As Mizzi Organisation has recently launched a €25 million Bond issue, KARL STAGNO-NAVARRA caught up with Director Brian Mizzi and found out the Organisation’s resilience in beating the recession blues.
From humble origins back in 1970 when Mizzi Organisation acquired General Soft Drinks, who hold the franchise agreement to bottle Coca Cola products in Malta, the company has grown to become a showcase for best practices in the world-wide system of the multi-national giant.
When the agreement was signed in 1970, Brian Mizzi was in the same room with his father and served sandwiches, and his resilience to get the company off the ground led him to take on the competition and be on the market with as little delay as possible.
His first hurdle : To find the crates and guarantee distribution.
“I remember having to look for carpenters and have crates manufactured for us and once we managed to sort out the crates, we strived hard to get our products on the market and from then on, we were there to stay,” says a satisfied Brian Mizzi who can claim the success of having taken the right decisions at the right time, but mostly for having the foresight of things to come and diligently exploit the market potential.
“I gradually expanded the business introducing new products as well as avant-garde systems such as self-employed distribution and selling methodology, systems that both motivate and stimulate business growth.”
For Brian Mizzi, the satisfaction lies in the fact that so many years later, such systems are still considered to be innovative by the industry.
Coca Cola is a world renowned brand, but even so, every product must be perfect to fit the market’s requirements.
Its not just about the taste or the name, although they are considered to be Coca Cola’s main assets, but its also how the producer manages to guarantee its presence on the market.
Following Malta’s entry into the European Union, General Soft Drinks faced some very tough decisions for its future as new legislation required the introduction of one-way-one packaging and many other factors.
For Brian Mizzi, his board of directors and team, the choice was to either become an importation and distribution company or retain its current production status.
“In my capacity of Managing Director, I requested our auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to assist my management team in building up a business plan for the future of our company,” Mizzi explained.
The report by PWC was encouraging, and the recommendations were positive.
“The recommendation was to take up the challenge, invest, expand and look ahead with optimism,” he said, while adding that soon after the PWC report, General Soft Drinks was honoured to host the Chairman and CEO of the Coca Cola Company who came to Malta for the very first time.
“He was delighted to learn about our findings and we decided to be bullish and go ahead with a considerable investment.
“Within 24 months from the board of directors approval, I together with my strong management team managed to ensure that General Soft Drinks migrated smoothly from Qormi to Marsa within the stipulated timeline as well as within the stipulated capital expenditure budgets,” Brian Mizzi explained.
Anyone who passes through the Marsa Industrial Estate immediately notices the new General Soft Drinks plant.
The building itself transmits the Mizzi Organisations ambitious vision for the future, and the fact that the Coca Cola Company has prized it for best practices in the world-wide system means a lot.
The plant is a state-of-the-art warehousing and production facility that in fact prepares the company to work into the next decade.
Brian Mizzi explains that General Soft Drinks operates in a highly competitive market and the company is run very tightly on measurable performance indicators that are regularly monitored.
The facility’s energy usage is monitored through a Building Management System which controls the air-conditioning, ventilation and lighting.
It ensures that all utilities are used efficiently and effectively, while environmental issues are given high importance.
Rain water is collected in underground reservoirs then used for washing distribution trucks, toilet facilities, landscaping irrigation and road washing.
The car parks are equipped with oil/solid interceptors to make sure that any oil spillage is trapped before being sent to the government waste-water treatment plant.
General Soft Drinks is certified in ISO9001 (Quality Management Systems certification), ISO 14001 (Environment Management system Certification) and OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety Management system Certification). The company is also in the process of implementing ISO 22000 Food Safety Standard.
Brian Mizzi puts the onus of his company’s success on what he defines as a “very capable and qualified human resources complement, which ensures that we are leaders in all areas of the operation.”
Besides Coca Cola and General Soft Drinks, Brian Mizzi is also responsible for Arkadia, a concept that began 10 years ago as a property in Gozo and developed it into a shop-in-shop complex which at the time was considered to be innovative for Malta, and in particular for Gozo.
“Initially we used to rent out space to third parties and a ground floor car showroom, but over the years due to my continuous role in innovating and growing the business, we have entered the supermarket business with two food markets, one in Gozo and the other at Portomaso.”
Brian Mizzi explains that his philosophy for the super markets has an emphasis on fresh products, and the customer is graced with a range of top quality products.
“I match my vision for the food markets as Malta’s ‘Waitrose’ stores in Britain,” he says while adding that for him, a discerning client merits the best and nothing less.
Brian Mizzi states that he has directed the company to venture into the fashion retailing, representing Peacocks, Piazza Italia and Orsay with outlets located in Gozo, Valletta, Paola and Sliema. Recently a Piazza Italia store was opened in B’Kara, while very soon Orsay will also be present in the same locality.
The company has also developed its own brand of accessories. ‘Things’ with shops in Gozo, Valletta, Bugibba, Sliema and St. Julians.
‘Pearl’ and ‘Circle A’ are innovative outlet concepts that have been introduced in Arkadia Gozo while the company is currently studying consumer patterns and a plan to open in Malta after adequate analysis.
Brian Mizzi explains that Arkadia has also become an overseas operation with four shops in Slovakia and the plan is to further expand its presence in the region.
“Today Arkadia Group commands a turnover of over €27 million and has become one of the main pillars of the Mizzi Organisation, and I am foreseeing interesting and exciting opportunities in this business sector,” he said.
Also in Brian Mizzi’s portfolio is the Waterfront Hotel.
Mizzi Organisation’s involvement in tourism began some 25 years ago at the site of the current hotel on the Gzira sea front.
Previously a block of self-catering apartments, the Waterfront Hotel was a total new-build and proved to be a worthy investment.
“Together with my team, we have always worked to improve occupancy levels and room rates in a highly competitive 4 star market, and thanks to the competent team at the hotel, we have managed to ride the recession quite well and are ahead of the average industry levels with regards to occupancy and room rates in the current year,” Brian Mizzi explained.
In an effort to increase the revenue stream in this sector, the company has created the ‘Star Café’ concept together with value for money eatery ‘Basilico Restaurant’.
“During the last year, we have also launched Seasons Event Caterers, a new catering operation for weddings, conferences and external catering events like receptions, dinner parties and business lunches.”
While Brian Mizzi continues to expand the Mizzi Organisation lines of business, he acts as a Director on the Board of a number of other companies in which the Mizzi Organisation is a substantial share holder including The Institute of English Language Studies Ltd, The Plaza Shopping Centre in Sliema, Mellieha Bay Hotel and Kemmuna Ltd, owner of the Comino Hotel.