In an exclusive interview, Ricardo Heineck, director, Docile, talks to ConfectioneryNews about the challenges of running a family business, his 18-year-old twin daughters, future acquisitions and his optimism of the market despite Brazil’s economy.
Three brothers co-founded Docile
Heineck is one of three brothers; Alexandre and Fernando, who created Docile in 1991 following in the footsteps of their father who started manufacturing candy from 1936. It now has two facilities in Lajeado and Vitória de Santo Antão, Brazil.
This year, the company which specializes in six lines; jellies, chewing gum, powdered drinks, pastilles, gelatin sweets and marshmallows, will install a new production line for its Mini Minty candy, changing the shape and the packaging of the product.
“In the beginning we started doing the same thing as other candy manufacturers in the industry, following the market trends, but now that we have been established for 25 years we can develop our products and try to create something new,” said Heineck.
“We are looking to improve our products all the time. We used to follow others but now we introduce novelties into the market. We are at a point now where we can create the consumption in the consumers’ minds. We can influence what we bring to them.
“We are never satisfied with the taste, texture, look and we are always looking to improve. Nowadays we have a solid production line and because of it we are ready to be more aggressive within the industry to become one of the best producers in Brazil, this is our focus - the Docile goal.”
Heineck says he enjoys the product development side of the business but he is never satisfied.
“I am happy with our marshmallow and starch jellies but there is still room for improvement and we could do better. Even the sweet and sour candy, I think we can improve on that and come up with a stronger sour flavor.
“I am very critical about our own products, and I am constantly trying and tasting our products and comparing them to what is already out there. Our marshmallows are equal if not better than the competitors. With the corn starch jelly we are similar to the competitor, there is always opportunity to improve. We have the space here and the right facilities to increase sales across our product range, focusing on different shapes, flavors, and packaging.”
Further growth through acquisitions
Heineck said the brothers plan to grow the company further by purchasing the latest technology and processing lines, and there are opportunities in the future to acquire similar candy companies to expand.
“I strongly believe we will grow through acquisitions. I am very optimistic at the moment. The Brazilian economy isn’t doing very well but we are growing independently and that’s a sign that we will succeed despite the market,” he added.
“We are proud to show off our facilities. We have worked hard to get where we are today and we want to show off our potential. We are very transparent in what we do and everything is done correctly within the law.
“Our dream market would be America, but it is extremely competitive. We are not yet ready in terms of volume and taste as that is very particular to that market. We will have to work on that but it’s a dream market for us. In terms of exports there are some challenges in terms of a fluctuating financial market and commercial agreements but now there is a new government in place in Brazil it will open new doors for us. We need some help from the government to be more competitive, but we don’t rest on our laurels.”
The co-director said most of the challenges include adhering to the correct norms and certifications. He said Brazil has strict laws about food and drink so when it develops and launches any products it already has to make sure the certifications are in place such as ISO 9001 quality management and Food Safety Certificate 22000.
Heineck’s 18-year-old twin daughters are already getting ready to join the management team. They are both studying engineering and have been coming to the factory to work in each department to see which area they are interested in most.
“I have been taking products home for them to taste since they were little to get their opinion on the flavor and shapes and to take them to school to make their friends taste them. They were already involved in the business from a young age, one is more into flavors and shapes and the other has an interest in profit and loss,” he added.
“To decide on which profession they want to go into, the girls come to the factory to learn a bit about each department to see which area they enjoy most and which area they want to specialize in. My brother, Alexandre also has twin girls aged 13, and Fernando has a young son and a daughter.
Sweets based on themed-parties & celebrations
“We know it’s a challenge to run a large family business but our priority is what we can do in the best interests of the company and our employees and not what we want personally. We have to keep that in mind and try not to mix personal and professional opinions. The differences have to be complementary to avoid conflict. We have to put our interests aside to grow the business for everyone. Obviously, we are very proud of the people who work here. We have over 750 employees and it is thanks to their hard work that makes a difference.”
The company regularly updates its marshmallow products with new launches and testing different shapes and sizes. This month it launched a heart shaped range and in the past it has created blue marshmallows and those based on children’s cartoon characters.
Ediane Gollub, international business manager, Docile, has worked for the company for five years.
She said there is a lot of opportunity to develop new colors and flavors and ‘thematic parties’ are on the increase, ie birthday parties for children, family celebrations.
“We saw that the market was changing and we tried to exploit that opportunity. We create marshmallows for any kind of event, be it Valentine’s Day or weddings. The factory at Lajeado can produce 12,000 kilos of marshmallows per day,” she said.
“We recently launched a vanilla and strawberry flavor marshmallow and this year launched a variety of colors in white and pink; and white and blue. We are now mini sweets in a pack made of hearts, stars and bananas.
“The Mini Minty will be relaunched in September to make the plastic packaging bigger with more space for labeling and imagery to make it look more modern. The product sells very well so we are changing the machine to improve production to increase output. The line needs to be faster.
“Paraguay is our most popular market for exports and then Uruguay, Argentina, and The Netherlands for our pressed candy, jellies, and Mini 8 sweets. It’s tough to break into Europe because there is a lot of competition.
- 1986: Three brothers; Alexandre, Fernando and Ricardo Heineck open a retail store to market products manufactured by their family.
- Docile founded in 1991.
- Recorded a monthly production of 2.2m kg in 2016.
- Over 200 products distributed into six lines: jellies, pressed candies, powder drinks, chewing gum, gummies, marshmallows.
- 40,000m² facility in Lajeado, Brazil.
- 46,000m² facility in Vitória de Santo Antão, Pernambuco, Brazil.
- Certified by BSI Brazil with ISO 9001.
- Exports to more than 50 countries.
“Paraguay is the closest country to Brazil, just a few hours away, and the culture is very similar, it has what we would call a ‘very informal market’ and our products are not just sold in supermarkets but on the streets, on the roadside or at traffic lights.
“The idea behind our marshmallows and gelatin candy was to have a premium line to distinguish ourselves from the competition and instead of working with regular products to target more markets, to distinguish them from pressed candy, mints, and corn starch jelly.
“Onsite, we have our own R&D department and all the machines are repaired here to keep our ‘secrets’ in-house.
“Brazil has not always faced a good time politically and economically but our export business is growing 7%. The main challenges are the amount of duty tax we have to pay and the bureaucracy of the ports here which means it can take longer to import packaging from a supplier than to export it.”
[ConfectioneryNews traveled to Docile with ABICAB (Brazilian cocoa, chocolate, peanut and candies manufacturers association) and ApexBrasil.]