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A flair for spice

May 17 2017 13:15
Ru Harris

Over the past 36 years the Haller family has spiced up the South African meat, food and catering sectors. Today, Deli Spices is forging ahead with an aggressive growth strategy from their headquarters in Epping, Cape Town.

The highly respected family-run group that specialises in herbs, spices, blends, sauces, glazes, marinades, breading, soup bases and convenience foods recently announced a strategic partnership with MANE, a leading global flavours and fragrances company.

Deli Spices CEO Robin Haller shares some insights into Deli Spices’ robust entrepreneurship.

How did Deli Spices come into being?

My father, Walter, is a brilliant Fleischmeister,  which means he has a German master’s degree in Butchery. He came to South Africa from Germany in 1965 and in 1981 decided to start up Deli Spices in Cape Town. While it was risky, he was confident that his networks and the knowledge he had of the meat industry would see him through – and it did!

My father is a stickler for quality and the best ingredients. He also established a loyal following in the Cape Flats by going the extra mile to form good business relationships with Indian and Muslim butcheries. As chairman of Deli Spices he remains hands-on with the technical side of the business.

What was it like growing up in the family business?

Growing up with my older brothers, Thomas and Claus, we witnessed our father’s hard work and dedication first-hand. This experience has honed our ambitions to make the business a success. Thomas is a mechanical engineer and astute negotiator, while Claus is a food scientist. We always have and continue to play an integral role in supporting our father. He is truly a phenomenal man. Deli Spices is now ranked in the top three industrial spice companies servicing the meat industry in South Africa. After all these years we remain dedicated to creativity, quality, food safety and service.

What did you do prior to becoming CEO?

After matriculating from South African College Schools (SACS) in Cape Town, I completed a diploma in business management and administration in Germany. I joined the family business in 1993 and gained relevant experience in procurement, operations and logistics, while playing a key role in the marketing of the business. I also focused on negotiation, relationship development and company growth objectives.

Tell us more about the partnership with MANE and the impact this will have on Deli Spices and the industry.

The partnership with MANE will allow us to bring the best global knowledge in aromatic expertise to the local food industry. It will also give us the ability to place a strong emphasis on best-in-class innovation and expansion. Innovation is the driving force behind Deli Spices’ dynamic product offering. In order for us to service butcheries, delis, meat processing plants, retail corporates, speciality customers, food services and catering organisations we need immense knowledge of our clients’ requirements and we also need a great understanding of consumers’ demands.

How do you stay motivated?

I am motivated by the fact that the shareholders and directors of Deli Spices share my entrepreneurial spirit. We share an intense passion and commitment to produce a supreme product and becoming the market leader in our industry. Our dedicated product development staff travel to overseas food shows to understand and share global trends. I stay focused through detailed planning, meticulous execution and practicing patience.

How tough is competition in your sector, and what differentiates your product and service from others?

The industry is highly competitive. Price competitiveness and innovation are the key to differentiation. Many competitors tend to opt for bulking out product with carrying agents flavoured with oleoresins, which dissipates flavour with shelf life and freezing.

“Cheap” and “value” are very different concepts. We will never compromise quality or safety, and we push our value proposition. We are also one of the biggest soya traders in the country. We have worked hard selling the benefits of soya concentrates to meat processors. Fresh meat is in high demand, but largely out of reach of the mass market. Meat, stretched with soya, brings it within reach.

What are the three biggest difficulties you’re having to overcome?

The current political uncertainty in the country, the volatile rand and the stagnant economy are huge difficulties we, and I’m sure other businesses, are facing at present.

How big is your operation?

We currently have over 500 employees, as well as distributors in all the major cities in South Africa. And with our recent merger with MANE, we are expecting an aggressive growth spurt.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

“Pass the ball.” There are always people out there who have strengths that complement your weaknesses. Have the courage to allow them to add value.

What advice can you offer other family-owned businesses?

Planning, strong leadership and a collective, inclusive approach is the key to a successful family-owned business. Always separate ownership from function and leadership. Ownership is a right, leadership is earned.

This article originally appeared in the 11 May edition of finweekBuy and download the magazine here.

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