By NECLA DALAN
Godiva CEO Nurtac Ziyal Afridi has achieved serious growth for her company with the ‘gold plan’ she implemented with the support of her team. The plan, which gets its name from Godiva’s iconic gold chocolate boxes, aims to double the company’s business volume in three years and increase the range and accessibility of its products.
“We also aim to carry our brand into other categories related to chocolate,” said Afridi.
Nurtac Ziyal Afridi has been working at Yildiz Holding for over 16 years. She has managed nearly 100 acquisition, merger, and public offering projects in the group, including the Godiva operation, Turkey’s biggest overseas acquisition worth USD 850m in 2008. Others include large acquisitions such as those of DeMet’s, McVitie’s, Carr’s, Jacobs, and United Biscuits. Yildiz Holding became the third largest biscuit manufacturer in the world with the acquisition of United Biscuits. The brands were all gathered under the umbrella of Pladis. Afridi was appointed as the CEO of Godiva at the end of 2020. Afridi, who took office at a time when the pandemic was at its peak and stores were closed, manages operations from New York, in the United States, Godiva’s largest chocolate market with a value of USD 18bn. So far she has achieved success with her team.
Afridi, who came to Turkey last week, told us about Godiva’s growth plans as the company approaches a billion-dollar turnover. The company achieved significant growth with the ‘gold plan’, which Afridi implemented after taking office. The plan, named for the company’s iconic gold boxes, would not have been possible without the support of her team, said Afridi. “Our goal with the ‘gold plan’ is to double our business, to increase our product range and availability, and to be a leader in priority markets within three years. We also want to expand our brand to other chocolate-related categories. We started to realize this goal with biscuits, ice cream, and cake,” she noted.
Looking to Asia and Europe
Afridi said that the company closed 128 stores in America and decided to move them to more than 300,000 sales points where chocolate is sold. Currently, they are operating in 30,000 points. Godiva grew by 40% in e-commerce in 2020 with an additional 23% growth in 2021, taking first place in the e-commerce segment of the premium chocolate market in the U.S. “We grew by 34% while the growth rate of our competitors in the market was on average 15 to 17% in 2021. One-third of chocolate sales in the U.S. take place in the last three months of the year. We achieved a growth rate of over 50% during this period,” she said, adding that this rocket-like growth chart brings her bride.
Currently, Godiva products are available in all Walmart stores. U.S. consumers can request Godiva when they order flowers. Wholesale chain Costco is also one of Godiva’s largest distribution points in the U.S. Godiva products are currently sold in Costco stores in 11 countries in addition to North America and Canada. “Our customers can now find Godiva everywhere and this has brought us tremendous growth and recognition in the market,” Afridi said.
The company is also growing rapidly in the Chinese and Asian markets. “We grew by 63% in the supermarket channel in China last year. Our goal is to double this growth every year. We have 110 stores and cafes in Asia, as well as online channels,” she said.
The aim is to grow further in regions such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. Afridi also sees significant growth opportunities in the European market.
“We also have rapid growth plans in Central and Eastern Europe. In addition, duty-free shops will be another growth area for us,” she said.
55% growth in the Turkish market
Afridi also pointed out the increase in per capita consumption in Turkey. “We are the market leader in the premium chocolate market in Turkey. Godiva grew by 55% in Turkey last year despite the pandemic, and we now have 13 stores,” she said.
The seasonal stores Godiva opens in holiday destinations have been very popular, she added. The corporate channel is also very important for the company in Turkey. “Our team is working very effectively and all our managers in Turkey say that they spend the holidays and the New Year constantly in the field or the warehouse. The demand from corporate customers is so high that our Turkey operation is constantly preparing gift packages,” she said.
‘Murat Ulker’s jewelry analogy came true’
GODIVA CEO Nurtac Ziyal Afridi said that the company has grown rapidly in terms of licensing and they have entered many different segments. The most interesting of these segments is jewelry.
“There is a type of diamond called the chocolate diamond, which has a color close to brown. A global company, which is an expert in this type of diamond, came to us and said that they wanted to collaborate with the best chocolate brand in the world. We also found the idea interesting. They made jewelry using the shapes of our truffle chocolates and strawberries dipped in chocolate. They were put up for sale in stores as a collection on Valentine’s Day and garnered incredible attention. I saw a one-page news piece in an in-flight magazine on one of my travels. It was such a good feeling! Murat Ulker [Yildiz Holding Chairman] used a jewelry analogy for GODIVA. When he bought GODIVA in 2008, he said that GODIVA is the spoon maker’s diamond of chocolate and we will take and polish it. His dreams have come true and the brand will shine even brighter.”
The last 23 hours of the United Biscuits acquisition
GODIVA CEO Nurtac Ziyal Afridi describes herself as a lucky CEO. She had the chance to work with many companies and solve plenty of problems during her career at Arthur Andersen & Co. “This supplied me with experience in every business line,” she says. She also gained experience working closely with all of the companies within Yildiz Holding for 16 years. “It was a great privilege for me that Murat Ulker and Ali Ulker trusted me,” she added. GODIVA carried the holding company to the global stage and the United Biscuits purchase was a turning point, according to Afridi. “I stayed at a hotel in the U.K. for three months during the purchasing process for United Biscuits. The final negotiation lasted for 23 hours. Murat Ulker was waiting outside. After 23 hours, we agreed and called him in for signatures,” she said.
She said that this was a turning point for the business group and it doubled biscuit operations in turnover and profit. The holding company then decided to exit from other business lines and focus on the biscuit, chocolate, cake, and snack segments, the core business lines of Yildiz Holding since its establishment in 1944. “Now we’ve added the 95-year GODIVA history and 100-year United Biscuits experience to Yildiz Holding’s 78 years of operations. In total, we now have 300 years of experience and know-how. The knowledge, culture, and experiences of our employees make us strong and help us to create portfolios suitable for different cultures, needs, lifestyles, and consumption styles in over 100 countries,” she said.