Life Sciences Ingredients Magazine Interview

NOVEMBER 2019
Aromsa | News From Aromsa | Life Sciences Ingredients Magazine Interview

We made a pleasing interview with Aromsa company Founder and General Manager Mr. Murat Yasa and the company’s second generation representative and Deputy General Manager in Charge of Sales, Marketing and R&D, Mrs. Melis Yasa Aytaman where we addressed the importance of quality and R&D in flavor production as well as their sensitive handling of the environment during production.

Mr. Murat Yasa, could you please talk about yourself and your professional past?

I was born and raised in Moda, Istanbul. My grandfather was one of the first people who settled in Moda. As my father who was one of the bright students sent abroad on a scholarship by Atatürk, he completed his university education in the U.S.A. That is why upon returning to Turkey, he had to do mandatory work for the state for 15 years. Because of this, my brother and I started elementary school in Ankara, continued in Artvin Murgul and graduated in İstanbul. I attended my middle school and high school at the French school Saint Joseph. I got my BSc and MSc degrees in Chemical Engineering at the İstanbul University.

During university and until founding Aromsa I spent 11 years as a private tutor. After graduating from university, I worked as a professional. My starting position was as sales manager and at the age of 29 I became the General Manager at the company where I was working. I then completed my military service as a Naval Reserve Officer teaching chemistry at the Beylerbeyi Naval NCO Academy. After my military service I returned to my job at the company that I had been working for. In 1982 I established Aromsa at a 20 m2 space of a factory yard given to me by a friend who also loaned me USD 8000. I am married with 2 daughters and have 2 grandchildren. I speak English, French and enough German to get by.

Could you please share with our readers the key points to your success ranging from 1982 until today?

We had a renowned teacher in high school called Henri Matalon who installed the love of maths in all his students. He had a saying which I never forgot and applied in everything that I did. He used to say “If you study to learn then the grades will follow you, but if you study just for the grades then you have to run after the grades”. Every investment we make in Aromsa is in compliance with this principle, meaning our aim is not just to gain money but to consolidate our main topic and to give better service to our customers. Also, the sense of honesty and respect for the society we live in, the environment and nature instilled by our father in both myself and my brother which we apply at Aromsa has been one of the key points of our success. Consequently, Aromsa is the only Turkish company that has become leader, by surpassing the 5 largest multi-national companies in its sector, in 3 countries other than Turkey.

What is your product range and in which sectors do you provide services?

We have a formula catalogue of 34,000 flavours to service all branches of the food industry. And we can access each item of this collection at any time through a specially created program. Apart from our Quality Control Laboratories, we serve all sectors of the food industry in our 4200 m2 R&D Laboratories with about 80 personnel, who have all been trained in Aromsa. This corresponds to 25% of all the Aromsa employees. When necessary, myself and all my colleagues have the knowledge and skill to pick and apply the best fitting product according to our customers’ processes. When my customers sometimes ask me why they should work with Aromsa, my reply is “we approach the projects of our customers not with a bottle from the shelf but by dedicated work, just like a tailor made suite as opposed to ready-made clothes.”

Aromsa | News From Aromsa | Life Sciences Ingredients Magazine Interview

What are the points you consider to be important in order to be a good flavour producer?

In order to be a good flavour producer we have to satisfy the project and product needs of our customers whom we regard as our business partners, we have to use quality raw materials and make sure the standard our products are always consistent and in compliance with international regulations. Being pro-active and informing customers about the novelties in the world are the minimum criteria that a flavour company should adhere to.

In this developing world there is increasing tendency towards new flavous and healthy products. How do you shape your work at this point?

We produce raw materials for the food industry, which is all about the health of people, that is why primarily we have to follow closely all the regulations that are applied in the world. This is why FDA in the U.S.A. and EFSA in Europe determine these regulations through the research done and then publish them. In order to follow these publications, you have to find a way to become a member of these institutions. We are affiliated with AREP, the Turkish association which flavour producers and sellers are a member of. Through AREP we are immediately made aware of the regulations issued by EFFA, the equivalent of AREP in Europe, and share them with the relevant official institutions. We have a team of 4 in Aromsa responsible for following and implementing these regulations. This is the part of the regulation regarding health issues.

