Healthy Food from Georgia

Georgia is the new partner country in the Manager Training Programme (MP) in 2016. The pilot group, with 18 executives from middle and upper management levels, came to Germany with high expectations. They were mainly, but not only, from the food industry. As in every four-week Manager Training Programme, the participants had the opportunity to review their image of Germany; in training sessions and during visits to companies they also learnt how to present themselves and their companies favourably. They were also able to open up new business segments through individual business meetings throughout Germany.

Georgia is best known for its wines; the fact that the country also has products such as tea, herbs, dried or fresh fruit in its portfolio is not quite as well-known. “As you perhaps know, fresh fruit is not a simple product”, says MP participant George Gviniashvili. “Exporting it really is a challenge: Maintaining the cold chain – from harvest and packaging through to the final customer in Germany – requires considerable effort.” Exporting dried fruit, tea or wine seems to be simpler.

On the MP, the participants learnt a lot from the companies producing foodstuffs. The hygiene regulations, in particular, are a major issue. European legislation has been applicable in this area since 1 January 2006, and diverse EU regulations on the hygiene of foodstuffs that replace the previous national regulation apply with immediate effect. It is often difficult to gain an insight into such companies if their production is not completely transparent. However, a small number of companies made the effort to show the group their production processes. The baby food manufacturer Hipp in Pfaffenhofen has special connections to Georgia: senior partner Claus Hipp is the Georgian Honorary Consul for Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg and holds an honorary professorship in art in Tiflis. As he was not able to be present, his son Stefan Hipp welcomed the group and spoke openly about opportunities and risks for his company in Georgia. Hipp had had its own site there but had to close down the factory for fruit concentrate in the Shida Kartli region as there were not sufficient suitable apples. Altogether, he praised Georgian potential for the organic production of fruit and vegetables and said that Hipp is now investing in the primary production and the processing of fruit and vegetables (e.g. tomatoes and apples) in the Kakhetien region. During the course of the conversation, it turned out that a Georgian manager from the herbal segment is already “adding flavour” to Hipp products – through a German supplier.

The Georgian participants gradually realised that the organic market in Germany offers exactly the opportunities they are looking for. Some of the companies still need organic certification in addition to other certificates; promoting Georgian products will be another challenge. The executives discussed this during the training on marketing and in a workshop on web design and social media. This helped them to gain numerous new ideas, and they now want to create a new website or bring existing ones up to date to make an impression on their customers or potential new business partners.

The tour of Krones AG in Rosenheim was another highlight of the programme. At this location, the company produces packaging and palletizing equipment for customers in the “liquid food” industry, these primarily include bottlers. There, the participants were able to become closely acquainted with quality management. First, the various tools in the areas of planning, engineering and testing were explained to them. Then, the guests from Georgia learnt how Krones AG trains employees and also the service personnel from customer companies in its own academy, thus ensuring a high level of quality. During a tour of the company, the guests saw a completed machine being operated in test mode.

The programme also included companies from other branches of industry, for example Old Oak GmbH in Rosenheim. Here however, it was about something different: a company that grew from a small start-up based on the sound experience of two friends in the field of wood technology. Their company creates new products, with very modern designs, out of old oak. The CEO’s enthusiasm was contagious and the managers saw that it is possible to be successful even with a niche product – it takes a convincing idea and a good deal of commitment.

After days of intensive training, the group finally travelled to Berlin to present, as a pilot group, their results to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The participants were fully satisfied with their training and the newly gained insights. Keso Chachava concluded: “The programme gave me a lot of positive impressions. I enjoyed the training which showed me many already known theories from different perspectives. The group visits reinforced my belief that “Made in Germany” is the best. I also enjoyed being in a new culture and being able to visit several cities in the country.”

By Katharina Bömers, Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) of Munich and Upper Bavaria