While the historic importance of the year 1919 is tremendous and has shaped the country, the same year saw the birth of the American University in Cairo (AUC) and the founding of one the most long-lasting fixtures in Egypt’s economy: Corona.
With AUC celebrating its Centennial in February 2019, we take a look at Egypt’s oldest chocolate manufacturer of the same age, with its iconic and old-time(scque) chocolate products still popping up at weddings, engagements and similar festivities. Founded in 1919 as Egypt’s first chocolate manufacturer by Greek businessman and chocolatier Tommy Christo in Ismailia, the factory moved to Alexandria in the 1930s, changing its name from Royal Chocolate Factory to Alexandria Factory for Sweets and Chocolate (Corona). In 2000, Corona was acquired by Sami Saad Group 64 years after it was nationalized.
Corona’s position in the market today
According to the Egypt Food Processing Ingredients – Annual 2017 report by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Corona is Egypt’s fifth largest chocolate company in terms of market capitalization with $11.7 million, while international chocolate moguls Cadbury, Nestlé, Mars and Ferrero take up the first four spots.
“The chocolate and confectionery market remains an ever-evolving market, thanks to the escalating demand for chocolate products by customers, distributors and manufacturers,” plant manager at Corona Mahmoud El-Beltagy explains.
In a market characterized by competitiveness and oligopoly, Corona is still able to retain its edge – which, according to El-Beltagy, is offering affordable products.
Maintaining the edge while adapting
With a wide array of confectionary products, Corona sticks to its long-preserved retro recipes, which distinguishes its products in the market, he explains. However, the time for adaptation and progress has definitely come.
“Undoubtedly, we are always keen on incorporating more advanced and refined flavors into our chocolate products. Nevertheless, we are also keen on maintaining our identity,” El-Beltagy adds.
From an in internal perspective, the company makes sure to respond to technology trends in the global market in order to come up with more innovative and improved products that correspond with the needs of customers.
Dealing with Egypt’s economic reform program
Economically speaking, marketing director at Corona Egypt Ahmed El-Nadry recounts that the country’s economic reform measures contributed to the company’s growth.
“The scale tipped in our favor. The measures worked to our advantage,” he comments, attributing the advantage to price-sensitive consumers turning towards affordable chocolate products.
“Amid the current economic situation, Corona’s products stand out as durable alternatives for pricy international chocolate brands.”
However, as is the case for other companies, the local manufacturer had to face some challenges that came with implementing said measures.
El-Nadry adds that the rising energy prices and imported raw materials, like cocoa, were amongst the key challenges for the local chocolate manufacturer, leading to an increase in production costs, and hence, higher prices for customers.
Nevertheless, since the Egyptian pound’s floatation has taken effect two years ago, the company managed to post an unprecedented double-digit growth in its overall sales. “This greatly improved our market share and brand perception,” El-Nadry explains.
What does the future hold?
Turning 100 does not come without new plans and direction. “We are planning to inaugurate a new plant with a whole new production line,” El-Nadry tells Business Forward, dubbing the new plant as the “rebirth of Corona”.
“As we are entering a new century, we are eyeing to consolidate our presence in the local and global markets, by scaling our exports to our largest export markets: Africa and the Arab countries,” El-Beltagy concludes.