Patchi seeks Continental success

Related tags Retailing United kingdom

Patchi, a London-based company producing popular Middle Eastern
confectioneries such as baklava and mamoul, is keen to spread its
gospel of quality to the rest of Europe. But while France is its
first export destination, the company will not specifically target
the sizeable Arab population there.

Formed over 20 years ago, Patchi​ has carved out a reputation as the UK's leading producer of high quality 'Mediterranean' sweets, as it prefers to call them, making its products by hand and using only the best fresh ingredients - and charging a premium price as a result.

A measure of how successful it has been at cultivating this premium image is the location of its own retail outlet - in Knightsbridge, the upmarket district of London where the Harrods department store (which also sells Patchi's products) is located. It also sells to upmarket supermarket chains such as Waitrose.

Baklava, a confectionery product consisting mainly of thin pieces of pastry with a honey, dried fruit or nut filling, has been popular in countries such as Turkey, Syria and Greece for centuries, although the recipes tend to differ from country to country. Mamoul is a pastry product filled with dates or nuts.

Until now, the UK has accounted for almost all of Patchi's £750,000 turnover, but the company has recently decided to dip its toe in the Continental European market, securing an initial order (worth £18,000) from France.

"We have recently teamed up with a French distributor to cover the whole country, who has secured us a first order with the Leclerc retail chain, and we are hopeful of clinching more deals in the near future,"​ Patchi's export manager Marilyne Nafa told ConfectioneryNews.com​.

With such a large Arab population, baklava and similar products are already very popular in France, but Nafa suggested that they were nonetheless relatively unknown among non-Arab French consumers.

"We are not trying to sell our products to people who know about baklava already - consumers of Middle Eastern or North African origin. Instead, we are targeting the rest of the French population, and will be using the same recipe as in the UK, which is not as sweet as the baklava that most Arab consumers will already know,"​ she said.

But targeting retail chains rather than the thousands of small, independent stores which proliferate in those parts of France where Arab populations are concentrated is not simply a matter of avoiding direct competition - it is also about preserving the company's image.

"No-one, at least in the UK, is making products to the same quality level as us,"​ Nafa claimed proudly. "But top quality products require top quality ingredients, and that is expensive. That in turn has implications for retailers' profit margins, which means that only certain companies can afford our products."

But this also means that Patchi's efforts to bring its high quality products to the notice of a broader public are also likely to be slow. "All our products are hand made, which obviously has implications when it comes to the volumes which can be supplied, but we are not afraid to say no if a customers asks us for more than we can supply - this is the only way to maintain the high quality standards,"​ said Nafa, adding that the company was nonetheless flexible enough to increase output over the longer term if demand continued to grow.

With France already under its belt, the company is now looking to other European markets for further growth, with exports expected to reach £300,000 by the end of 2005 following the planned roll-out in Spain, Italy and Germany.

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