EU4Business and UNDP support Georgian breadmaking enterprise to reach more customers
When Mzia Bendeliani returned to the Georgian city of Kutaisi after 12 years of being away in Greece, she faced a problem – she could not buy good-quality bread anywhere in the city. Something needed to be done, and Bendelini took the quest to make delicious bread upon herself. Buying bakery ovens, the Georgian entrepreneur started producing loaves of healthy bread, and has since been providing Kutaisi with high-quality products for five straight years.
Bendeliani’s enterprise – Tavtukhi – got support from a joint project created by the EU and the UNDP: the EU Innovative Action for Private Sector Competitiveness in Georgia, which is under the EU4Business umbrella. As a pilot project, the venture supports cluster management organisation in the Packaging Cluster with a focus on the Kakheti and Imereti regions.
Baking as a civil responsibility
Mzia Bendeliani first became interested in breadmaking while living in Greece. Not only was she amazed by the quality and variety of bread products, but how one could find everything in the same space as if a “house of bread”. It was this “house” that inspired just such a venue in Georgia.
Lucky to find two people with similar values and goals who share her true enthusiasm, her husband Vladimer Bendeliani is now in charge of distribution and logistics and her friend Maia Nutsubidze takes care of the management. All three of them feel a great responsibility to offer Georgian customers high-quality bread products made from 100% natural and healthy ingredients. Creating just such products, no success story comes without its own challenges, however.
Bendeliani says that the local market was not ready when they first started production. In the beginning, no one believed that the bread produced by Tavtukhi was both healthy and organic. In addition, there were major already well-established companies on the market whose products were popular among locals. As such, the team struggled with sales and faced product loss almost on a daily basis.
“We would distribute our bread products and at the end of the day we had to take the majority of it back. Everybody told us we wouldn’t make it. But we did. We faced many challenges, but never gave up,” says Bendeliani.
Shared enthusiasm, responsibility towards the community, and a love for their work helped the team to push on. As a solution, they started to offer free samples to potential customers in different markets. The risk paid off. Soon, Kutaisi locals were buying Tavtukhi bread in the local supermarket chain called Daily. Later, the product could be found in the Plaza Hotel in Tskaltubo, which significantly increased sales in the area.
If in the beginning the Tavtukhi team used up to five kilogrammes of flour daily, today they bake bread using 500-600 kilogrammes of flour. Their advantage comes from making use of the common Georgian wheat varieties that have been used for centuries in the area to produce bread. The grains are grown in Georgian soil and use only biofertilizer. In addition, the bread is baked according to an ancient traditional method based on raw yeast and does not contain artificial or chemical additives but intensive yeast. Tavtukhi bread is now sold in almost all market chains in Kutaisi and has a great number of satisfied customers.
“People often call me Mzia Tavtukhi, and to be honest, I like it. Everyone in the area knows about our products and likes them. But for us, it is not enough. We want to reach higher levels and sell products not only in the region but throughout the country as well,” says Bendeliani.
Diverse support, diverse opportunities
The Packaging Cluster and its support have played a major role in the development of Tavtukhi from a small enterprise to a major breadmaking company. In the beginning, Bendeliani thought the cluster would help her improve product packaging. But the support that she received was much more diverse: including educational and consulting services, networking opportunities, expert mentorship, catalogue creation, and more. As someone who is always looking for something new to learn, this opportunity to become better educated and trained was particularly interesting.
“Education is a way for me to explore and discover opportunities, and so it has been with the cluster – job security, personnel management, marketing, and sales promotion are an incomplete list of educational programmes that the Cluster shared with me and that open up great opportunities for my small business,” explains Bendeliani. After receiving training on job safety, she did an internal audit of the enterprise and critically evaluated the labour safety standards in her company. As a result, she was able to see clearly the gaps and figured out a strategy for further improvement.
Through the internship programme, Bendeliani hosted an intern for three months. She says this is a good opportunity for young people to learn about the manufacturing process and gain hands-on experience. In return, the entrepreneur is also empowered with new ideas and human resources beneficial for the business.
Cluster support services also include joint purchases, which mean that the service fee is more affordable for entrepreneurs. At the beginning of the month, Imereti companies (members of the cluster) hired a photographer to take photos and Bendeliani is now looking forward to the catalogue to provide customers with information about her products. She thinks it will have a positive impact on the image of the company.
The Packaging Manufacturers Association of Georgia (PMAG) Packaging Cluster unites more than 80 enterprises and supports them in terms of internationalisation, capacity development, establishment of cooperation with international partners, implementation of innovative technologies and tools, development consulting and coaching, training, implementation of extended producer responsibilities, and environmentally friendly practices. The EU Innovative Action for Private Sector Competitiveness in Georgia aims to create a sector in the Packaging Cluster value chain that will continue functioning after the end of the project and contribute to further development of the sector.
As for Tavtukhi, this is just the beginning. The enterprise is going through a rebranding process and wants to significantly improve its marketing strategy for the future.
“The PMAG brought me back to my original goal – I want to make a bread house in the centre of Kutaisi. This place will be a real paradise for lovers of healthy products. I know that the Packaging Cluster will be the most reliable partner on the way to implementing my bold plans,” says Bendeliani.