Eduardo García. Journalist
Agri-food exports have increased notably in recent years, up between 6 and 7%. In 2017, sales outside Spain totaled 47 billion euros, yielding a surplus of more than 12 billion in the agri-food trade balance, according to the Secretary of State for Trade.
To successfully surpass this goal, companies must have leaders who are trained in international management with a strategic vision and a special focus on global marketing. With this idea in mind, Fundación LAFER and ESADE have implemented a program called "Agri-Food Sector Internationalization Strategy: Marketing and Value Creation," led by Jaime Palafox, an agri-food expert with Fundación LAFER, and Enrique Verdeguer, Director of ESADE Madrid.
The program includes three masterclassess given by Gonzalo Guillén, Managing Director and CEO of Acesur-Coosur; Joan Mir, Managing Director of Anecoop; and Julio Pérez, Managing Director of Helios. These masterclassess will also include participation by top professionals, such as Rosa Vañó, owner of Castillo de Canena Olive Juice; René Lemée, International Director at Cinco Jotas-Grupo Osborne; and Gonzalo Machado, International Director at Delaviuda Confectionery Group which, in a statement to Qcom.es, underlined the commitment to creating products with values that set them apart in the internationalization process.
According to Vañó, "Value has been an essential element in terms of standing out. If our brand is well-known today around the world, it's also because we've traveled more than anyone, working to raise the profile of our products and increase the value we offer our customers. We have also dedicated significant time and resources to train a team with the knowledge, experience and training required in international markets, which has enabled us to reach this ambitious goal and operate in 52 countries."
Knowledge as part of the strategy
Sharing what they've learned and helping those who want to learn is a fundamental part of this program, which includes participants such as the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, the Leading Brands of Spain Forum, and companies like Helios, Acesur and Anecoop. Vañó also said that, "We have learned from the experience and from those who took this route before us, leveraging expertise obtained from other professional experiences. Now it's our chance to share that knowledge, showing others what we've learned and helping to guide those who are starting out or who want to strengthen their international strategies to achieve greater success."
A good strategy must also include building a market, according to the International Director of Delaviuda Confectionery Group, Gonzalo Machado, who is also one of the teachers. He added, "Ongoing changes confuse the consumer and make it difficult to establish yourself and create a brand. To that end, it's essential to develop a good strategy, put in the time and analyze the market and the competition."
"First, you have to have a good product; otherwise, it will be very difficult to stand out in the chocolate market, and it's even more challenging to get noticed if you're not Belgian or Swiss chocolate. Therefore, the foundation of our strategy is to build a market. We also have to work on positioning and determine if there's space in each market, offering an alternative to the most well-known brands. In short: we need a clear position on price and image and a defined and stable offer," adds Machado.
How do we stand out?
At this point, another set of questions arise, such as what steps can we take to set our products apart from other exporting countries with more experience in international markets?
In this regard, Machado says that the process of internationalization is long-term, and "considering that many times the consumer isn't familiar with the product, like turrón for example, it's important to organize activities such as tastings, (controlled) promotions, and personalization depending on the time of year: Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, etc."
Lastly, he says "We must remember that we're selling a good product, creating value, so we should be fully involved in negotiations and personally follow our progress, despite having local partners."
Another fundamental issue for internationalization is positioning. According to the International Director of Cinco Jotas – Grupo Osborne, and a professor in the program, René Lemée, "For us, it was essential to position ourselves as a luxury-gourmet company. Focusing on specialization is part of who we are, as is offering the highest quality products in terms of packaging and service."
From the standpoint of distribution, he says, "We have strategic agreements with premium retailers, such as Galeries Lafayette, Harrod's, Kadewe, Palacio de Hierro and high-end catering groups like Grupo Bocuse and Grupo Ducasse. In certain strategic markets, such as China, the US, and the online channel, we try to provide direct distribution. In this context, we have international promotion agreements with brand ambassadors such as chefs Pedro Subijana and Alexandre Mazzia. We are also global sponsors of The World's 50 Best Restaurants, among other initiatives."
Another aspect for the company which is essential is "the progress of ongoing training for our clients and our teams."
A program for growth
Through this program, which is directed jointly with Jaime Palafox, students learn how to design successful strategies for agri-food internationalization, focusing on value creation and enabling them to grow professionally within the company.
Jaime Castelló, one of the professors, says "As a professor in the Marketing Management Department at ESADE, it's exciting to share concepts and tools with participants, helping them find new perspectives regarding the problems facing their companies.”
He added, "I believe the program brings together the best of what a school like ESADE can offer—academic rigor and the exchange of ideas."
Combining the content from a business school specialized in marketing with the presence of sector professionals, learning the strategies focused on consumers' needs, and understanding the characteristics of the main exporting sectors to incorporate elements into the internationalization strategy are just a few of the benefits for students.