaining loyal to the roots.)

Turkish people have been familiar with Oba Makarna for many years. What is the position, market share and sales volume of Oba Makarna in the global market? How many countries do you export to? Yes, Turkish people have been familiar with and fond of Oba Makarna. We believe our consumers feel confidence and sympathy towards our brand, which is evidenced by the sales numbers. Oba Makarna is actually a kind of heritage from mothers to children... Although it is recently known to younger generations, the elder population still remembers the commercial jingle which says “Oba Oba Delicious Pasta”. Therefore, there is trust in the quality and in the brand. To sustain this confidence, we aim to increase our share in domestic market as we did in global market without compromising our quality. Oba Makarna is the leader in the global market with OBA brand and 5 other brands. We export to 96 countries and one out of every three packages exported from Turkey bears the OBA brand. According to the list of top one thousand exports published by Turkish Exporters Council, Oba was the 145th company among numerous firms from all industries.

Why do you think your products are so popular among the consumers and in the market? First of all we know the needs of our consumers. By “needs” I mean what they expect from the product, the type of product and communication. Pasta is often preferred in urgent situations because it is practical. Our consumers want a product that does not disintegrate, stick and that is delicious. This expectation is directly related to quality, and to respond to it, we closely monitor every step from selection of raw materials to manufacturing stages. Furthermore, we have created regional breakdown lists of product types that our consumers like, and we recommend these “running products” to our sales points. For instance, the bow-tie pasta is better preferred in some areas, while fusilli pasta is leading the sales in others. Finally, communication... Sustainable communication is important. We work fastidiously at every step of the value chain from quality and regulations to business processes. In this whole process, we manage our R&D and innovation processes through research and data collection, consumer surveys, brainstorming sessions with internal and external teams, literature review, team assessment meetings, technological research sessions and reporting processes.

Are there other areas you offer services in? If there are, could you give us information on the other activities of your company? In addition to manufacturing pasta, we have activities in the feed industry. İpek Feed and Food Industry and Trade Corporation, which is the largest feed factory in the Middle East, has been manufacturing quality and cost-efficient animal feed with its young, dynamic and experienced team since 1988, contributing to the livestock breeding industry in Turkey and around the world. Our company aims to be the leader in the neighboring countries as well.

Are there any new products or innovations you are planning to introduce to us in the near future? One of our major innovations is the pasta package with toys, which we launched on 23 April 2016 and which was the first of its kind in Turkey and around the world. Children already love pasta, and we combined it with their favorite characters, and added different toys in our pasta packages bearing the pictures of Looney Tunes characters. We will continue production of toy pasta with new licenses in 2017. Furthermore, our bran, whole grain and tri-color brands will be on the shelves in early 2017.

What are the problems in the pasta industry? What can be done in Turkey to solve these problems? What are your efforts in this area at Oba Makarna? The main problem in our industry is the disproportion between the installed capacity and consumption. In Turkey, approximately 40% of pasta production takes place in Gaziantep, 35% in Central Anatolia and 25% in the Aegean region. In other words, there is already a considerable installed capacity. However, the consumption per capita has only recently reached 7,5 kg per capita in a year. This is primarily due to dispositioning of pasta. Unfortunately, the majority of the population believes that pasta leads to weight gain. However, the sauces added to the pasta have a high calorie value. On the other hand, the sauce culture is not a part of Turkish cuisine, which is another factor that limits the consumption of pasta. In other countries, pasta is consumed with various types of sauce, and it can be consumed as the main course rather than an appetizer. We hold various meetings and discussions at our association to overcome the problems in our industry.

Are there any social responsibility projects that you take part in? What do you think about social responsibility projects? We participate in the project of “Make A Wish Association”. Oba Makarna and the Association make efforts to fulfill the wishes of children who fight against deadly diseases and give them hope, joy and strength to survive.

Oba Makarna was ranked as the third in this year’s Anatolian Brands Awards in the “Agriculture-Food Manufacturing Category” which is organized by Capital and Ekonomist magazines in late October. What is your opinion of the award? What are your differences that distinguish you from your competitors and why should the consumers choose Oba Makarna? We believe we have one of the most successful stories in terms of creating a brand. The competition of “Anatolian Brands” which chooses the most successful brands every year, plays an important role in raising brand awareness in businesses in other cities than Istanbul and in appreciating the success stories of those who proceed towards becoming a brand. This is what distinguishes us from our competitors.

Finally, what are the objectives of your company for the future in terms of facilities, technolog investments, market share and sales volume? We aim to sustain our performance of 2016 in the next year. We focused on marketing investments to improve our brand recognition in domestic market in 2016. We achieved a turnover of 547 million lira in 2015. We are preparing ourselves to finish the year 2016 with a turnover of 750 million lira. In 2017, we aim to make an additional investment of 9 million euro to increase our capacity and the new product range. And we aim to finish the year 2016 with a total export of 563 million lira.

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