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March 31, 2017

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Creating a household name on sweet note

Demand driven by China is key driver for future growth, Godiva chocolates owner chief says

Cem Karakas may be running the world's newest snack conglomerate, Pladis Group-established less than one year ago last April-but his ambitions to grow the company's market share in China are as big and mature as any of the veteran players in the country.

"In five years, whenever you ask a Chinese to name a chocolate brand, it will be Godiva. And we will achieve it," Karakas said. The Belgian chocolatier is by far the most recognized brand in the new group's product portfolio in the mainland.

In 2016, Yildiz Holding, the biggest food company in Central & Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, brought together its core biscuit, chocolate, and confectionery businesses. These included Godiva Chocolatier, United Biscuits, Ulker and DeMet's Candy Company and the move formed a new global company, Pladis.

The company is named after the Pleiades constellation, a group of seven stars visible from anywhere on Earth.

With 36 factories in 13 countries, 26,000 employees and operations in 120 countries, Pladis annually generates over $5 billion in revenue.

Recently, Karakas spoke to China Daily about his vision and in particular, the strategies of chocolate brand Godiva in China. The following are edited excerpts of the interview:

How do you align your business strategy with the Chinese market, where the snack industry is already crowded with multinational and domestic brands?

Pladis is a very young enterprise, just established back in April, 2016. Having said that, the companies and brands that comprise Pladis are very old. The oldest brand we have dates back to 1806.

Overall, we are talking about 350 years of heritage, which differentiates us from other global snack players.

The Chinese market is very important for us. About 50 percent of our revenue comes from England, the Middle East and Turkey. The rest is primarily North Africa and Asia, Asia meaning China and Japan.

The Asian region has been our fastest-growing segment, particularly Japan, which has grown by 100 percent annually over the past five years. While we have been exporting to China for quite some time, our actual strategic entry there happened very recently, in 2010. We started with 20 employees in China, and right now we have in excess of 1,000 employees and in 2016 had about $85 million in revenue compared with almost nothing in 2010.

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