“We have a share of more than 18% in Turkish flour market”

“We continue to conduct research and development studies for new flour types. We are going to launch ready-made mixes soon. We have a share of 18.2% in retail flour market in Turkey. In Marmara region, our share hits 31.7% and we are the sector leader. We penetrated into all chain markets selling branded products. Eksun Food also produces private labeled products for most of the chain markets. We export 100 thousand tons of flour with an annual turnover of 35 million dollars and we have a satisfying place among flour exporters.”

Serdar Ayçiçek

Production and Quality Director of Eksun Food, Altınapa Milling and Sinangil

Eksim Investment Holding was founded in Istanbul in 1986 as a foreign trade company. It achieved to be one of the biggest players in this sector in a short period of time, thanks to its flour, wheat, barley, oat, soy bean, sunflower seed and maize trading operations. Eksim invested in Turkey and abroad in order to build flour, soybean, bran and feed production and storage facilities. It has become a company that is active in the whole supply chain of flour industry: From producing staples to marketing for the end user.

Serdar Ayçiçek, the Production and Quality Director of the company gave an interview to the Miller Magazine. His company is among the top groups that come to mind when you talk about Turkish flour industry. Altınapa Milling and Sinangil are among pioneering brands which this Eksim Investment Holding have created.

Here are the answers of the Production and Quality Director of Eksun Food, Altınapa Milling and Sinangil to our questions:

Mr. Ayçiçek. Would you please give us some details about Eksun Food and other brands of your company?
Eksun Food was established in 1995 in Muratlı/Tekirdağ. It has a monthly crushing capacity of 21,750 tons, a well-organized distribution network and a wheat storage capacity of 40 thousand tons. Eksun has one of the largest and most modern production facilities in its region. It has a big share in wheat flour production industry and also an important share in retail sector for grain flour, whole wheat flour and brown bread flour. Eksun Food employs a significant number of food and agriculture engineers. Thanks to its high quality standards and after sales support, Eksun achieved a high level of customer satisfaction and it continues to follow the highest health and safety standards in flour production.

Sinangil has become an important flour brand since it was created in 1963. Sinangil was added to Eksun Food brands in 2004. Sinangil also was the first brand that offered packaged flour in Turkey in 1970.

Altınapa Milling was the first flour factory producing high quality flour in 1950. Altınapa became an Eksim Investment Holding in 2001. Altınapa has a monthly wheat crushing capacity of 19,500 tons and storage capacity of 35,000 tons. Altınapa also has silos with a total capacity of 4,000 tons. Advanced production technology, special wheat types, and continuous after-sales support are the basis of quality standards and brand strength of the company. All products have quality certificates as halal certificates from Turkish Standards Institution and GIMDES.

Let’s talk about the technology you utilize at your production facilities…
Our Konya facility utilizes Bühler machinery from top to bottom. Our factory in Tekirdağ-Muratlı has a line with Bühler machinery which was built in 2000. The other line that was renewed in 2015 was built by a domestically owned firm called Yükseliş. When we built the line in 2000, it was one of the first fully automated flour mills in Turkey. Our renewed line also was founded with cutting edge technology.

Sinangil, first packaged flour brand of Turkey, is also among your brands. We would like to know about R&D and innovation efforts performed by Sinangil, its product range, quality and market penetration…
Sinangil flour was first produced in 1963 and it was the first brand offering packaged flour in 1970. Sinangil always prioritized quality and safety of its products. Therefore, Sinangil has always been a reliable brand for generations. According to a 2006 survey, Sinangil was the most well-known brand in flour industry.

Sinangil has various products within ‘multi-purpose’ flour category such as flour types for baklawa, bourek and cakes. Sinangil produces special types of flours in order to make it possible to have desired dough textures for specific end products.

As Sinangil is the leader brand of this sector, it also carries global and European trends to Turkey. For example, various bread mixes enable customers to cook their own breads at home with traditional methods or bread machines. Whole wheat flour, rye flour, village bread flour, bread flour with different cereals, bran bread flour as well as bran flour mixes for making bran cakes or cookies are all available now.

We also offer traditional products like semolina, rice flour, rice starch, corn flour, corn starch, wheat bran, and wheat germ. We also sell products for pastry sector and flour improvers.

We produce instant deserts like profiterole and tartlet. We also have functional product groups for people with metabolic intolerance like gluten-free flour, gluten-free plus, gluten-free flour with Buckwheat and low-protein starch mixes.

We continue to conduct research and development studies for new flour types. We are going to launch ready-made mixes soon. We have a share of 18.2% in retail flour market in Turkey. In Marmara region, our share hits 31.7% and we are the sector leader. We penetrated into all chain markets selling branded products. Eksun Food also produces private labeled products for most of the chain markets.

What is the position of Sinangil Flours in the sector now? And what do you foresee for it in the future?
We already have an important market share in retail sector and our aim is to get more. We also want to expand our brand with new products. On the other hand, we need to increase our share in industrial flour market which is also a very large market.

Our Tekirdağ based Eksun and Konya based Altınapa (ALPA) factories produces industrial-scale flour for making baklawa, bourek, phyllo, lavash and other bakery products, bread, toast, crumpet etc. We also have Atbazar brand especially for making pittas in holy month of Ramadan and Atbazar also enjoys high demand during Ramadans.

