The national leader in Georgia’s soft drink manufacturing industry since 2004, JSC Iberia Refreshments is engaged in bottling and selling carbonated soft drinks owned by the world’s major beverage manufacturer PepsiCo, under the trademarks of Pepsi®, 7UP® and Mirinda®. JSC Iberia also owns exclusive sale and distribution rights for PepsiCo’s non-carbonated soft drink brands: Lipton Ice Tea and Fruktovy Sad. But what many do not yet know is that the firm produces its own top-notch non-alcoholic beverages, such as Georgian Lemonade and Max Power Energy Drink.
JSC Iberia Refreshments is part of Revery Group, an international investment firm that operates in Food & Beverages, Venture Capital and Public Markets. Revery’s mission is focused on sustainable long-term value creation by way of optimizing businesses and brands to fulfill their true potential.
To understand how the company has dealt with the current crisis, GEORGIA TODAY spoke with Raikhan Aubakirova, Market lead of Iberia Refreshments PepsiCo bottler in Georgia.
TELL US ABOUT THE CORE VALUES THAT JSC IBERIA UPHOLDS.
At the heart of values for both JSC Iberia and the Pepsi brand we represent in Georgia lies the principle of responsible and efficient achievement of the goals we strive for. We are fundamentally convinced that a company’s success is inextricably linked with the sustainability of the world around us. And this year has very well shown us how truly connected we are.
Therefore, our principal value is responsibility. We believe that continuous improvement of our products, along with a responsible attitude towards our consumers and employees, are some of the assets that guarantee our success as a company and which create long-term values for society.
But to remain a successful company in times such as these is a huge challenge. We take this challenge as an opportunity. Agility is another core characteristic of our company. We choose to talk less and act more, by using our resources to the fullest. We aspire to efficiency, which leads to the maximal economic output for business and utmost benefit for our consumers.
HOW ARE YOU SUPPORTING YOUR EMPLOYEES THROUGH THE PANDEMIC?
Many in Georgia have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis. And many have formed a false idea that it has become easier to select personnel due to the shortage of jobs in the country. This conception does not comply with our company’s vision. We are not taking advantage of this situation and we do not believe in short-term opportunities. If a company hires an employee with a low salary, he or she will quit the moment the market situation improves. Iberia Refreshments has a different strategy to attract, hire and cooperate with talented employees over the long term. We invest in people; we help them grow and develop, together with the company. I trust the employees who have been with us for a long time, who deliver high performance through passion and dedication to their work, who are loyal to the company. It is important for them to see the development potential of the company and, of course, development opportunities for themselves too. Our task is to provide them with such opportunities, as we strive to become one of the top employers in the Georgian job market. There are many smart and motivated people in Georgia, and unfortunately many of them emigrate. By investing in people, supporting a new generation, helping them adapt to and develop in their own country, we want to motivate them to stay in Georgia. We do need qualified, educated people here in Georgia, who can quickly adapt to new market requirements. That’s why we go the extra mile for every single employee. We train them, because we think learning is the best investment in both professional and personal development; it helps deliver outstanding results. After all, focus and consistency are key.
Our company has done everything imaginable for the safe arrival and stay of our employees in the workplace. We set temperature screening at the entrance, provided each employee with personal protective products (antiseptics, masks, protection shields). And we made sure that every single one of our employees kept their job.
HOW HAS THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS AFFECTED OTHER AREAS OF YOUR BUSINESS?
The coronavirus crisis has affected the operation of almost all existing companies. These are indeed hard times, with the world facing strict regulations and restrictions that hinder daily operational processes.
We work in the FMCG field, and sales in this sector have certainly decreased, though less compared to other industries. We’ve seen certain changes in buying behavior. Due to the pandemic and restrictions, most people have switched to eating at home, and they try to buy cheaper products. Many restaurants and shops are closed. Indeed, there is a drop in sales, but the situation is not critical. I hope that after the restrictions are lifted, the market will recover quickly.
Georgia is a country that has been through its share of crises, and the Georgian economy has always recovered. I believe this time will be no exception either, and the first signs of recovery may be visible as early as the coming year. Until then, we strongly believe that in such times of anguish, all of us should stand together and be resilient. It’s a big challenge, yet an opportunity to acquire new skills and learn how to handle crisis situations in the best way. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.
TELL US ABOUT JSC IBERIA’S PROJECTS THAT YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF.
The most successful project is the path we have traveled to create our unique business in Georgia. Most people associate our company with the Pepsi trademark, yet our business has a multifaceted development vector.
JSC Iberia was able to provide the Georgian soft drinks market with products of its own, namely the famous and much-loved Georgian lemonade Iberia, with a wide range of flavors, and Max Power Energy Drink, which is very popular among young people.
Thanks to this step, we have become one of the big players in Georgia’s beverages market. We also created a powerful production base for the future development of other consumer categories at our own facilities.
We care deeply for the preservation of our environment. We are in favor of reducing the use of plastic. Therefore, we have reduced the weight of bottles and the amount of plastic in packaging. We also transfer the production of part of our drinks to non-PET lines. Today, other than PET bottling lines, glass bottles and aluminum can lines also operate in Tbilisi’s production facilities.
We care for the health of our consumers, which is why we’ve introduced to our market low-calorie, sugar-free beverages, such as Pepsi Black, Pepsi Lime and Pepsi Mango.
Thanks to the rich palette of drinks that Iberia Refreshments offers, we have managed to significantly improve the company’s market position and create an extensive distribution base.
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS?
Successful companies are those that can grow at a faster rate than the market does.
I believe that we can aim for more and build a sustainable company that gives more job opportunities and creates more value for people and society. We will invest a lot in business, marketing, innovation and design in order to attract more consumers. We want to become one of the fastest growing companies in Georgia’s consumer goods sector.
Interview by Elene Dzebisashvili