The perfect partnership

A result of the partnership between BIDCO Africa and CO-RO, BIDCORO Africa is responsible for creating and launching great tasting products that will delight consumers across East Africa

It was in September 2017, that the announcement was made that an exciting partnership would be establishing itself in Kenya. The partnership in question would be between BIDCO Africa – the largest and fastest growing manufacturer of consumer products in East Africa, with its far-reaching sales and distribution network – and CO-RO, one of the world’s leading providers of fruit based soft drinks, selling great tasting and innovative products to more than 80 countries and counting. The resulting company, BIDCORO Africa Ltd, today develops and delivers products specifically to suit the needs of the East African consumer through the internationally recognised brand names of Suntop, Sunquick and Suncola.

BIDCORO Africa’s Chief Operations Officer, Mads Burmester, tells us about how the partnership came about. “In the months leading up to the partnership, CO-RO had made no secret of its desire to expand into Africa, having already established a strong presence in Europe, Asia and the Middle East,” he details. “The aim was to identify a strong partner that had a successful history of operating on the continent, and BIDCO Africa was one of the first entities that came up on its radar due to its strong regional presence in East Africa and its well-established distribution network.”

With initial contact having already been made between the two companies, it quickly became clear that they each shared the same core values and ethics, as well as a common strategy for future growth. The result, as Mads proclaims it be, was a great fit. “These are both very ambitious companies,” he enthuses. “One (CO-RO) has been in the juice business since 1942, and therefore has a wealth of category knowledge and experience in brand building, while the other (BIDCO Africa) has invaluable local expertise and a vast distribution and warehousing network. By bringing the two together we have created an entity that benefits from the very best of both parties.”

The stated purpose of BIDCORO Africa is to ‘refresh and delight consumers throughout East Africa with great taste and amazing experiences’, and it does so while paying close attention to three main principles – affordability, availability and accountability. As Mads goes on to explain, the key to serving the demands of the region’s consumers varies very little to how it would do anywhere else in the world. “Consumers in Africa as a whole are really not that different to those elsewhere, in that when they are attracted to a particular brand, they are prepare to pay a bit more for it, but at the same time they rightly expect more from said brand. Therefore, it is down to us to live up to their expectations.”

At the very heart of meeting these expectations is ensuring that the high standards of quality that Suntop, Sunquick and Suncola has become known for are maintained at all times. “One of the largest departments within the BIDCORO Africa business is our quality management team, made up of men and women who have received training not just by BIDCO Africa, but have also had the opportunity to visit CO-RO’s facilities in Denmark to enhance their knowledge and understanding,” Mads reveals. “One of the reasons for this is because we apply a truly 360-degree quality management approach throughout our entire value chain. This extends from our suppliers, whose own premises and activities are regularly inspected by our teams, through to our production activities, which are kept under constant quality surveillance, and onto the wholesalers and retailers. The goal at the end of the day is to finish with a product that tastes the same as if it was made in Denmark, and the regular taste test samples that we send out always meet this aim.”

Something that is also as important as the topic of quality to the company is the idea of community engagement and being a Socially Responsible Corporate (SRC). “This is something we take very seriously as we strive to have a positive impact on the local region and its people,” Mads states. “At ground level, we do lots of work with local schools, offering training opportunities for pupils, and wherever possibly we look to bring local talent into the company as their understanding of region often proves to be invaluable. In the meantime, we are constantly looking at initiatives that will help provide economic support to communities. One idea that we are trialling is the concept of opening small retail units that are owned and operated by local people, who are trained by BIDCORO Africa and supported through the supply of our various brands.”

Looking ahead, Mads is excited about the big plans that BIDCORO Africa has for 2020 and beyond, with new products, new flavours and a new production line all on the cards for the near future. As he concludes, there are also significant moves to be made in tackling some of the main agendas facing the food and drink industry globally today. “There is a significant focus in East Africa – as there is around the world – on plastic right now. As 59a user of plastic in our straws and packaging, this is an area where we want to make a difference and we are working towards finding alternatives that we can tap into to play our part in making a positive change. At the same time, we know that there will also be an increased focus on reducing sugar content in drinks in the months ahead.

“Fortunately, we at BIDCORO Africa always have a glass-half-full perspective. This means that we know that if we can develop packaging materials for our products that are sustainable and better for our environment then that is an amazing thing to do, as is the possibility to create high quality, affordable products that contain less sugar. In doing the latter, it will also help us to achieve another of our goals which is to tap into other drinks categories that are similar to juices, while continuing to strengthen our already hugely popular brands.”