Spanish royalty drank it hot, flavored with sugar and honey. It could be pure, with cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. It could be dark, white or it may have a milky taste. What is it? Of course chocolate. Spanish invaders learned about cocoa from the Aztecs in the 1500s and brought it to Europe. Thus, Spain was a cradle of European chocolate tradition. By production and sale of chocolate and cocoa products, Natra S.A., Spain-based multinational holding company, has been continuing this tradition. The company is principally engaged in the production, distribution and sale of cocoa derivatives and chocolate products, such as cocoa mass, butter and powder and chocolate coating; industrial and organic range of chocolates; chocolate bars, tablets and spreads and seasonal products. The company’s name may not be familiar to those not involved in the food industry, mainly because Natra is one of the leading suppliers of chocolate products to the private label brand across Europe, being their clients around 25 of the 30 largest European retailers. Its products are also present in 60 countries worldwide.
From cocoa bean to chocolate pleasure
Natra S.A. covers the complete value chain for the cocoa and chocolate industry. Natra’s origins date back to the 1940s, when three chemists from Valencia (Spain) started extracting theobromine (alkaloid with vasodilating properties) from the cocoa bean. As the business prospered, the company’s founders decided to start using the raw material utilized in the extraction process to produce cocoa derivatives (coca mass, powder and butter and chocolate coating). However, the most significant milestone in the history of Natra was probably the decision to transform a company focused on a B2B activity ( cocoa derivatives for the food industry), into a final product company and, even more, focus on the private label brand distribution in the whole Europe. For this, in 2004 Natra began a process of internationalization through the acquisition of several companies in Europe, specialising in chocolate products such as, chocolate bars, chocolate tablets, Belgian specialities and chocolate creams , which has enabled it to consolidate today as one of the leading suppliers to the private label brand in the European market. Chocolate specialist Natra, which is headquartered in Spain, and has production facilities in Spain (2), Belgium (2) and France (1), not only has 95% of its production going towards private label, but is also boosted by the fact that chocolate consumption is constantly increasing. Natra’s force is a diversified portfolio of products and technological capabilities to provide their customers with innovative products. Natra is the joint leader in Europe for private brand chocolate bar sales, and has reached this position thanks to its extensive range of products, formats and flavors. Within the chocolate bar range, the miniature bars are particularly successful: they are small format bars presented in boxes or flow wrapped. Natra’s comprehensive control process guarantees quality in every area from the supply and processing of raw material to the production and commercialization of the final product.
The geographical expansion
Having produced hundred tons of chocolate per year, the company constantly maintains its focus on new opportunities to grow even despite the ongoing recession. The company’s main middle-term objective is to maintain a stable position in the European market while taking advantage of the leading retaliers move to new markets as the USA, Canada or China, where the company already has its own sales offices. In their industry, customers look for a product that meets their needs in different geographic markets. For this reason, components such as continuous innovation, reliability of service, appropriate cost and commercial credibility help Natra to respond to requirements of their customers. They strongly believe that those features have allowed them to get a good position, both with large retailers and industrial clients around the world. In most cases, they have been building strong relationships over the years.
The process of globalization takes different forms and proceeds unevenly along many fronts. The chocolate industry as a part of the food industry has undergone profound changes in recent years. While creating business plans, many companies have to adapt to the new reality, and take into account that they should prepare their products to the needs of different markets. What is more the ability to further geographical expansion of business to areas of high commercial interest will be a key in the coming years. Natra is ready for it and already has targeted the early stages of this process. Their desire is to be a leading and continuously growing international food company. Through efficient growth and a process of international expansion, Natra aspire to establish themselves in strategic geographical points to enable the development of their target markets. They want to stand out as an innovative provider of excellent products to their clients, profitability to their shareholders and professional development opportunities to their staff. A customer orientated company- Natra in permanent searching for innovation in business processes based on an efficient and highly skilled human capital are certainly elements of support for this, where the company continues to work towards its excellence. There is around 1,500 professionals who are currently working for Natra Group, 1340 of them are directly related to the business of cocoa and chocolate. Additionally, Natra has also expanded their multinational project through their 46% stake in Natraceutical, a company also quoted in the Spanish Stock Exchange, with an international view in the nutritional supplements industry and the natural and functional ingredients for the food and pharma sectors. Natraceutical is a reference in the research and development of natural functional ingredients, active elements and nutritional supplements for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry. The company directs its industrial activity through Laboratoires Forté Pharma, which specializes in nutritional supplements in the fields of health, beauty and weight control and which it sells exclusively in pharmacies and drugstores in Europe, as well as through its shareholding in the quoted French company Naturex.
A wide range of products
Natra’s five production centers work permanently to offer retailers one of the widest portfolios of cocoa and chocolate products available in Europe aimed to cover their needs in private label products. In addition consumers are increasingly looking to boost their health in different ways and Natra’s wish to offer immediate response to consumption demands has even led the company, to develop its first range of functional chocolate bars for the private label.
Quality and Customer Service - their potential
Admittedly, product quality and customer service are priorities for Natra- all their business is based on that. The quality policy is strictly governed by the quality manual of each of their business units and, of course, responds to the ever- increasing international requirements in that area. But the quality policy in the broadest sense goes far beyond and arguably covers all the behaviors of the company. Natra Customers perceive a style and way of working which is a result of this policy of quality, so they have communicated on several occasions. Even in the many aspects of human relationships that are difficult to objectify, the result is there. It is noteworthy that the certification of fair trade and organic produce is available to Natra today. What is really important several months ago Natra has joined the international organization UTZ that aim is to promote responsible production and sale with society and the environment.
Written by Katarzyna Olszowska