“There is a worldwide trend towards plant protein and healthier and sustainable foods. Consumption rates of pulses are increasing, as they are a valuable source of plant protein. The pulses industry is expected to increase its growth momentum and maintain its importance in the coming years.
Chairman of the Board
Yayla Agro Gıda
With the COVID-19 pandemic, which has triggered the reconsideration of food and agricultural policies; healthy, balanced and sustainable nutrition gained importance worldwide. Building a sustainable and inclusive food system from farm to fork is of great importance for global food security and the future of the world. At this point, pulses come to the fore as a healthy protein source. As the contribution of pulses to sustainable nutrition is better comprehended, the demand for pulses is also increasing.
I had a couple of words on the outlook of the food and pulses industry with Hasan Gümüş, Chairman of the Board of Yayla Agro Gıda, which works to build a healthy and sustainable world. Gümüş stated that along with climate change, the pandemic has revolutionized the food industry and said, “Food security and supply are expected to continue to be one of the world's most strategic issues in the forthcoming years.” Gümüş noted that there is a worldwide demand for plant protein. “The pulses industry is expected to increase its growth momentum and maintain its importance in the coming years.” he added.
Mr. Gümüş, first of all, can you tell us about Yayla Agro and its fields of activity?
We, as Yayla Agro Gıda, operate in a strategically important sector. Within the framework of our mission to raise the healthy generations of the future, we continue to produce reliable, high-quality, nutritious hygienic products with home-like flavors to the table. We differentiate ourselves with our 26-year history in the industry, our strong production structure and distribution network, brand awareness, R&D investments and competence to develop innovative products. We have production facilities in Ankara and Mersin. We are also preparing to establish our third factory on the 127 thousand sq m land we purchased in the Niğde Organized Industrial Zone.
The innovative products that you have brought in the food and pulses sector recently attract attention. Can you tell us about them?
We have a wide range of products appealing to different needs such as conventional rice and pulses products, ready-to-cook, practical, additive-free rice and soup mixes, gourmet products (Chia, quinoa, flaxseed, etc.), the “Soup’s On” range, which is a first in Turkey, and boiled products. We have an annual production capacity of approximately 1 million tons of rice and pulses and approximately 35 million units of packaged meals per year. We have foreign trade relations with more than 100 countries across 6 continents. We export to more than 65 countries.
The products that we offer to consumers through national markets, discount markets, local chains, gross markets, out-of-home consumption points, traditional wholesalers and dealers take their place on the shelves with Yayla, A’la Çiftçi, İri DANEM and Yunus brands. We produce bulgur blended with seasonably dried vegetables rice and soup mixes, gourmet products (Chia, quinoa, flaxseed, amaranth, etc.) as well as conventional rice, bulgur and pulses under the ‘Cook & Eat’ category; boiled pulses under the ‘Open & Use’ category; stews, ready-made salads, olive oil dishes and compotes under the ‘Open & Eat’ category; and various soups, pastas, bulgur pilafs, rice pilafs and meat dishes under the ‘Heat & Eat’ category. According to Nielsen 2021 data, we are the market leader in the rice and pulses industry.
Do you also ship these products to foreign markets?
We mainly provide services abroad with our Legurme brand. We produce ‘Cook & Eat’, ‘Open & Eat’, ‘Heat & Eat’ and ‘Open & Use’ products with Legurme. Legurme’s wide range of classic rice and pulses products, gourmet delicacies (Chia, quinoa, flaxseed, etc.) and ready-to-eat, practical, additive-free products meet consumers in many countries around the world, especially in Europe. Our Legurme brand has been supported under the scope of the "Turquality Brand Support Program" of the Turkish Ministry of Commerce since 2020.
You have studies on sustainable production and the environment. Can you tell us about your goals in this regard?
As a result of our efforts towards our sustainable growth targets, we became the first company in the pulses industry to receive a Carbon Footprint Declaration Report. Our goal is to become a “Carbon Neutral” company by 2050.
