Mate Štetić, General Manager, SBU Coffee, Atlantic Grupa – Honest communication is always the key to consumers’ heart

Atlantic Grupa has achieved quarterly sales growth despite the pandemic and implementation of restrictive measures in key markets.

Mate Štetić, General Manager, SBU Coffee, Atlantic Grupa

The company overcame negative impacts thanks to its quick reactions, the maximum commitment of all employees and adequate measures implemented in individual markets. As a result of the aforementioned, the Strategic Business Area Coffee (SBU Coffee) has successfully responded to the increased demand and product consumption and achieved significant results at the beginning of this year. We spoke to Mate Štetić, General Manager of the Strategic Business Area Coffee at Atlantic Grupa.

How has your company adapted to the circumstances relating to the coronavirus pandemic and has it affected your business?

Thanks to good organization and following decisions made by Atlantic Grupa’s Crisis Unit, as well as regulatory and epidemiological criteria in each of the markets, the company quickly adjusted its business in production, logistics and distribution segment, plus it has enabled employees to work from home. In this way, we ensured regular supply during the state of emergency, but also preserved the health and safety of our employees, who showed great work energy and a strong community spirit in all of the markets we operate in, even in the new circumstances.

It is important to me that we have managed to organize ourselves so that we act responsibly to our employees, but also to provide safety for our customers and respond to all their needs. All employees who can do their job from home continue to do so, and we already have a clearly defined plan for the gradual return of employees to our offices in several phases. If the epidemiological situation continues to improve at the current dynamic, a number of employees will return during the first phase who will, of course,  adhere to all prescribed epidemiological and hygienic measures and social distancing. The world has not yet overcome the coronavirus and its consequences, so it seems that, in the future, we will learn to live and do business in new conditions.

We are especially proud of our colleagues in production who were at their workplaces even during the state of emergency, and who complied with all preventive measures for the protection and preservation of their health. They did their job with dedication and commitment, so we succeeded in ensuring a regular supply and a sufficient amount of products for all our consumers. Thanks to the excellent planning of our central procurement department, we had sufficient stock of raw coffee and necessary raw materials at all times, which ensured that the production and the entire supply chain functioned regularly, and which, in turn, guaranteed the smooth operation of Atlantic Grupa as a whole, including SBU Coffee.

Coffee is traditionally an indispensable part of our everyday life and yet it still requires ample marketing. Which consumer groups are most important to you, how do you approach them and how have you adapted your activities to the extraordinary circumstances?

Our main goal in extraordinary circumstances was to fully adapt to the new needs of our consumers, to support them and provide them with their favourite brands like Barcaffe and Grand Kafa. All the more reason because drinking coffee is considered one of the most important rituals during the day, so many people see it as the most important foodstuff in their home.

As before, and in addition to solidarity in the form of donations, we are trying to create a warm atmosphere in homes throughout Serbia and the region in other ways too. Our communication was aimed at showing our consumers that they are never alone and that their daily routine that gives them a sense of security, such as drinking coffee, is still available. We wanted to remind them that even in these adverse circumstances, they should not deprive themselves of socializing, but only adapt it to the new situation.

Therefore, direct and honest communication is of the utmost importance for the success of a brand, along with product quality as a must-have factor. In that sense, every individual is important to us. The approach to different groups is based on serious research and analysis of markets and consumer habits, because only in that way can we form a clear approach and communication strategy towards everyone, even in extraordinary circumstances.

Grand Kafa Strong

You are a leader in the region that used to prefer the so-called classic Turkish coffee, which was somewhat evident in this period as well. What are the characteristics of the market today and how much is the market ready to step towards an ever-growing range of products in the coffee segment?

As the market leader in the category of freshly ground coffee in Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia, we were aware that although still the most represented, this traditional category has been recording a declining trend in the long run. So, with the idea of ​​”rejuvenating” the entire category, we launched a regional communication campaign last year called „That’s Coffee“ („To je kafa“) with the desire to better introduce younger generations to freshly ground coffee. As part of the campaign, we also offered our consumers a completely new experience of enjoying coffee in our Freshness Corners in  Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia. We have also re-designed the entire Grand Kafa portfolio by adding Grand Kafa Strong and Barcaffè Single Plantation which further modernized this category.

