In the beginning, Hasa fought hard for every bit of its growth against long-established competitors. After two years, sales began to increase by leaps and bounds. Soon, the company’s production capacity of 40 million pizzas a year was exhausted, which led to the planning of the second stage of expansion. “We’ve always believed in our success,” say managing directors Andreas Czayka and Holger Pitsch.
Open questions in the industry about whether the newcomer could continually deliver consistent quality and remain competitive in a tough business environment were answered. Top results among certifying bodies as well as certificates and numerous gold medals from the quality tests of the DLG won over the skeptics – and continue to do so year in and year out. In response to industry representatives who are typically impressed by an especially low price, Czayka said simply: “Take a bite.” Low price or high quality is one of the key strategic questions that a new company has to answer in order to position itself in a highly competitive market.
Neither one of the managing directors from Lubeck was interested in “cheap.” On the other hand, the mass-produced frozen pizzas also couldn’t be expensive and, above all, they had to have outstanding flavor. In short, they needed to come up with an industrially manufactured pizza that tastes like it comes from a local pizzeria.
They decided to do away with preservatives and artificial colors, artificial rising agents and hardened fats, along with imitation cheese and flavor enhancers. From day one, they committed themselves to using raw ingredients for the dough and the toppings. In the production process, the latest technologies are able to produce dough resting times of up to 24 hours, and the marble-lined baking platform allows for a thin, light, and crispy crust. “We produce in large quantities, yet the one stone-oven pizza that the consumer buys must meet his or her expectations,” Andreas Czayak says, explaining the standard of quality for every individual product. “What the consumer sees on the packaging has to correspond to the contents.”
Today, nearly one out of every 10 frozen pizzas consumed in Germany comes from Burg. 800 million frozen pizzas are consumed in Germany annually – and 80 million of these were shipped out this year by Hasa. For the most part, the company produces the private labels Italissimo and the heart-shaped pizza Amore, which sells especially well around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Brand names in the food retail market take up the lion’s share of the production. Among organic store brands, Hasa is the market leader. Every pizza is contained in a folding box made of FSC certified materials (from sustainable forest management).
The visible expansion of the plant in Burg went hand-in-hand with the increase in consumer demand. In 2011, construction of the high-bay warehouse was completed, and, in 2012, the second production line went into operation. Capacity was increased to 120 million pizzas per year. Overall, more than €35 million has been invested in the site. “If the demand continues to grow, we’ll soon reach our limit,” says Andreas Czayak.
Approximately 5% of the production in Burg is slated for export, above all to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, and also, more recently, Brazil. Hasa introduced the newly developed Italissimo-Premium product line at the PMLA international tradeshow “The World of Private Label” in Amsterdam in May 2014.
Pizzas were presented that featured different country-specific and seasonal varieties, had distinct pungencies, were with meat or without, and had ingredients printed in multiple languages. Pizza consumers could receive additional product information in their native language by using a QR code on the reverse side of the folding box. Here, expanding the business abroad was the order of the day.
“We are the only medium-sized enterprise among the pizza manufacturers in Germany – we do not belong to any corporation,” emphasizes Czayka. He explains in a nutshell how a “small fish” is nonetheless able to succeed in a “shark tank”: “Others have more money, but were faster.” As the decision-making channels are short, the medium-sized company can react quickly to new market developments and trends. “Developing a brand image for supermarket chain in only 90 days, from raw materials to recipe, including the folding box and the photo shoot – no one else can do that,” explains Holger Pitsch.
Every firm wants to have its own unique recipe. For the salami pizza alone – the top-seller in Germany – Hasa has 25 recipes with different types of salami, white or red onions, with or without chili peppers, with Edam or Cheddar cheese.
All in all, Hasa’s pizzas are made according to well over 100 recipes. All ingredients need to be precisely coordinated with each other. There is also close collaboration with individual product developers and a firm’s employees.
Even designers have a say. Still, at the end of the day, not only does everything have to be checked in terms of its taste, but also suitability for production. Andreas Czayka notes with a smile: “A chili pepper standing on end does not exactly fit into the folding box.”
By Bettina Koch