When it comes to the game of business, some like to play it safe. In doing so, they believe they’re actively reducing risk. However, it seems those who are accustomed to taking risks often win.
The main thing is to be armed with the maximum amount of facts, points of view and opinions in order to count and assess the risks, make a decision and take responsibility for it. Ukraine’s largest dairy producer TERRA FOOD understands this.
While many companies were cutting costs and business to stay afloat during the country’s economic crisis, its Founder Stanislav Voytovych, together with his team, decided to develop and diversify the business instead. This decision is a true testament to who the company is and what it stands for.
“TERRA FOOD continuously paves its own way. We think several years ahead and are not afraid to be pioneers,” says CEO Fortunato Guadalupi. “While many of our competitors tend to follow others and play it safe, that approach is not for us. We stay open to change and are equipped to take reasonable risks.”
If you keep using the same old methods, then you’ll keep getting the same old results.
Much of this penchant for such a courageous approach comes from the Founder and is reiterated by Fortunato himself. “I act outside the box, and I am grateful to Stanislav Voytovych for trusting me in every possible way. For the six years that I have been working as CEO of TERRA FOOD, I’ve proved that all the risks we take are assessed and calculated. We never do anything without thinking it through first.”
Another feature of TERRA FOOD is that its employees do not use the word “impossible”. “Remember the famous story about a bumblebee who does not know that, in terms of aerodynamics, it should not be able to fly, and yet it flies?” Fortunato says. “There is always a way to get things done.”
It’s easy for the company to stay outside of its comfort zone because its employees are encouraged to put forward ideas and take decisions as that’s where some of the best ideas are born. “We encourage our team to think innovatively and follow their intuition,” Fortunato says.
“Everyone is entitled to speak up, even if their ideas seem silly at first, because in listening to these, new ideas are generated. This is the kind of thinking that can’t come from reading manuals. My task as CEO is to consolidate all points of view, count the risks and have the courage to make a decision.”
It’s also the kind of thinking that helped the company successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. “To me, crisis means opportunity. So we chose to be proactive and grow while taking into account all the nuances and limitations that we might face,” Fortunato says.
“And since the first lockdown, which was essentially a stress test for the entire global economy, our team has launched new products and solutions, and we have also strengthened our leadership in the dairy market.”
Recently, it completely shaped the demand and consumer habits around feta-like cheese and mozzarella from scratch. In Ukraine, these cheese varieties were not very popular, especially all year-round. They were seen as ‘summer-only’ cheeses and were only meant to be an extra layer of yum to salads.
“We developed a whole strategy for working with Ukrainian consumers, showing them how these cheeses work beyond classical and the usual ways of preparing them,” Fortunato shares.
“This strategy included masterclasses, degustation and retail roadshows. We demonstrated how these cheeses could effectively replace hard cheese – the traditional cheese for Ukrainians – by teaching them new recipes and explaining how these types of cheeses were used around the world in baking, on sandwiches, in pasta and so on.”
The result was impressive. Feta sales have since tripled, and mozzarella production is expanding. Charging full steam ahead, the company also introduced a vegan butter line.
And according to last year’s figures, the company remains a leader in three key production categories – vegetable-cream mixtures, butter and processed cheese – and ranks first in cheese products. But Fortunato’s point of pride lies in the export market.
“Today, we export our products to 55 countries around the world. And according to 2020 results, we managed to cover 12.4% of the total export market of dairy companies in Ukraine,” he says.
With its remarkable success and reputation as a leader in the industry, the business has secured a viable partnership with fast-food giant McDonald’s. The company supplies McDonald’s with a milk mixture for cocktails and ice cream.
“Every year, we reaffirm the trust of our global partner and pass every product quality audit,” he says. “This year, we achieved 96% compliance, proving the synergy, long-term trust and understanding between us.”
A trendsetting company, TERRA FOOD constantly seeks to reinvent itself and its products to remain relevant and fresh. Because as Fortunato says, “If you keep using the same old methods, then you’ll keep getting the same old results.”
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