The market is receptive to quality and variety of products and that is why we innovate. We try not only to respond to the needs of consumers but to anticipate them.

Consumer habits in the region are changing so we need to develop new brands and products to provide them with even more choice when it comes to this favourite beverage. Our consumers are open to a new range of flavours, new ways of preparing coffee and thus new ways of consumption. In line with global trends, we created a new category that is ice coffee with the Barcaffè Lattiato brand, which met the market’s expectations and was well accepted in most regional markets. So, that is perhaps the shortest answer to your question. The market is open to product quality and variety and that is why we innovate. We try not only to respond to consumer needs but to anticipate them as well, we try not only to follow but to dictate trends.

The approach to different groups is based on serious research and analysis of markets and consumer habits, because only in that way can we form a clear approach and communication strategy towards everyone.

Regardless of the time and circumstances, Millennials are a very important consumer group. What are the main characteristics of the Millennials in the region when it comes to coffee consumption and what media do you use to communicate with them?

I must admit that the era of digitalization, the universal presence on digital networks and availability of all kinds of information, challenges us every day to be as innovative as possible in communication and to think not only “out of the box”, but also to respect the context of work and life of each individual. If we are talking about the characteristics of this particular population segment relating to their coffee consumption, we have noticed that in recent years, Millennials are increasingly consuming freshly ground coffee, in addition to instant and espresso coffee. So, after launching a successful and innovative product that was  Black’n’Easy, a traditional coffee that is made in one minute, in 2019, we expanded our existing portfolio with a new product – Black’n’Easy Milk. We are aware that Millennials are one of the most demanding target groups and that the availability and transparency of information are important to them, just as the experience and recommendations of other consumers or people close to them are important to them. They collect all important information on social media, so we usually communicate with them through these channels by creating visual content on Instagram or Facebook.

What is the share of SBU Coffee in the total revenue and profit of Atlantic Grupa? What are your plans and ambitions for the next 3 to 5 years?

As the leading business segment of Atlantic Grupa, last year SBU Coffee generated over 153 million euro in sales revenue, which is about 20% of the Group’s total turnover. We have fulfilled our plans and achieved record results and growth in key segments in most markets, which is in line with the goals of the overall business strategy. Our leading brands are Barcaffè, Grand Kafa and Bonito, and observed by category, the most represented was the category of freshly ground coffee, followed by espresso and instant coffee, and Black n’Easy, which has been growing year-on-year. The import and sales of more than 23,000 tonnes of coffee a year has made us the leader in the region for many years.

This success was validated by the excellent results from the first quarter of this year. The overall growth of Atlantic Grupa stood at over 12% relative to the same period last year, while SBU Coffee achieved a  5.4% growth, mostly in the freshly ground and instant category. We always think long-term and we have set strategic priorities for a period of three to five years. Of course, emergencies like the one caused by the coronavirus cannot be predicted, but good planning and financial stability give us an excellent basis to overcome the resulting market disruptions more easily. There is no doubt that the pandemic has had a significant impact on us as well, however so far, apart from the cessation of sales in the HoReCa channel and falling consumption in the on-the-go and impulse segment, we have not felt any other significant negative impact on our business.

The world has not yet overcome the coronavirus and its consequences, so it seems that, in the future, we will learn to live and do business in new conditions. We will certainly adjust our goals, but sustaining the leading market position in the region remains a priority. The plans are to maintain continuity of investments in basic brands and to offer consumers innovative products and the quality to which they are accustomed. In addition, we are focused on the further development of our distribution segment as an important lever for business growth and on possible new mergers and acquisitions. The most important thing is to continue being a part of the everyday life of our consumers and to carry on surprising them with new products and authentic tastes.


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