When Webcor Group first set out on its journey in 1978 with just a single retail outlet off the beaten track in the former Zaire, it was always focused on providing quality products at affordable prices to consumers. From those humble beginnings, the group has followed a steady path of growth and is today one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest food manufacturing and distribution companies. With operations in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Webcor is able to leverage a vast supply network and dominate the value chain from manufacturing to branding and retail. Lately with investments in industrial assets, Webcor is set to leave a lifelong legacy for Africa’s economic growth.
It is without a doubt that the most important factor behind their success has been the group’s versatility and its ability to respond quickly to changing conditions on the ground. Economic instability is one of the most difficult challenges for any company to overcome when operating in emerging markets.
In Angola – where Webcor operates one of the country’s largest food production and operations business – the economy remains vulnerable to oil price volatility. The drop in oil prices since 2014 resulted in a hard currency scarcity across Angola, however, Webcor has successfully navigated this challenge by leveraging its structured financing solutions and the group’s strong international network of suppliers.
This moment embodied both the strength of Webcor’s distribution network as well as its commitment to the people of Africa that goes beyond the success of its business. This is a philosophy reiterated by Wissam Nesr, Webcor Group’s Chief Executive: “Working in basic necessity foods has created a closer relationship with our consumers in Africa. This relationship helped us better understand the people and their needs and the social issues that affect our business, which enabled us to identify new opportunities and thus create shared value by growing our business while positively impacting people’s lives. As a family business, we value the importance of strong personal bonds and building lifetime relationships with everyone we work with. We want our legacy to extend beyond our personal lifetimes, and our goals are larger than the business itself.”
This deep commitment made by Webcor to the people of Africa has translated into an ever-expanding house of brands comprised of high quality food products and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs). This includes basic staples such as rice, beans, pastas, vegetable oils and a wide range of canned food. Webcor’s product line also includes many non-food products considered as basic needs in Africa.
To better describe Webcor Group today, Wissam Nesr outlines the company a “food company with two main business lines – soft commodities and FMCGs, both supported by industrial assets, distribution and marketing. We work every day to provide quality products catered to our customers’ needs. We develop our own brands and partner up with multinationals in the same sector to provide a complete product portfolio solution to our customers. Our full-fledged Route to Market (RTM) is our vehicle to reach every customer. One of the biggest strengths of Webcor today is the deep understanding of the markets in which we operate.”
Building further on its FMCG strategy, the group partnered with European producers, investing in their companies and developing together an African FMCG strategy. The group’s industrial strategy is adapted to customer’s aspirations and constantly developing products to cater to different consumer segments. With the deep knowledge of the African consumer, taste and packaging is catered to consumers’ affordability and accessibility to increase trial and usage. With African consumers at the very heart of the business, Webcor Group continuously seeks to diversify its portfolio of brands into new categories in response to consumer preferences and tastes. In broadening the range of products and brands, the group aims to offer the African consumer more and better choices. The group strongly believes in brand leadership and is always striving to expand and solidify its brands portfolio by building brand equity through creating awareness and establishing credibility and consumer loyalty. Some of the groups leading brands are Primavera (pasta and condiments category), Belavida (dairy category), Biba (oils and fats category), plus many others that have symbolised a successful journey for more than 20 years.
The soft commodity division of Webcor has inaugurated Grandes Moagens de Angola, one of the continent’s largest wheat flour mills. With a production capacity of 320,000 metric tonnes per year, as a first phase; part of their 600,000 metric tons targeted capacity, the facility uses state of the art machinery, and represents a big move for Webcor Group in consolidating its position as one of the leading industrial groups in Sub-Saharan Africa. With such huge strides taken over the last decade, the multinational company is engaging on an ambitious plan to modernise its information technology, human resources and corporate governance. Wissam Nesr sees this effort as fundamental to the company’s future success: “Ambitious plans come with equally great challenges. We foresee investments in human resources and information technology as crucial for our success. Both present a real opportunity to drive change and further growth in our company. We are restructuring under an internal programme we call ‘upgrade the organisation,’ which is mostly based on the optimisation of support functions, allowing the frontline team to focus on the business.” “We have a clear path forward and a bright future. We have adopted a family constitution with binding rules to protect the legacy of the family business for future generations.”
The future of Webcor is focused on making this shift towards becoming one of Africa’s largest food manufacturers. All the while remaining committed to the wellbeing of its consumers and to the strong family values that have carried this business for more than 40 years. “We believe that Africa needs to be self-sufficient for it to prosper, and therefore we are committing ourselves to enhance local agriculture and manufacturing capabilities, and continue to invest in building world class industrial assets throughout Africa while empowering our people, ourconsumers and our communities,” Wissam Nesr concludes.