PRODUCTS & CUSTOMERS
Ready. Steady. Go.
Quality, speed, trust: In the beverage sector, a fast-growing business has developed with the international key account customer Lidl.
A briefing can sometimes be very short. For example, it may consist of a photo of a beverage can and the request, “Develop something similar!” It’s good if you know how to understand such terse directness, as Björn Berger does, a Regional Key Account Manager in the Business Unit Beverages at Flavor who is responsible for the customer Lidl. “In our clearly defined team, we know exactly what to do in this kind of case. And that’s exactly what the buyer on the other side appreciates – that they don’t have to explain at great length what they want from us.”
A business relationship that functions almost nonverbally is rather rare. It’s the result of a longer process that has a lot to do with trust and even more with reliability and speed. “The beverage sector is a very fast-moving business. Trends come and go, tastes change,” says Björn. A customer like Lidl is constantly scanning the markets, continually searching for inspiration and new beverage ideas. If they find something that seems promising as a white-label product for their own business, development has to go quickly.
Like in early 2020, when a trend toward the home use of syrups began to emerge – which was then amplified by the coronavirus crisis. Lidl envisioned an equivalent of the market leader Sodastream in different flavors for its beverage range. In the first quarter, the team in the Beverages unit received the briefing for this order. The first tank trucks were delivered to the customer at the end of the second quarter. Order processing, development and delivery in three to four months – this is precisely the key to success.
Something like this is only possible if all the cogs in sales and development at Symrise and in purchasing at the customer company interlock – in other words, if the briefing is understood correctly by Symrise. “If we can present the product for tasting in four to six weeks, then things will have gone extremely well,” says Björn. The task for Björn and his colleagues in this phase is to stay in contact with the customer and to keep an eye on deadlines, but also to moderate in case of excessive demands. “Of course, it’s important that we can keep up a quick pace,” says Adrian Chudalla, Senior Product & Application Development Technologist at the Nördlingen site, “but in the end it is the quality of a product that matters. Nothing is gained if the product isn’t solid in terms of its look and taste.” And if development of the product is a bit more demanding, it may take a week or two longer.
TRUST PROMOTES GROWTH However, Lidl has come to appreciate the professionalism and service of Symrise. Within three years, sales with the customer more than doubled. Such an increase would be unthinkable if mutual trust had not grown on both sides. It also helped that the Symrise team established a good personal connection with the buyers at Lidl.
Over the past four years, the partners have jointly implemented an average of 70 to 80 projects annually. Most of them disappeared again from the grocery chain’s stores. Sometimes they were seasonal, and sometimes they were short-lived trend products. Others, however, have become bestsellers. “How a beverage holds its own in the market depends on a great many factors,” says Adrian from experience. And whether Lidl will give this beverage a long-term perspective will be decided first and foremost by the sales figures. But what matters for Symrise is that it has delivered the requested product with reliable quality and at an accelerated speed.
The beverage sector is a very fast-paced business.”
Björn Berger, Regional Key Account Manager
As a consequence, Symrise receives selected briefings from Lidl exclusively. There is trust in the collaboration. “On the other hand, we can’t get stuck in routines,” says Björn. That is also part of an effective business relationship as equal partners. If a product isn’t to Lidl’s liking, the company will say: “Doesn’t work. Make something new!” After all, dissatisfaction can also be expressed in very few words.
How a beverage holds its own in the market depends on a great many factors.”
Adrian Chudalla, Senior Product & Application Development Technologist