Going from Bulk to Final Products – Innovation and Branding, the Road to Competitive Advantage and Job Creation
The value of a final food product can be up to 85% higher than the same product being sold as a semi-final bulk product. However, the high production costs associated with product finalization restrict many companies from pursuing such an investment.
To increase local and international brand recognition and drive growth, the Swiss Increasing Market Employability Programme (IME) scaffolds North Macedonia’s agribusinesses and buffers their risks to invest in developing more attractive lines of retail-ready products.
Agrar Ko™ is a local supplier of semi-final cherry pepper products to the hotel, restaurant, and catering sector as well as international antipasti factories since 2010. Agrar Ko™ was interested in creating a retail line under their own brand however this new investment has been a challenge due to the ongoing demands of their current infrastructure and technology as well as the capital spent on raw materials and supplies. “Failing to respond to clients’ request for finished products means lost revenue due to lower margins and limited employment opportunities mainly because of the current products being seasonal” explains company founder Jasna Stoimirovska Velichkov.
Thanks to the Swiss support, Agrar Ko™ finalized their new product in line with appropriate equipment and technical support and introduce innovative marketing aspects in attraction of final consumers. Using new printing and labeling equipment as well as branding expertise, the company was able to explore glass and tin packaging in line with industry trends and innovative labeling solutions for their shelf-ready products.
The Swiss support arrived as a fitted and timely addition to the company’s recent expansion to a completely novel field in the country. With co-financing from the Fund for Innovations and Technology Development, Agrar Ko™ created a new trademark, Arel Neuromarketing™. The company is now the first in the country to invest in neuromarketing, an innovative field that uses advanced biometric technology and artificial intelligence to investigate the subconscious reactions of consumers triggered by marketing stimuli such as packaging and advertising along with other product characteristics. By applying neuroscience to marketing, the company can give their products a competitive advantage on local and international supermarket shelves. All new products that Agrar Ko™ is now developing are packaged using this novel model.
Producing Results After Two Months
In November 2020, the first batch of retail-ready stuffed peppers were exported to Bosnia, followed by batches to Lithuania in December. Based on feedback from existing and potential clients gathered at business exhibitions, Agrar Ko™ is working on introducing their popular sweet & sour recipe to the retail market. To keep up with the increased business, Agrar Ko™ has expanded their team, including a full-time sales manager with experience in digital marketing.
Agrar Ko™ are expecting 2021 to be a busy year with a focus on their expanded portfolio of shelf-ready products for export. “This investment will enable us to enter new markets and move from seasonal to year-round production” Jasna confirms. They project supplies of raw ingredients to almost double with additional 450 – 500 tons per year. Introducing the new product line will contribute to new jobs and growth not only for Agrar Ko™, but across the entire supply chain of farmers, vendors, ingredient partners, and packaging partners.
Agrar Ko™ is interested to share their positive experience from the investment with other companies in the country by offering the neuromarketing service on the market. That will result in increased attraction of the final products and improved market position of other businesses. It is companies like Agrar Ko™ who, by demonstrating capacity to act as drivers of change, can lead the transformation of the agribusiness sector in North Macedonia.