Indigenous Brand with a Global Impact
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Sammy Wilkinson
Building its reputation for a growing range of internationally acclaimed products over the past 25 years, Iranian confectionery Group, Shirin Asal has become one of the most recognised and much-loved brands in many markets across its global distribution network. The Company’s market-leading status as the only fully-integrated confectionery Group in Iran has been forged through the adoption of a locally-unrivalled continuous improvement strategy and by working closely with different consumer market segments worldwide.
With strong leadership and direction from local entrepreneur, Mr Younes Zhaleh, the Company Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and daughter, Miss Sahar Zhaeleh, Vice President (VP), Shirin Asal has become known for its successful innovation, enthusiasm for creation, hardworking teams, dedication to the best manufacturing technologies available and responding to the changing needs of the consumer.
“Shirin Asal has grown as a trusted and respected national brand with a global impact because of our strategic investments and subsequent formation of new businesses segments, followed by entry into new food markets. The Shirin Asal Group of Companies create added-value and it has always been a great honour for me to see the organisation evolve to reach new customers thousands of miles away. Today, we proudly export to more than 60 countries,” says Miss Zhaeleh, who was educated at one of the top business schools in the US due to its strong culture of diversity and inclusion.
By closely monitoring food and confectionery trends and using them as a springboard to create affordable, nutritious and healthy products, the Company has proved its ability to adjust to an ever-changing external environment, while shouldering a much broader range of responsibilities across multiple markets throughout the Group; overseeing its operations from “bean-to-shelf”. Guided by these principles, the CEO was awarded The Jewels of Muslim World Award to mark the entrepreneur’s excellence, innovation and accomplishments within the global economy.
The CEO highlights: “The Group has been created to create. Leveraging our vast experience in the bakery, cocoa and sugar confectionery markets, we quickly capitalised on new product areas including the manufacture of fruit juices and concentrates, carbonated fruit juice beverages, milk and dairy products, potato chips and pellets (snacks), tomato paste and ketchup.”
Shirin Asal recognises the importance of investing profits back into the business in order to uphold quality standards and its attitude towards continuous innovation while exploring new ways to increase export reach. “Quality, affordability and product accessibility are three core facets that allow Shirin Asal to remain competitive,” says Mr Zhaleh. “Our vertically-integrated supply chain adds value to this trio and we continue to invest in the best methodologies that boost our internal efficiencies to help us become self-sustainable. This strategy also includes the addition of our own chain stores, a strong distribution network comprising 120,000 sales outlets, our own machinery and equipment manufacturing and maintenance facilities, and our own packaging manufacturing and supply facilities.”
Making the most of the latest production technologies, including the adoption of advanced automation and robotics in compliance with the latest international manufacturing standards, Shirin Asal has spent the past few years investing in new and upgraded facilities across the majority of its product range; in addition to preparations for the production of functional products, ice cream, and sugarless products. In line with this, the Group has also established one of the most advanced cocoa bean processing plants in the world.
Moreover, underneath the significant Group umbrella, Shirin Asal is also responsible for cattle breeding and dairy farming, which will continue to be a major contributor to the Group’s performance in the agro-industry.
“Not only this, but we have heavily invested in enhancing our own packaging plants to be able to offer this service to other companies. This promising new revenue stream forms part of the Group’s New Product Development (NPD) strategy, which also entails generating interest in our capacity to supply bespoke machinery and equipment tailored for those who choose us as their business partner,” Mr Zhaleh explains.
‘Exporter of the Year’
In order to make its products as accessible as possible, Shirin Asal has established what Miss Zhaeleh calls a “specialised decentralised strategy dedicated to efficient exports”. By shaping the Group’s global marketing and communications strategy around each country’s market and consumer preferences and controlling every link in the production chain, the organisation has been ranked as the top Iranian exporter in terms of “export activities and the wide range of countries served”, as well as being awarded with the title of “Exemplary Exporter of the Year”.
Miss Zhaeleh says: “While the Middle East and Persian Gulf countries remain Shirin Asal leading export regions, Africa, the CIS countries, the Far East, the East Europe countries and Russia, and the Balkans are becoming increasingly important trading partners. Meanwhile, the wider Group has already started to enter the new markets in Western Europe, North America, Pacific, and South American countries.”
Honesty and trust
Behind the focused activities and investments of the Group is a close-knit and diverse family of around 12,000 hardworking employees who continue to follow the leadership and guidance of Mr Zhaleh.
He says: “Enhancing the training infrastructure we have in place already is an essential part of Shirin Asal’s continuous development. People are at the centre of everything we do, and our Academy reflects our dedication to the formation of an agile and effective training programme throughout the value chain.
“The Group dynamism and growth in line with our vision, mission and values - combined with our horizontal and vertical integration strategies - are all designed to provide the framework to future-proof Shirin Asal, and make sure that we remain responsive to the country’s economical, cultural and social development going forward.”
Corporate social responsibility represents another key facet of Shirin Asal’s local rooting, having participated in some significant community projects and charitable giving over the years across employment, education and environmental awareness, designed to “create shared value for the business and society”.
Targeting an even stronger distribution network in Iran - covering the majority of the national territory including the most remote provinces - in addition to increasing product availability in chain stores, Shirin Asal is eager to expand further into the wholesale and retail sectors. The VP affirms: “Powerful distribution networks lie behind the greatest successes in the confectionery and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries, and we intend to capitalise on our connections to continue increasing our reach.”
This target will also involve the establishment of new business partnerships to increase the Group’s activities in global markets, and to ultimately grow closer to the consumer. Mr Zhaleh adds: “We are currently looking for strong and efficient business partners who are active in our target export markets, and we are finding much success from our attendance at many well-known international exhibitions and business fairs.”
He summarises: “We have always believed in a glorious future for Iran despite the hard times and economic difficulties we have faced during the past decade. Now, we will continue to create more successful products and forge new mutually beneficial relationships globally.”
Miss Zhaeleh concludes: “Backed by decades of industry expertise and product knowledge, we can make the right moves to continue achieving consumer satisfaction in a growing number of markets, all for the right price point and of a high quality.
“The real measurement of the Group’s success is consumer satisfaction; Shirin Asal has an important and growing place in people’s hearts.”