Do you have any preparations for frozen product market which has been growing rapidly?
We supply flour for some of the industrial scale frozen food producers. But we only supply the raw material. We do not produce ready-to-eat food. If our company decides to produce ready-made food sector, we have technical teams to do all necessary feasibility analysis.

How do you evaluate the sector you operate in? How will it evolve?
We often see that the government intervenes in our sector today. And this is a positive thing for Turkish flour industry which has become the world leader for consecutive years. We hope to see that the government will continue to support this sector. In the future, we expect that small scale companies will disappear and larger and financially stronger companies will prevail. Therefore, the number of flour mill companies will decrease. We already see this trend. The number of mills continues to decrease while flour production keeps the pace.

Turkey is by far the biggest flour exporter in the world. And your company is among the biggest exporters in Turkey. How has Turkey shined out?
Turkish flour has mostly been exported to the Africa for making various types of breads. So, diagrams of our factories and wheat types we use are all shaped according to this phenomenon. As a result, we can meet their demands. And our prices are a bit lower than competitors can offer. The support of our government also plays an important role in this achievement.

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors? Kindly please give us figures about your production capacities and exports.
We can summarize it as “Human resources and quality”. I think we show our difference at procurement decisions for wheat, sorting out the wheat, preparing quality plans for flour production in line with each one of the end products, production processes that all aspects of the food safety is fully observed and after-sales technical support provided 24/7 by our engineer teams for our customers.

Our teams of food engineers conduct visits to each of the export markets in order to collect information about end products and manufacturing plants and they analyze prospective competitors. Quality maps are prepared for each of those destinations and production processes are arranged according to quality plans. If any concerns come up, this technical team on the ground can solve it immediately to help our customers.

Our government has paved the way for the flour industry with export incentives and enabled us to be the global export leader for many consecutive years. Thanks to those incentives, our company has also realized significant export figures. We export 100 thousand tons of flour with a turnover of 35 million dollars in a year and we have a satisfying place among the flour exporters.
Climate change has a potential to affect your industry in a negative way. Which measures do you take to mitigate this risk?
We have not seen any losses of yield because of climate conditions yet. Our company can only tolerate this risk with wheat imports. From the national point of view, we should introduce a land reform, increase the agricultural incentives in order to support domestic production, subsidy wheat, expand cultivation areas, and use proper and durable seeds.

Dough shaping methods also change substantially according to climate conditions. We have a quality support unit of experts to help our customers. They analyze even the tiniest problem, diagnose it and try to solve it in the shortest possible time.

The Turkish flour industry encountered some problems stemming from the currency fluctuation. To what extent were you affected from this shock and what were the measures you took?
We are exporting to more than 20 years. So we have a deep experience in procurement of wheat imports as well. From time to time, we balance our product quality with blending the domestic wheat and imported wheat of which quality parameters are set by the Turkish Grain Board. Each year, different quality parameters come up at harvest seasons. We expected high quality until 1 month before 2018 harvest but climate conditions in the harvest season was rainy and as a result, activity of enzymes increased. Wheat started to germinate and product quality went down. These negative developments made us use the imported wheat in order to produce quality flour. We use the wheat imported by the Turkish Grain Boards in order to meet our needs. In addition to these challenges, the sudden depreciation of the Turkish currency increased our costs significantly. We had to reflect this into flour prices. A number of competitors had to decrease quantity of sales and pulled out of the market. But we continued to sell products without compromising the quality our customers need.

Since domestic wheat production was not enough to meet the domestic demand, the government put important limitations against flour exports. In addition to this, the Turkish Grain Board imported wheat to meet the domestic need and sold it to the Turkish industrialists with a price that was below its cost.

How do you source the wheat?
We blend domestic wheat and the wheat imported by the Turkish Grain Board. The Board imports mainly from Russia, because of quality, price and advantages. It also imports wheat from Europe. We use imported wheat for producing the flour we export. The Turkish Grain Board will buy more than 1 million tons of wheat this year.

Gluten-free flour is highly popular among consumers. What do you do in this segment?
We have gluten-free flour, Gluten-Free Plus (fortified with various nutrients), flour with buckwheat for people following the celiac diet. We also have low-protein mix with starch for consumers following phenylketonuria diet.

We have a strict production process for functional products. The production occurs in an isolated place from where the regular production goes on. Raw materials suppliers are chosen after gluten-free analysis and end product analysis and raw materials, supportive materials and packages are stored in a separate place. Personnel are trained for production of gluten-free food. Gluten analyses are made for each consignment during the production process and after packaging at accredited independent laboratories. No shipment is made before analysis results are received.

When we started to produce gluten-free products in 2007, only imported products were available in the Turkish market. Their prices were so high. We offered those products with affordable prices because of the social responsibility perspective we have. We still adopt this approach for the customers that need to consume those kinds of products.

According to the Istanbul Chamber of Industry, Eksun Food is among the 500 biggest industrial enterprises in Turkey. How does it motivate you to be in that list?
Eksun Food is among the 500 biggest Turkish companies according to Istanbul Chamber of Industry thanks to its sales to domestic and international markets. Of course, we are proud to reap the fruits of our efforts and being able to make into the list motivates us for further efforts to achieve better results.

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