There is of course the part about new flavours and new tendencies where I believe my colleagues are very successful at. They have immense creativity. In order to increase their creativity and dialogue among them, we have established theater, travel, reading, photography and sports clubs within our company. And we see the benefits of this every passing day. We periodically organize innovative tasting days. We present the projects that stand out to our customers.

You have a serious market share both locally and internationally. Within this context, what is your base criteria in in determining your sales related activities?

In determining our sales related activities, the precautions that we have to take vis-a-vis the macro developments which occur beyond our control surpass everything else. Countries that we are not on good terms with which openly or covertly boycott our goods, countries which are being boycotted by the world conjuncture, the propagandas and countries where investing becomes a fashion, we have to determine a different strategy for all these scenarios. On the other hand, in the local market our biggest concern is under the counter production and to develop strategies of how to warn our customers against this unfair competition. We discuss all these issues at our “Strategy Development” workshop that we hold during the last quarter of every year and apply the results all through the coming year.

R&D holds a special place at Aromsa. Could you please tell us about the success and values that you have added to your company as a result of R&D?

We at Aromsa do not stand by the empty slogans such as “World Brand”, “R&D Center”, “We export to 70 countries”, “Biggest in the World”. Our slogan is “Actions speak louder than words”. A few years ago, my colleagues told me that they would like to apply to become an R&D Center. My reply was “the very existence of companies such as ours is R&D, we do not need an incentive for this”. But in order not to offend them I accepted this. Today approximately 5.5-6 % of our yearly turnover is allocated to R&D. The advantage we get from the state as an R&D Center is not even 3% of this amount. In Turkey the amount spent on R&D is 0.9% of the Gross National Product, this ratio is 4.36% in South Korea. We are among the first 250 companies that create added value to this country. I would like to ask a Ph.D. student to write a thesis on the incentives paid in Turkey and what added value this brings to the country.

What sort of work are you planning on doing in your R&D Center in the coming years?

Apart from our R&D Center, we also have a department of pilot units. Our colleagues working here develop innovative and perfecting processes related to our main subject. If we believe that we can improve our service quality, then we get to the step where we start investing on these projects. For Aromsa the most important thing is to work with people of quality. When I go to meet a business partner or attend any event to represent Aromsa, I feel the talent, knowledge and skills behind me and this gives me great power. Years ago, in Ankara at a conference I met a respectable professor. She said “The state is going to allocate 200 decares of land and 70 millon Dollars worth of buildings and tools to us”. I raised my hand in front of the minister, undersecretary and other officials and asked her “What sort of investment are you going to make on people?” Her reply was “This is not the topic of today” upon which I said, “Then this investment of yours is nothing but a waste of the state resources.” Unfortunately, we were unable to see eye-toeye on the priorities of an investment. The key to success is to work with quality people, no matter what you do. Otherwise you cannot get long term success. As companies grow, they stop belonging to the owner. There is a joint denominator package that they have to comply with. This package comprises: make your employees happy and respect their rights, be sensitive towards the environment and believe that the next generations also have a right to live in a healthy environment, your aim in work should be to add value to your immediate social circle and the country.

Aromsa has kept to these criteria since it was established in 1982 and was awarded “Best Managed Companies” in 2018 as a result of a research done by a world known private institution and the jury membership of a wellknown university.

Dear Melis Yasa, could you please tell us about yourself and your professional background?

After graduating from the French Lycée Notre Dame de Sion, I did my BSc degree in “Chemistry with Food Science” at the University of Reading, UK. Then, I completed my MSc degree in Food Flavours (Arômes Alimentaires) at ISIPCA in Versailles, France. I began my career working for Nestlé in Zurich, Switzerland, wherefrom I switched to Nestlé Germany and worked there for 5 years. Subsequently, I took 6 months of culinary training at the French Culinary Institute in New York. After gaining nearly 9 years of experience at different parts of the world, I voluntarily returned to Turkey and initiated my career at our family company Aromsa, where I have been working for the last 14 years.

What sort of responsibilities do you take on as a second-generation representative of the company? How are your future goals shaped considering that responsibility?

