“We always established long-lasting friendship with our customers. This friendship is much more important than the trade. Together with this relation, they found professional management and service without a glitch. We produce products in line with our customers’ need with experience in bakery and pastry. Our customers do not face with unpleasant surprises thanks to the stable and quality products during a year including harvest period.”
Hasan Özmermer, Board Member of Özmermer Un
Mill sector has been developing rapidly in Turkey that has the prominent position in flour export in the world. Flour companies that continuously renew their investments and technologies are ahead of their competitors in terms of quality and health. One of these companies is Gaziantep-based Özmermer Un. The magazine interviewed with Hasan Özmermer, a third-generation managers, at Özmermer Un to talk about the firm’s story that began sixth-six years ago as a small pitta bread bakery.
He said that the company became a symbol for continuous development and change not only in Gaziantep but also in local and international level. He noted that the company acts with a vision, which is to create difference and to become international, respected and a leader company. Saying that the company holds customers, partners, supplier and employee satisfaction above anything else, he said the company does not make sacrifice from quality.
The following is full interview with Hasan Özmermer, a board member of Özmermer Un.
Mr. Özmermer, can you tell us about the founding story of Özmermer Un?
Our story began with Hasan Özmermer that established a small pitta bread bakery in 1953. My father, Mustafa Özmermer, and my uncle, Ali Özmermer, installed Özmermer Bread Factory in 1976. In 1983, they established Has Bread Bakery Products, which was the first modern bakery and produced different breads. In 1993, they established Has Cafe and produced all kinds of biscuits and cake and also baklava. In 1994, they found Özmermer Un with capacity of 120 tons wheat breaking per day in order to have flour with higher quality based on their experience. Because of investment during the first three years, they increased the daily production capacity from 120 tons to 250 tons. In 2013, we established a full automation new factory with capacity of 600 tons wheat processing per day on 50,000 square meters after receiving high demand and customer’s expectation. Now we continue to produce in our new facility.
As a family company, how did you manage to flourish on solid grounds?
We have a sixty-six years old experience. From the day one to this day, we understood the customers’ need and worked to produce better products. Thanks to foresight depending on this experience, we established a management system based on solid grounds. The most important reason which brought us today is our efforts to realize excellence at each unit.
Can you tell us about your production facilities and the technology you use?
As an infrastructure, we have a facility with a capacity of 1200 tons wheat breaking. In 2013, we activated 600 tons of this facility. On 50,000 square meters, the facility has 59 silos, four of them are made of steel, that can stock 35,000 tons wheat. Our facility was established with the latest technology. All products are produced without human touch and in line with all quality standards in a full automation facility, and these products are packaged.
WE ARE ABOUT TO PRODUCE LUXURY GOODS
What kind of plans do you have for the future?
We began procurement process in order to activate the second 600 tons daily production in order to meet the customer’s demand. We will activate the production of luxury group that we have worked on feasibility studies. We plan to establish interactive training classes after making agreements with universities and vocational high schools so that we can offer practical education to relevant students.
Can you give us information about variety of the products? How many products do you have and which products do you produce the most?
First of all, we make production according to customers’ special demand. Also, we have different products in different categories for overseas markets. There are total of 12 varieties of products that we regularly produce and have them in our stocks. We produce most pitta bread, thin bread, pastry, pie, machine and thin sheet of dough.
How do you describe your company and your products in terms of quality?
Our quality control starts during procurement of wheat. Once the quality control department approves the procurement, the production starts. Flours are constantly kept at control during breaking process in a homogenous way in our flour silos. When we have approval from our food engineers, we start packaging. We took samples from the last lot to make physical, chemical and rheology test. Once we have the final product, it goes through visual, physical and taste.
WE SUPPORT TURKISH MACHINERY SECTOR
What do you think about employment and your support to Turkey’s economy?
Our driving force is to give back to our dear society what we took from our dear lands. We are a big family with our team members and suppliers. As a result of our exports, we contribute to the economy as much as we can. We invest in our sector what we earn. Here, we support Turkish machinery sector that has a leadership position in milling. We are careful to evaluate the national capital to stay in the country.
Where do you get the raw materials from?
Because of our product range, we supply wheat both at home and abroad. In abroad, we supply from particularly Siberian region, Russia, Ukraine and Lithuanian. In Turkey, we buy from farmers, traders, TMO and TIGEM.
