Sarom Packaging, one of the most important players on the market glass packaging and profile consulting, announces for the next four years, new investments in value of EUR 3.2 million, in storage capacity and the opening of new branches. And not only. The company is already present in three countries outside of Romania. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the glass packaging industry has led to discontinuity transport cycles, affecting product stocks globally. The specifics of the glass require a good forecasting of manufacturing and distribution processes, which could not be valid under the conditions of extreme market dynamism in 2020 and 2021.
By Romanita Oprea
Coupled with staff turnover, new regulations legislation in the field, logistical difficulties and difficulties in the supply chain, brought the industry in production incapacity, being unable to respond to market demands. BR set down with Jacques-Edouard Savoiu, Managing Director Sarom Packaging, and found out more about the company’s plans.
What determined you to make those investments right now?
The timing is selected both due to internal and external factors. On the one hand, we have been working on a strategy set up 7 years ago. So, we are always thinking long term. Right now, our organization is consolidated, we doubled our team in the past three years. This growth is not possible without constant investments. In addition, we have also noticed that the local market is more educated so the need for more specialized services is present – therefore we had to cover lines of services that were out of our core business. Last but not least, the end-consumer is becoming more aware of the benefits of using glass packaging versus other materials.
Towards what and how will they be coordinated?
We have clear strategic directions that dictate our investments. First and foremost, we aim for operational excellence. Of course, this means constantly investing in our people and both their personal and professional development. Another aim for our investments is the continuation of process digitalization to ensure a seamless client experience. Also, being very near geographically to our customers, both with our team and products is essential to provide best in class customer service.
How was 2021 for your company?
I think the main point would be that our team got stronger. After 2020 when we were still ringing to find solutions, 2021 came with less of a “fight or flight” way of doing things. Having a strategy in place offered us options for approaching unpredictable events. So, while a bit hard in the first months, our growth rate is going as planned. Having a stable team also helped a lot.
How did you adapt to the pandemic and what were the major lessons you learned?
The major lesson is not to panic. And remembering that all business has a human side. So we really took our time to listen to our clients and partners and try to find solutions that could minimize the pandemic impact. Of course, having closed borders and various transport-related restrictions made things harder, but we knew it would be a temporary situation. Good things also came out of 2020. As a team, we got closer. Hard times tend to bond people.
How did you start 2022 – what were your goals and expectations and how were they met or not so far?
2022 is going as expected so far. We have continued the expansion of our company and we expect to reach our targets by the beginning of 2023. Similar to 2021, we had a lot of challenges in terms of transport efficiency and glass capacity availabilities given the geo-political context.
You said that you are the only company in the Romanian market that offers consulting services in the area of glass packaging, including the logistical aspects of this type of business. How difficult is it to be in this position and why do you believe you don’t have competition?
It’s not an easy task because we have to put a lot of effort into finding the right people that can serve our client’s needs best. Since the local glass industry is not that popular, finding employees with the right skill sets is hard. I believe right now we are the only player that has the majority of its employees with hands-on industrial expertise obtained in glass factories across Western Europe. Beyond people, there is a logistical element that comes with the business. Some clients might not be aware that the glass bottle / jar they choose is not following the standards applied in their target market. Because it’s very detailed information. Yes, there are other companies working with glass packaging, but not at our level of expertise, they are more into a reseller profile.
How would you characterize the industry you are operating in? How dynamic is it?
It is quite dynamic, even volatile I would say. Especially in the last 2 years. We need to understand that at the ground level, glass production comes down to using electricity and gas. And we are all aware of the current challenges Europe faces in this regard. Back to the industry, this made production prices spike quite a lot. Between 30% to 100% in some cases, compared to last year. Take that number and couple it with the fact that right now the offer is about 30% lower than the market demand and you can see how challenging it can be to navigate this industry. We can see significant price changes on a monthly sometimes even weekly basis.
If you could, what would you change in Romania in the industry and why?
I would make it more visible. We tend to forget that glass is at the core of the food & drinks industries and a big part of pharma also. Glass is omnipresent, yet “invisible”. We take it for granted and sometimes undervalue it. It is also an industry that requires a lot of skill. From engineers to industrial designers to logistics experts, expertise is needed from end to end. With the right “marketing campaign” it can be very attractive for young people.
What are the main trends in the industry at this moment?
Right now I would say the main trend from a product point of view is the need to reduce the overall bottle weight. We still want the same performance but with a lower cost in terms of carbon emissions and material input.
Another interesting trend is the higher need for personalization. With more factories being able to produce smaller batches, this has become more approachable by a wider array of clients. They can have specialty glass solutions tailor-made for their needs.
How do you keep your employees happy and you retain them? What is your recipe?
I wish there was a magic recipe but there isn’t one. None that we could find anyway. In truth what we did was just adapt to their needs and find the things that motivate them. Giving the right person the right role for them. Even though we are a mid-size company, along with our HR Business Partner we have put a career development plan in place. We want people to know that they have a place here. And of course, we are not neglecting the personal development side of things. We have flexible working policies and a work environment based on trust.
How important is in your success the strong relationship you have with The International Technical Center for Bottling and Related Packaging in Paris? (Centrul Tehnic Internațional pentru Îmbuteliere și Ambalaje Conexe de la Paris)?
It’s very important. Cetie has over 550 experts at its disposal. This is critical because it allows us to stay in touch with the latest developments in terms of glass bottle technical standards and regulations. We have a direct line whenever the need for expertise arises. This enables us to solve problems of a highly technical nature and also pass information on issues that we face which are specific of the territories we cover. In this way, knowledge is produced over time and more accessible.
You declared that in 2023 you intend to consolidate your position as a leader in the local market and to open new branches abroad to be closer to the needs of its customers. What are the countries you are targeting and why them?
We’re looking at our neighbouring countries. The main reason has to do with local know-how on how the specific market is structured and what their needs are. We intend to strengthen and further expand our position of regional player, so it is a natural step in that direction. Since our sales have increased at a fast rate every year in these countries and because we receive considerable business it is just a question of how can we be of better service.
How important is it for you that it is a family business?
It is important to keep the principle of a family business. Hard work, ethics, and being able to trust each other. We started from a few people and now we are dozens. But with each new employee, I like to think the family grows. Yet even families have to adapt to new challenges so in this sense we are quite a modern one.
What legacy do you want to leave for the future generations?
The love for glass. We need to remind ourselves and others that what we do is creative and passion-driven. We create something from the most modest of materials. No wonder even Netflix does a show about glass. But glass, like success, takes time and dedication.