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Godiva proud to be a Turkish delight

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 9/22/2010 12:00:00 AM | ALİ KAYALAR

The premium chocolate producer's CEO, Jim Goldman, says he is very content with the company's owner Yıldız Holding's support and managing attitudes. Godiva has become Yıldız Holding's global face, as it continues to open new stores throughout the world

Godiva, a premier global chocolate chain, is proud to be a “Turkish delight,” Chief Executive Officer Jim Goldman said at a meeting Thursday.

Goldman’s delight is reflected in the company’s sales figures. The increase in sales of the company reached double digits after being acquired at the end of 2008 by Yıldız Holding, a leading Turkish group that also owns Ülker Foods.

Godiva, a U.S.-based brand founded in Belgium, is now growing fast due to new branches in the east, including in Turkey and China.

The company’s strategies changed drastically, Goldman said at a CEO Club meeting initiated by Capital and Ekonomist magazines in Turkey and sponsored by Vodafone. “Godiva was an exclusive luxury brand. Today it is an accessible luxury brand,” he said.

This strategy change months before the global crisis helped the company a lot as it increased its revenues, Goldman told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“The key strategy is to make people think of Godiva when they think anything about chocolate,” he said.

The company, which was focusing on chocolate gifting before Yıldız, today also wants to sell to individuals who want to treat themselves, he said.

The growth means no compromise in quality, he told the Daily News.

[HH] Cultural differences

Yıldız Holding and Godiva are both rooted companies with a long history but still come from different cultures, mainly due to geographical reasons.

Admitting that many corporate merges do not result in success, Goldman said, “This worked.” He appreciates Yıldız Holding Chairman Murat Ülker’s approach, which tends to support but not control the acquired company.

“Godiva is a global brand owned by a Turkish company,” he said.

“We still have much to learn from Yıldız,” he said. “Even though Yıldız may have a few things to learn from us.”

Goldman said everyone was surprised when Yıldız Holding acquired Godiva while global brands such as Nestlé, Starbucks and Mars were fighting to purchase it from Campbell for $850 million. In his announcement to employees about the acquisition, Goldman said: “I loved these guys. And believe it or not, these guys loved me.”

Nonetheless, the cultural differences still raise questions, starting from the Godiva’s logo, which symbolizes the naked Lady Godiva, as Yıldız is known as a “conservative” corporation.

Godiva was not a strategic priority for Campbell Soup, the food company that owned the brand between 1966 and 2008, he said during his speech. “For Yıldız Holding, Godiva is not only a strategic acquisition but also a key priority.”

According to Goldman the parties are cooperating openly and honestly.

Asked about Yıldız’s support of their Valentine’s Day campaign, which offered a one-night accommodation to a lucky couple in a suite totally made of chocolate, “We had their full support,” Goldman said. Actress Brooke Shields presented the campaign last year.

[HH] Best Godiva shop opened in Istanbul

Commenting on Godiva’s newest store in Istanbul’s luxurious shopping neighborhood of Nişantaşı, Goldman said, “It is the best Godiva store ever.”

The company plans to open a second shop in Akmerkez shopping mall in Istanbul by the end of year and a third one on the Anatolian side of the city in the near future.

The store is attracting great interest. “We have to be successful in Turkey as a Turkish brand,” he said.

Chocolates free of alcohol are sold at their Istanbul shop, said Goldman but he avoided giving a clear answer to questions about their future plans on the particular issue.

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