The Marketing and Development Sector in Ledo is a single and integrated entity. This allows for a stronger synergy of all functions, as research and development is perceived as a constant development process that requires the participation of all employees in this sector.
Today, Ledo d.d. for the production and trade of ice cream and frozen food is the largest domestic producer and distributer of ice cream and frozen food. The wide range of Ledo products – ice cream, frozen fruits and vegetables, frozen fish, pastries, ready made meals and meat – is available in virtually every shop. That is Ledo today.
But how did it all begin? Long ago in 1958, the first ice cream on a stick – the popular Snjegulica – was produced in 1958, and in 1963 was joined by the first ice cream in a cup. The new factory called Ledo opened its doors on 25 September 1965, and even today, this date is celebrated as Ledo Day.
Two years later, Ledo began to supply the market with fruits and vegetables, sea fish and barbeque meats, and the first ice cream in a cone was produced.
In 1972, the company began with the production of frozen pastry dough, and in 1983, a new, larger and technologically modern factory was put into operation. Following Croatia's independence, in 1992, Ledo became a joint stock company operating under the name Ledo d.d., and in 1994, the Agrokor Group became the majority shareholder.
The first KING ice cream – KING milky – was launched in 1995, and one year later, the Macho ice cream was introduced.
Other significant innovations include the launch of the family ice cream brand Twice in 2002, followed by the Quattro ice cream in 2006 and the new cone brand Maximo one year later. In 2011, the super premium G Selection ice creams in vanilla and chocolate were presented, while in 2013, consumers themselves participated in the selection of ice creams in the Ledonardo brand.
The expansion of operations has been continuous. In 1997, Ledo opened its offices in Sarajevo and Ljubljana, and in 2000 it established Ledo Čitluk d.o.o. The acquisition of the Irida d.o.o. factory for the processing and trade of fish in Daruvar was successfully carried out in 2002, while two years later, Ledo acquired the Hungarian ice cream factory Baldauf Kift, which today operates under the name Ledo kft.
In addition to Croatia, Ledo also operates on the markets of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Hungary.
The company Frikom doo Belgrade, the market leader for ice creams and frozen foods on the Serbian, Macedonian and Montenegrin markets, has been operating as part of the Agrokor Group since 2004, and under the one hundred percent ownership of Ledo since 2013.
Over the past two decades, Ledo has grown to become the regional leader in the categories it operates on, and the value of the company and its brands has recorded impressive growth from year to year.
Therefore, it is not difficult to conclude that the company's innovativeness is the main reason for such a positive business environment.
INVESTMENTS IN INNOVATION
A strong investment trend in the development of Ledo was particularly emphasized upon the entry of Agrokor into the company's ownership structure. In the years that followed, the company was equipped with the state of the art technology for the production of ice cream cones and sticks, and ice creams of demanding shapes with a large range of flavours.
Investments were also made to modernise the warehouses for raw materials and frozen foods, packaging machines were acquired, and new energy and IT equipment installed. This has all made it possible for Ledo to promptly react to market needs, and to regularly complement its portfolio with new products every year.
“Since the very beginning, Ledo has positioned itself as an innovative company. Over time, more attention has been focused on the research and development segment, which operated as a part of production, while the official development department in Ledo was established in 1985 upon moving to the present day factory. The Department was made up of two technologists, one for the development of ice cream, the second for the development of pastries. In 1995, the development department was expanded to four technologists,” explains Dario Vrabec, director of Marketing and Development in Ledo.
Today, development operates within the Marketing and Development Sector, with 10 employees involved exclusively in development, who are primarily food technologists. The entire team is made complete with 20 marketing experts.
“Ledo is a marketing oriented company and is specific in that the majority of its ideas for new products come right from the marketing department,” says Vrabec.
Marketing and development together within a single department has proven to give excellent results, given the synergy of effects created. The daily contact with the market by experts in marketing communication brings adequate and timely feedback to the development experts, and they work together to create new products for which there is an interest on the market.
In its innovative approach to product development, Ledo has not neglected market communications, and their campaigns can also be considered innovative. The best example is the interactive competition Ledonardo, aimed at including consumers in the creation and presentation of new products, thus turning consumers from communication objects into development subjects.
Meanwhile, the company continues to nurture other forms of marketing communication, which has been recognised by the profession. Earlier this year, Ledo was awarded an Effie as the most effective Croatian advertiser, while Ledonardo was proclaimed the most effective brand.
Ledo's success is also high at the European level, where it took 6th place in the food category, amongst global brands such as McDonald’s, Chumak, Domino’s, Lay’s, Inox and Carambar. This is all indicative of the comprehensive process the company applies to ensure constant improvements.
This implies that no aspect of product development, from the drawing board to the freezer, is overlooked. This comprehensive process has a very positive effect on overall operations, and for decades, Ledo has been an example of success, not only in its own segment, but also in the entire food industry, both in Croatia and at the regional level.
