“In fact, yes and no, admits Dario Ferrari. Indeed while the first six months were up to our expectations, the economic slowdown perceived during the second half of the year surprised us and was more important than what we had then expected. But I must stress on one point, it is not the global market which came to a standstill - because it actually increased - but more the positions of the main players in this market - those who do large volumes - which were totally unsettled. Some of these heavy weight players saw their business drop significantly while small and medium players were progressing very quickly, some of them posting conspicuous growth rates, boosted by internet sales and with the help and influence of bloggers and followers. In the US too, traditional retail channels also saw their sales drop sharply. Speed to market, innovation, quick line turnovers have become key watchwords if you want to stay in the race.”
As a consequence, traditional industrial and business models have been undermined. “Because we must never forget, insists Dario Ferrari, that we’re doing a complex job that involves multiple parameters not always compatible in terms of raw materials, industrial processes, equipments implemented, packagings, required levels of quality and short delivery deadlines. Hence we are in a constant race against time, orders have diversified, requirements for innovation and deadlines have increased. You must excel everywhere and quickly, you must anticipate the next turn when you aren’t even done with the previous one.”
A factory in Korea next January
With its 13 factories and 4000 employees around the world, acting as genuine trend “sensors”, the Italian Group considers itself, with good reasons too, in the best position to anticipate, adapt better and faster to these changes. “This vision is not a gift of God, explains Dario Ferrari, it is acquired on the ground where things happen and with the players who are already in anticipation of the day after”.
Another proof of this anticipative strategy: the brand new 12000 m2 factory of the Italian Group that is being built from the ground up, in South Korea in the outskirts of Seoul and which will be operational next January. A major investment in an expanding area of the world. “South Korea is the place in Asia where things are happening, insists Dario Ferrari. The market is in China, but excellence and innovation, speed of implementation and flexibility are in South Korea.”
Packaging or not packaging: that is the question!
Flexibility and reactivity, key words at the close of the year. “Produce globally, but act locally are essential for a Group like ours, to not only maintain its leadership but, above all, continue to gain market shares,” he explains. “You must also keep track of currency fluctuations, to be able to transfer whatever production in the most competitive part of the world. With the dollar in a rising phase again, we did not hesitate to repatriate some productions to Italy. Especially as our home country has both the know-how in terms of staff and that much desired and required flexibility”.
The market is demanding more full service, additional skills and more resources, including in the packaging area... That’s no problem, the Head of Intercos is convinced that a better integration upstream will be increasingly important. “The whole question, he wonders, is how to get organised, with whom and where?”
Addressing the needs of retailer brands
Anticipate future market demands... a true second nature for the Intercos leader. “ Retailer private brands have been gaining ground and this trend is bound to continue, he explains, we have therefore decided to set up a dedicated structure, Intercos Concept, which will be in charge of supporting our customers with 360° marketing skills. A team with the necessary experience to develop concepts and product ranges, but also do merchandising and communication operations, exchange with bloggers, and so on. We recently appointed Renato Semerari  to manage the new structure. The objective: define our marketing approach ’on the field’ for a more successful development and launch of our new product lines.”