DANIELA YORDANOVA: CREATING LITTLE SMILES WITH GREAT TASTING AND RESPONSIBLE BRANDS


The BEO Confectionery Nestlé South East Market on responsible production and bold dreams

daniela yordanova nestle.jpg

When Daniela Yordanova took the position of Bisiness Executive of Confectionery at Nestlé's Southeastern Europe market, in 2022, she had already proven that she was fit for this challenging job. Since she joined the company, in 2011, she did a stellar job as sales manager and region manager of Nescafe Soluble Coffee. Now, as the head of its Confectionery division, she is responsible for accelerating the growth of the company on the local markets. We talked to her to learn more about Nestlé's unique position in the global and local food industry, its dedication to protect the environment and to help cocoa farmers prosper, the traditions of one of its major production facilities, the Sofia Factory, and its ambitions to continue growing.

Your position gives you an overview of the markets of nine southeastern countries. Is there such a thing as "Bulgarian taste" in regard to chocolate?

We, Bulgarians, love talking about the specificities of Bulgarian cuisine and tastes, which we consider our national treasure. However, in regard to the mass market of chocolate products, Bulgarians do not differ from the rest of the world in their preferences. Milk chocolate with nuts with a little bit more sweetness is what most Bulgarians would have. Bulgarians also eat more waffers than people in other countries, both neighbouring and distant ones. The specific and national traits are actually expressed with the brand – it is the most important factor when the client decides to buy something sweet. In Bulgaria, we are still successfully selling brands with decades of history and strong connections to childhood memories, such as LZ chocolate and Mura chocolate coated waffers.

Sofia Factory is among the most important production facilities of Nestlé in the region. Can you take us on a virtual tour in the factory?

Sofia Factory is crucial for Nestlé not only in the region, but in entire Europe. It works for over 40 countries around the globe and the product recipes, both new and established ones, are developed by a large international team aiming to reflect the needs of consumers on different continents. Interestingly, the waiting list for visitors is rather long, you need to register well in advance, almost like for a pop concert. Visiting all production units takes 3 hours and includes serious preparation – safety and quality instructions, including what clothes and accessories you are not allowed to wear, putting on special clothes and going through disinfection at several places during your visit. The products' quality and safety is our top priority – only the safety of the people working in the factory is as important.

In 2024 we are celebrating 30 years since the creation of Nestlé Bulgaria, when the largest company in the global food and beverages industry bought the Sofia-based factory that belonged to a state confectionery company.

Cocoa is among the ingredients whose price has increased significantly in the past couple of years. How are you capable of offering the consumers affordable quality products?

Chocolate is the tastiest ingredient of KitKat®. Cocoa bean farming is very hard agricultural work and farmers have to deal with challenges such as deforestation, climate change and low incomes. If large companies do not act, soon we will buy the last sacks of cocoa in the world.

This is why as early as 2009 Nestlé started the initiative Nestlé® Cocoa Plan, along with the more recent Income Accelerator Program. These initiatives focus on four things: providing children below 16 years of age with schools, not work places, establishing and encouraging good agricultural practices, planting fruit and other trees, and pushing towards pay equality for women.

I am telling all these to underline the fact that behind the price of cocoa stand a lot of additional investments that help communities and protect the environment. In the past year the main reason for the increase of cocoa prices was climate change – for the first time in history it has seriously impacted businesses. During the recent galloping inflation we focused on optimising our supply chains and simplifying the number of products and recipes in order to keep our products as affordable as possible to consumers all over the world. We just released the first KitKat® made of sustainably grown cocoa as a part of the Income Accelerator programme here, in Sofia. Now, every time you buy a KitKat®, you make a small step towards improving the environment and reducing the effect of climate change.

What tasks did you set for yourself when you took your current positions?

To double the business in four years! I have always worked with simple, but clearly expressed and concrete goals – complex economical slang and long sentences only disorient people and do not inspire motivation or competitive spirit.

Doubling a business might sound like a very ambitious goal, but when you operate in one of the largest fast moving consumer goods and you have the power of Nestlé's brands and innovations, nothing is impossible. The most important and challenging thing on the road towards achieving your goal is to lead a motivated and competent team. This is a role for a leader who is emphatic and inspiring, not just a manager.

Why are you confident that you will turn your ambitious goals into successfully realised projects?

Do you know what is a sign for me that I am taking a brave and responsible decision? When I feel heaviness in my stomach. Brave decisions require confidence, they are brave because there is risk. I learn from past projects, I always first clarify for myself the general picture and the backup plans, and I warm up my team for the upcoming climb to the top. There is no secret – it is all about experience, staying constantly alert, adaptation and strong spirit!

In business you are known as a persevering manager with the talent to think outside of the box and to see solutions where other people see problems. What motivates and inspires you?

Years ago I stumbled on an interview with Bill Gates where he said that we always overestimate the effect of events in the next two years, and underestimate the effect of change in the next 10 years.

The principles that I follow:

Focus 1: team;

Focus 2: triple win – company, clients and buyers;

Focus 3: being constantly alert, ready to react and preparing a plan B, C and D;

Focus 4: concentrate on the strong sides and the unique selling proposition;

Focus 5: remove all that is useless and does not add value to the consumer.

Which is your favourite Nestlé product?

KitKat® is Nestlé's most beloved product around the world and I am no exception. I adore the brand and the excitement it brings. As a parent, I adore Smarties, the little dragees of milk or white chocolate coated in sugar that was coloured only with natural products: turmeric, beetroot and others, and are packaged in paper only. They are so fun and suitable for baking and preparing desserts. And they are made here, in Nestlé's Sofia factory.

www.nestle.bg

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