The innovativeness of the Croatian company is also seen in the awards it has received at the international level. The International Ice Cream Consortium (IICC) has proclaimed Ledo to be the most innovative ice cream in the world on several occasions. The first recognition of this kind was awarded to the ice cream Jaffa Ice in 2006, followed by the Chocolate Cake in 2011, and the ice cream Hot Love in 2012.
Furthermore, this consortium has also recognised Ledo as the world's best ice cream.
In 2011, King Truffles was assessed as world's best, while in 2013, this flattering recognition went to Blueberry Cake on a Stick. That same year, the Ledonardo campaign was proclaimed the best commercial solution.
Last year, the Croatian producer won two prizes – most innovative ice cream (Ice Snack) and best technical solution (King Prestige).
These significant awards confirm the high quality of Ledo's products, and certainly facilitate their placement on export markets. The Ledo premium products have found their place among consumers on very demanding markets, such as Norway, United Arab Emirates, United States, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, France, Israel and many others.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The figures themselves say quite a bit about the effort this company invests in the development of new products. During 2014, Ledo presented 130 new products on the market, including 40 different ice creams, while the remaining novelties came from the segments of pastries, fish, vegetables, meal and ready made dishes.
“In order to achieve the company's ambitious goals, we need to be exceptionally fast in implementing development, from the drawing board to placement on the market, in just two to three months. In so doing, we try to offer products that are adapted to various consumer demands,” explains Vrabec, adding that the company plans to introduce about a hundred new products this year.
Since the start of the ice cream season and the Ledo Retro competition, 80 percent of the 70,000 survey respondents decided that the once very popular Ledo Silk Milk should be returned to the market. This brand was produced from the early 1990s to 2006.
Also, the brand KING is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and Ledo has decided to celebrate this jubilee with a special edition of KING, called Obsession, which is expected to be the season's greatest hit.
“During the hot summer months, we will be ready with the new Jamnica Sensation ice cream, and the innovative Roller fruit ice cream, while we plan to surprise those who love ice cream desserts with a new cake and new concept of ice cream in a cup with the cream slice Kremšnita. Children surely won't be disappointed, because we have prepared the new ice cream Funny Bubble for girls, which comes with a pendant and bracelet, while a big surprise is coming for boys, since we have achieved cooperation with one of the world's best football clubs,” announces Vrabec.
There are also a number of novelties in other segments of the portfolio. In the first two months of 2015, new products in the frozen food line included: Ledo vegetable sataraš, Rizi bizi, coconut strudel, doughnuts and new croissant flavours, and an entire line of ready made meals with several new products, such as chicken pepper stew with gnocchi, fusili pasta with pork and chicken with vegetables.
Ledo is a leading brand on the Croatian market in all categories of frozen products, while it is the absolute market leader in the ice cream category. However, the company is not resting on its laurels, but looking for the real potential of progress.
“There is a lot of room for growth in the consumption of ice cream in Croatia. The annual average in Europe is 5.6 litres of ice cream per capita. However, while that average is 7.1 litres in Western Europe, it is half that in Eastern Europe, only 3.5 litres. Some might be surprised to learn that the greatest consumers of ice cream are the citizens of the Nordic countries: Finland with 11.5 and Norway and Sweden with 9 litres per capita. In Croatia, we are in the middle, just above the European average, with an average consumption of 5.7 litres per capita,” stresses Vrabec, adding that Ledo sees particular room for growth in the dessert ice cream products.
Strong export potential is also present in the pastry segment, particularly with the characteristic Croatian delicacies such as strudels or štrukle cheese pastries. Due to their originality, these products are very attractive and sought after on foreign markets. Ledo has three factory lines in the frozen pastry segment that together manufacture 85 products.
Vrabec states that all the available Croatian raw materials are used in the pastry and frozen food programmes, while the ice cream segment is focused on only the highest quality materials, and as such chocolate is obtained from Belgium and the best vanilla comes from Madagascar.
Significant growth is expected in the frozen fruit and vegetable product line, where Ledo believes it is particularly important to educate consumers that frozen foods are healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and fast frozen to a certain temperature (-18°C or less) in order to retain the maximum of the nutritional content.
It can sometimes be heard that because of this procedure, frozen food can be of a higher quality than fresh food sold at the market, due to the long period that can pass between the harvest to the time of sale, thus resulting in a loss of nutritional content.
For that reason, Ledo is communicating its new slogan “Freshly frozen”, aimed at informing consumers that frozen products are a nutritionally valid solution available year round.
From the above, it is clear that Ledo will not disappoint this year, and consumers can rest easy. The season is sure to bring numerous innovative solutions that will be waiting in the Ledo freezers. Check it out for yourself!