Could you tell us about your annual production and exports?
We process 180,000 tons wheat annually. The average production volume is 120,000 tons. Our exports correspond to 10 percent of production.
Why do your customers prefer to work with you?
Firstly, we always established long-lasting friendship with our customers. This friendship is much more important the trade. Together with this relation, they found professional management and service without a glitch. We produce products in line with our customers’ need with experience in bakery and pastry. Our customers do not face with unpleasant surprises thanks to stable and quality products during a year including harvest period. So, our customers do not find themselves in embarrassing situations.
At overseas markets, which regions are you most active?
Turkey is the number one country for flour export around the world. The bigger part of this export goes to Iraq and Syria. We are active in the Middle East market, which Turkey’s neighbors Iraq and Syria are part of, as a result of our location advantage.
What sorts of problem do you have in export to Iraq and the Middle East market?
The biggest problem we have in Iraq is that the banking system is not settled yet. Additionally, the open account transaction is dominant in Iraq market, and periods are long. The political instability in the Middle East affects our sales from time to time. Tax, which is implemented by the Iraqi government recently, and Iran’s efforts to enter into this market are among problems.
IRAN LIMITED TURKEY’S MARKET SHARE IN IRAQI MARKET
What sorts of difficulties do you experience in Iraq following Iran’s interest into this market?
Because of technological infrastructure and raw materials, Iran is far away at meeting Iraq’s demand for high quality and energy. However, due to cheap workforce and tax advantage, provided by the Iraqi government, Iran has begun to enter into Iraq with low quality and cheap products. This reality has shifted Iraqi customer’s demand that request high quality product with high price. Together with this change, demand has increased for cheaper and poor quality flour while it decreased the price of high quality products. Iran force Turkey to limit its market share in Iraq.
What kind of works do you carry out in wheat and flour analysis quality control laboratory with R&D efforts?
We revised our laboratory last month. It is brand new and twice as large. We added new engineers into our team, and 10 percent of workforce is at research and development department. Our system and products are becoming more quality and proper in line with our excellent working principle with R&D laboratories establishing cross links in and outside of the sector. Apart from all these studies, R&D department set another objective which is to produce products that our customers want with natural ways. That is to say the objective is getting rid of blended flour.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a southeastern firm?
It is advantageous for a southeastern company to be close to Iraq and Syria that Turkey carries out most of its flour export. Another advantage is to be in center of Hatay, Adan and Şanlıurfa that can produce raw materials that have more quality and high-energy. On the other hand, we are far away from a port to export to overseas markets, and we have to import wheat. After the tunnel, these will not be disadvantage.
What kind of difficulties do you experience as a sector?
One of the most important problems of our sector is reaction against gluten. This reaction is baseless and usually appears in media. The claim that appears in the media constantly changes the consumption habit. However, bread is a basic nutrient, which is a source of energy rich in vitamins. In terms of production, lack of qualified work force is one of the main difficulties in the sector. Lack of trained and experienced employees to work in production slows the progress of industry.
Mr. Hasan, you are a lawyer and a member of the board as a third-generation administrator. Could you tell the contribution your education has made to your work?
Since I am educated in a law faculty, we have advantage to apply rapidly changing laws. We also regularly conduct legal risk analyzes against legal risks that may arise from our companies, and we take steps accordingly.
WE REALIZED OUR GRANDFATHER’S DREAMS
How much do you think you realized the dreams of your grandfather Hasan Özmermer who you described as “our founder whose dreams were bigger than his opportunities”?
We have a family gene to realize our dreams. Our precious grandfather, Hasan Özmermer, contributed to Turkey’s economy and provided employment while giving back to this land more than he gained; and also he dreamed a sustainable company. On the top of his bakery, we established Özmermer Flour Factory and Has Synthetic Bag Inc. We employed 700 people.
What do you think about IBATECH Istanbul Fair that you participated in?
As a company, we participated in IBATECH Fair for a long time. Each time we get more output than before. We promote our products. Also, we had the chance to meet our friends and customers from all over the country. Additionally, we track the sector thanks to meetings with sector shareholders visiting the fair. From this perspective, the fair was productive and profitable not only during the fair but also after the fair.
Is there anything you would like to add?
The sector still has its shortcomings. Also, there are unfulfilled demands of customers. For this reason, we put all of our efforts into this job, and we carry out researches and invest all the time to meet customer’s changing demands and expectations.