PM: Alan, Harison is a very young brand – 3 years old. What prompted you to join the company from one the size and scale of Nestle?
AB: Indeed, Harison is a young brand. But since its launch in 2015, it has doubled its market sales in each year, with 2018 on track to maintain this growth level. The attraction for me to join the Harison management team was centred on their passion to take the brand global within Travel Retail, with a unique but simple premium chocolate proposition centred on Exclusivity, Quality and Affordability.
PM: Shibu, what were the origins of the brand name? The company is based in Dubai, but Harison has decidedly English roots. Was it the fact that it kick starts the brand with an aura of tradition?
ST: This brand was conceived and aimed at fulfilling the huge gap in the DF & TR confectionery category of an affordable, premium European chocolate range. This brand is dedicated exclusively to the DF & TR industry due to the fact that consumers’ purchase reason at a DF store is to gift or share it with their loved ones. Therefore they need an exclusive product.
PM: The confectionery market has been flagging in the past three years, whereas other categories have been performing well. What do you put that down to?
AB: Whilst the category has returned to growth in 2017, at 3.7% (source: Generation Preliminary 2017 sales – May 2018), it does follow two years of decline.
I believe the driving force behind the two year decline and conservative growth last year is the convergence of different factors – some not unique to the confectionery category, but others that are. In terms of the latter, I believe it’s largely driven by a diminishing shopper appetite for the standard confectionery ”me too” proposition, both in product offer and value. Combined with the innovation gap closing between local and Travel Retail packaging, this has resulted in a dilution of differentiation and, in turn, the Travel Value proposition. This, combined with a standard promotional proposition that no longer engages or resonates with the shopper to previous historic levels.
PM: So do you think that buyers’ strategy in confectionery has not been bold enough, with discounted, sharing packs and promotions masquerading as ‘experiential’ and insufficient choice being the best the industry can come up with? Isn’t it time to seriously innovate?
AB: I do believe we need to re-energise the confectionery category, to deliver stronger growth, centred on more breakthrough product innovation, driven by greater shopper insight with stronger differentiation from the local market. All this through exclusivity of brands, packs and unique product recipes.
PM: What unique differences does Harison bring to Travel Retail?
AB: The Harison brand is one of the few truly exclusive chocolate brands. Its proposition is centred on a Premium Chocolate experience at an affordable price, built on Exclusivity, Quality and Price.
PM: So, for you, this is a straightforward business solution to serve the current market needs? A premium product range offered at tremendous value.
AB: Simply put, the Harison Premium Chocolate brand delivers for all stakeholders. For the consumer, a premium chocolate experience, providing exclusivity, quality and affordability. For the retailer, incremental category growth.
PM: Dubai based, your range covers Swiss, Belgian and Italian chocolates. Is anything made in Dubai?
AB: Nothing is manufactured in Dubai. It’s the location of the main distribution hub and the operational office of the holding company, Sweetgarden. A selective number of our recipes are unique, though, in terms of only used by Harison – specifically the Italy origin product.
PM: Are you looking to broaden your offer?
AB: Whilst we have a bespoke Destination pack with the Harison Neapolitans 400g sourced from Switzerland, our primary focus on the Harison brand is within the Premium subcategory, but covering a broad section of segments within the subcategory. Within the brand portfolio of Sweetgarden we have alternative brands such as Jersee and Elvan, with products that cover the Sharing subcategory in confectionery.
PM: So what’s your strategy for the next 12 months?
AB: The strategy for the next 12+ months is built on the following key pillars: product innovation, shopper engagement, increased distribution and in-store execution.
PM: If there was one message you wanted to leave with the business, what would it be?
AB: The Harison Premium Chocolate proposition delivers both for the shopper in terms of exclusivity, quality and value, and for the retailer in terms of generating incremental category sales growth.