Kristijan Sabo, the new Managing Director (MD) of Podravka International Ltd., is spending his first weeks in Hungary, learning about his new business environment. It is a fairly big change for him as he spent seven and half years in Moscow working for the Russian operations of the Croatian food company Podravka.
“It was a really good experience as it is a developing market where Podravka is market leader in universal seasoning,” he recalls to Diplomacy & Trade. This time, he is much closer to homeland Croatia. “I like Hungary and its nice people very much. Budapest is just about 300 kilometers from, Zagreb,” he adds.
“The biggest task for me is to use our potentials on the Hungarian market. The Vegeta brand is well-known and my aim is to expand the product portfolio of this well-known and popular brand. Our position in the culinary category is not bad at the moment but there is always room to do better,” he points out.
Podravka’s Hungarian business that employs some 30 people features mainly spices. Universal seasoning is marketed under the brand name ‘Vegeta’, which is Podravka’s leading brand worldwide, and – at the same time –, it is the most popular Croatian brand. “This accounts for the major part of our sales in Hungary. No wonder, since it is already build in the Hungarian traditions, the trust in this brand is inherited through many generations already. Its outstanding quality was kept stable for more than half of a century.” Sabo says. The brand happens to be as old as the Barbie Doll (1957) and it was only ten years later of its birth that the first export markets (Hungary and Russia) opened.
Another part is the fish business under the brand name ‘Eva’, with Croatian sardines from the Adriatic Sea, while the third kind of business is ‘Lagris’, a brand name carried by products from Podravka’s Czech subsidiary: rice and leguminous products. The best-known product they sell in Hungary under the name of the company, Podravka, is the Ajvár - tasty and aromatic vegetable relish.
Regarding the differences in the taste of Hungarian customers and those in other countries of the region, Sabo says that “there is some difference, and basic Hungarian taste can still be explored in many places. On the other side, it seems, like everywhere in the world, that consumers demand is changing faster in the big urban areas. So, as I can see, ‘Hungarians like it hot’. The majority of them like more spiced food than others in Europe, and your fish soup and goulash soup is one of a kind. However, instead of pepper, you usually use a lot of red powered paprika.”
He adds that “our strongest foothold of customer base in Hungary is among ladies who are married, have children and cook for the family regularly. However, with Vegeta premium new line of spice mixes and some other products, we are expanding our brand to reach new consumers/consumption moments, as well.”
As a recent development, Podravka has started a new, unique way of communication via integrated web media, which – at the same time – offers live TV stream. So, the first online kitchen TV is now being announced to the public. To see how it works, everybody is welcome to take a look at it on the web site www.konyha.tv,” the Managing Director concludes.