29. feb 2024

Classic Values in a Changing Business Environment

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Classic Values in a Changing Business Environment

The industrial processing of fish in Engure has a history of more than a hundred years. The first processing factory was built there in 1907 upon the order of the well-known sweets and fish canneries manufacturer "L.W. Goegginger".

Initially, fishermen smoked their catch at home, while the factory skillfully packed fish into cans. In 1931, the Engure fish canning factory became the owner of the brand "Diplomats". At that time, it was created to successfully export sprats and herring to the USA.


Even now, with an elegant retro atmosphere and the revitalized "Diplomats" brand in 2017, the recognition of the fish processing company "Unda" extends both domestically and to more than twenty foreign markets. The closest ones include Poland, Germany, Ukraine, and the farthest ones reach Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the USA, and others.

"Not too long ago, in the early 2000s, almost 90% of our production was exported to the east – Russia, Kazakhstan. Large markets where our products were well-known, and even working in two shifts, we couldn't meet the demand. However, undoubtedly, such market proportions are not secure," says Artūrs Bubišs, the chairman and co-owner of "Unda." At that time, he started working as the sales manager in his father's company in 2014, and as he admits, his previous experience in banking helped identify risks and initiate changes.


A shy Latvian delicacy

The first participation in the international exhibition "SIAL" in Paris led to somewhat "salty" but very useful insights. "It is one of the largest food professional exhibitions in Europe, bringing together representatives from around 200 countries. It's a great opportunity to showcase oneself, make contacts with serious distributors, and also appreciate the work of colleagues from other countries. And one thing was immediately noticeable – our products with their traditionally reserved grayish design simply disappeared among the enticingly colorful and eye-catching labels of other countries' canned food manufacturers.

We have never doubted the quality of our product; we can compete globally, be interesting in Western markets with our products, but to operate successfully there, we needed to create a distinctive, attention-grabbing, and strong brand. The revitalization of the "Diplomats" brand and its visual solution – a friendly, solid man from the early 20th century, representing the heyday of Latvia, allows us to stand out and be noticed in new markets. The logo is visually concise but rich in content, as it refers to our rich historical heritage, traditions, and at the same time modern high production standards," proudly emphasizes the CEO of "Unda."


Fish canning market insights

Another historical feature of Engure's fish processing is the focus on exports. It steadily developed in the 1930s and continued even in Soviet times when sprats and other canned goods produced by the Engure fishermen's collective farm were popular in the former East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and even distant Mongolia. After the establishment of SIA "Unda" in 1992, the company exported almost all of its production, well-known among industry professionals in Latvia but less noticeable to consumers.

The revitalization of the "Diplomats" brand marks changes in "Unda's" domestic market policy. "Challenges are an integral part of business, but working in export markets, the increasing intensity and impact of global and local crises in recent years are strongly felt. Learning to work in rapidly changing conditions. It adds gray hairs, but it also provides valuable experience and resilience.


After the annexation of Crimea, exports to Russia ended, and new paths had to be quickly found, gaining the trust of Western distributors and consumers, but that takes time. We also produce private-label canned goods for clients with their own brands. However, we want to be irreplaceable, so the priority, of course, is the development of the "Diplomats" product line. This means constantly adding and improving our assortment, precisely aligning with demand in various markets. For example, "Cepto Brisling Sardines" have ten different sauces. If we add a little pepper so that tears flow when tasting it ourselves, then predictably, Israeli distributors will say – everything is good, just add a bit more spice, but Germans will choose the milder option," Artūrs explains, smiling, outlining a brief course in the fish canned goods market.

Expressive brand – a stimulus for job choice


Last summer, "Unda" opened its first fish can concept store in Engure. Seeing more than 60 types of products neatly arranged on the shelves, even long-time company employees were surprised and proud of the same created taste and color diversity. The idea is partly borrowed from Portugal, where such concept stores are common, and buyers no longer need to be convinced that canned fish is a tasty and healthy product suitable for daily consumption and festive tables.

Latvian consumers also appreciate the variety of flavors offered by "Diplomats." Recognition and demand in local retail chains are growing. However, Artūrs points out that an expressive brand is not just a marketing tool: "In our industry, there is serious competition in attracting employees. Undoubtedly, the company's recognition is an important factor in choosing a job, and our solid "Diplomats" reflects such "Unda" values as respectful attitude and correct fulfillment of commitments to employees." SIA "Unda" has registered trademarks for "Diplomats," "Unda," as well as design samples for canned goods and concept store design. The registration process went smoothly because the company's management immediately decided to enlist the services of a professional consultant, patent attorney Anda Briede. "We operate in export markets, so there are many important legal nuances in trademark registration that must be considered. It's better to entrust such work to a professional in the field. We used the financial support of the SME fund "Ideas for a Stronger Business" administered by the Patent Office, and the registration costs were not high," Artūrs Bubišs appreciates the collaboration with the patent attorney.

"Diplomats" Innovations


Revealing the future plans for the "Diplomats" brand, Artūrs emphasizes three development directions. "The first is classic. These are well-known and popular products, starting with the national treasure (and that's no exaggeration!) – sprats, and continuing with various variations of canned cooked fish. The second line is "Diplomats Gourmet" products, appreciated by gourmets because we use even higher-quality and exotic ingredients in their preparation. The third line is an innovation that has not yet reached the market as we continue to develop it – "Diplomats Active." It will be ready-to-use, healthy, balanced, high-quality food. These products are intended for enthusiasts of an active lifestyle, those who go on long hikes, participate in endurance races. A good way to quickly, conveniently, and deliciously replenish lost energy. With "Diplomats Active" line products, we will also try to participate in military procurements.


This spring, when our online store starts operating, buyers can choose and evaluate all three "Diplomats" product lines in it, just like in the concept store, and see that we create healthy and tasty products in attractive packaging in Engure," invites Arturs.


You can find original interview text in Patent Office webpage.



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