Let Them Eat Cake: Hani Berzi
Croissants are now commonplace in Egypt but that wasn’t always the case. It was the vision and determination of Edita Food Industries Chair and Managing Director, Hani Berzi, that changed the country’s attitude to baked goods forever.
Flaky yet buttery, the croissant has become a cherished component of breakfasts around the world. But in Egypt in 1996, when Hani Berzi founded Edita Food Industries, it was still something of a novelty. His aim was to introduce the pastry to breakfast tables across the country, becoming one of the first to penetrate Egypt’s fledgling bakery market.
"Everybody discouraged me from going into the croissant business," Berzi tells The CEO Magazine. "They told me, ‘Who is going to eat packaged croissants? In Egypt, nobody will eat that’. But I believed in the project, I believed in the product itself, and the quality and taste we could provide."
Introducing Edita’s chocolate-filled Molto croissant as a snack to an Egyptian consumer who was unaccustomed to it certainly came with its challenges, Berzi admits. But he stuck with it, and with some hard work and a little bit of luck, he built a new category in the market.
We have been innovative and we will continue to be innovative – that’s key for us.
The business expanded over time, with the addition of the savory Bake Rolz to its range. Then in 2003, Edita acquired the Egyptian rights to the United States-based Hostess Brands, which paved the way for it to enter the cake business. It now owns the Hohos, Twinkies and Tiger Tail brands across the Middle East and North Africa.
Then, in 2011, Edita launched its first confectionary brand, Mimix, to the Egyptian market. "We have been innovative and we will continue to be innovative – that’s key for us," Berzi says.
It’s an upward trajectory that is even more impressive given the volume of obstacles that have placed themselves in Edita’s way, particularly since 2011 – among them revolution, the devaluation of the Egyptian pound, the pandemic and the Russia–Ukraine conflict. "It has been a very interesting roller-coaster of challenges over the past 11-to-12 years," Berzi reflects.
"But with my experience and the experience of my team, we know how to navigate those challenges. We know how to maintain our profitability. We know how to manage the business. We know what our customers like and what they need."
Now the market is becoming more challenging, but Edita continues to demonstrate its commitment to provide its customers with the best quality and innovative products to satisfy all tastes and consumer segments. The company intends to retain its position as the market leader in the snack food industry.
Competition is a challenge that Berzi wholeheartedly welcomes, with the same confidence that saw him start the business in the first place. "We aim to make our product and brand the most often consumed in Egypt," he declares.
At the same time, Edita will roll out its products regionally to further strengthen its position. It has already established its first regional factory in Berrechid, Morocco, and plans to do the same in further countries over the next three-to-five years. It currently has a footprint in more than 17 countries in the region.
Investing in its people is also a top priority, with the company actively recruiting the ‘best in class’ from the world of fast-moving consumer goods, according to Berzi. "We believe that our people are key for our success, and we believe in the mutual trust we have in our people," he says. "We consider them our biggest asset."
We know how to maintain our profitability. We know how to manage the business. We know what our customers like and what they need.
Although Berzi had trained as an engineer, he had an innate talent for sales and marketing, and he believes that this is what helped to drive Edita to success. "I call them the brain and muscles – the brain is the marketing, and the muscles are the sales," he explains. But equally important in his view are the policies and procedures that give the business structure.
To anyone else thinking about starting a project, just as Berzi did all those years ago, he advises them to do their homework. "Don’t try to copy others," he stresses.
"Try to come up with something innovative. Try to come up with something new. Just believe in what you want to do and work hard, and you will achieve your goals. That’s what I call the equation of success."