Aromsa was founded 37 years ago and has progressed so far relying on solely it is own capital. Growing through firm steps, it has become a flagship brand in Turkey and an internationally preferred one. As Aromsa, we base our operations on the strategy to become the first brand coming to mind on all markets we operate in. Besides, we are striving to keep our business partners always satisfied by delivering integrated services without compromising on quality.

I could say that it is my biggest responsibility as the second-generation representative of the company to transfer values, vision and culture of Aromsa to next generations. With the awareness of that responsibility, I am empowered by the solid foundations of our company and aim to build the future through dedicated embracement of corporate development, sustainability and innovation.

How are you and your company motivated by the fact that you are a woman entrepreneur? Is there any message you want to convey to women professionals?

I do not define myself as an entrepreneur and I find it odd that this word is so frequently used. My biggest source of motivation is the responsibility to pass over values of Aromsa to next generations. I believe, in Turkey, more women should be involved in working life and their employment are crucial for economical growth with regard to national development and the expansion of the companies. As for Aromsa, 50% of employees and 70% of managers are women. No doubt, women made enormous contribution to the present success of the company. They will maintain their contributions to further the progress of Aromsa. As the second-generation representative of the company, I will keep promoting equal opportunity for women in the workplace and support their presence for key positions.

The message I wish to convey to women is that they should never give up, never stop struggling under whatever the conditions are and follow their dreams. They will, of course, face obstacles and impossibilities on the way to success. Working hard and staying focused on the goal will be leading to target.

Aromsa has 6 factories including 5 in Istanbul and 1 in Germany. How does being a local and national producer add value to your brand? Could you please tell us about your activities to increase your power to compete with global brands and extend your business abroad?

I have always been proud of being a local and national manufacturer. As Aromsa, we are the flavour supplier and a solution partner of several food producers in Turkey. We generate integrated innovative solutions including product design, recipe development, product application and sensory panel assessments. We target to be the preferred flavour supplier in all geographies we operate in. Though Aromsa is among the top 20 flavour producers in the world regarding turnover, we compete with the big 5 world giants in terms of quality. Aromsa derives it is brand success both in Turkey and in international markets offering it is finished product support, recipe expertise and being not only a flavour supplier but also a solution partner carrying out all kinds of market research.

40% of our sales come from export realized nearly to 70 countries. We have a significant market share particularly in the Middle East, North Africa and Russia. Our objective is to leverage our power on the existing markets and to expand to other target countries. To that end, we have been maintaining R&D activities, innovation and investments for boosting production capacity of our plant in Germany.

Aromsa | News From Aromsa | Life Sciences Ingredients Magazine Interview

Could you please explain R&D activities you conduct with your business partners in your current markets and targeted new regions?

R&D has always been very important for Aromsa. Our R&D department has been doubled in size and we consistently invest in new technology. Our current R&D employees are all experts in their fields. We usually recruit the fresh graduates and invest in our human resources to train them to be the best in their field. We will keep producing top of the line, revolutionary products without compromising on quality and will sustain rendering the best services as a solution partner.

Our clients are our business partners and we have been delivering integrated services. We have been running R&D and applications and serving the sector in a wide range of food products including beverage, ice cream, snacks, processed meat, instant soups and frozen food. Our laboratories are always open to our clients for joint projects. We frequently invite our business partners, run collaborative works and execute projects together.

Could you mention your sustainability approach and activities? How could you elaborate the efficiency of those activities?

As Aromsa, we create value for the society and care about the environment while developing brand new and innovative products. Climate change, rapid population growth and depletion of natural resources lead to risks which are of particular concern to many sectors. The private sector has key responsibilities for converting these risks into opportunities through effective and proactive management and resolving global problems. To leave a better world to the next generations, we adopt an environmentally conscious approach in production. Under our Environmental Policy, we work to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint, effectively manage water and wastes and maximize our operational efficiency. To do that, we focus on combating climate change as well as energy management and operational efficiency. Our sustainability efforts make us stronger and contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This brings the vision of Aromsa to a global scale.

We support all activities to achieve food security and safety for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food, to increase productivity, improve efficiency, reduce environmental impact and to ensure responsible consumption and production approaches.