Our R&D Center, which we established in 2018 and was approved by the Ministry of Industry and Technology, carries out studies to develop new products and technologies in line with changing consumer habits and customer demands. The Soup’s On range, which includes many additive-free, preservative-free food options with home-like flavors, is among the products we offer to the market as a result of our R&D studies.
How has the pandemic affected our eating habits?
Living conditions are changing very quickly. We are continuously moving away from our traditional cuisine and eating style. On the other hand, there is a healthy and high-quality nutrition trend that is on the rise with the pandemic. We want to consume reliable, nutritious, hygienic and quality food that we know what’s in it.
What we eat determines many things ranging from our health to our lifestyle to how we feel ourselves. With our ‘Soup’s On’ range, we offer products that make life easier, practical, hygienic and that everyone can consume safely. Our additive-free, preservative-free, home-like flavors such as various soups, bulgur and rice pilafs, stews, meat dishes, and compotes are ready to eat within 2 minutes. The meals we produce in our production facilities with the state of the art technology and quality standards meet the consumers in a hygienic way as they are cooked without additives such as colorants and preservatives.
Thanks to the new generation BPA-free packaging, foods can be stored up for up to 36 months without losing their taste and nutritional elements. And it does not require a cold chain. The fact that our packaging takes up only 1/10 of the space compared to glass and tin cans provides a significant advantage with sufficient small storage space, while also protecting the environment by reducing the carbon emissions spent during logistics.
We have also been deemed worthy of an award in the 2021 NielsenIQ BASES Breakthrough Innovations, in the “Food” category with our ‘Soup’s On’ product range. Lastly, we were awarded in the “Most Innovative Convenience Food” category at the Food and Gastronomy Innovation Summit and Food Plus Awards held by the Research Center for Food, Beverage and Agricultural Policies (GIFT).
So, are you working on launching innovative products? What kind of work do you have in your R&D center?
In our R&D Center, product studies with added functionality are being carried out as well as the studies in line with our goal of expanding our ready-to-eat food portfolio. Considering the Ministry of Health’s Turkey nutrition and health research, social deficiencies and needs are analyzed with the support of a dietitian, and products are being designed in this regard. In addition to the development of functional foods, increasing the number of gluten-free and vegan products is among the targets for the upcoming period.
What is Yayla Agro’s target for the upcoming period?
With reference to the strategic importance of agriculture and food, our primary goals are to transform the potential and advantages of our country into value-added products and export them to the world and to become one of the few brands in our field on a global scale.
Our country has a huge agricultural potential in every aspect. Our country is the homeland of pulses and is a gene center. We also have a privileged place as a country that consumes legumes the most in the world and makes them a part of its cuisine culture. At the same time, we are in a position that manages the world’s pulses with its exporter and entrepreneurial industry. In world pulses production, our country ranks 20th in terms of cultivation area and 14th in production volume in the world. We believe that 2022 will also be a productive year for the sector. If no agricultural drought in April and May, we expect an increase in sowing and thus production of pulses, especially red lentils and chickpeas.
The cruciality of food and agriculture has been better understood during the pandemic process. So what should Turkey do to take full advantage of its agricultural potential?
Food is a very strategic subject for countries and this fact has become clearer with the process of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we have the luxury of postponing all our needs except health and food, human beings have to meet their food and drink needs in every situation. The restrictions imposed by the countries on the export of agricultural products in this process and the closing of borders showed the significance of self-sufficiency in agriculture and food. The situation that broke out due to the war between Russia and Ukraine once again proved this fact.
As an agricultural country, Turkey will be able to use its advantages much better if it uses its soils more efficiently, take advantage of it with more value-added products, supports farmers more, and realized the return to agriculture together with industrialists and sector stakeholders.
We believe that consolidation in management is essential for the full use of our country’s agricultural potential. In addition to land consolidation, consolidation should also be performed in agricultural production. In addition, to me, the production of pulses that nourish the soil, increase its productivity and need less water has to be encouraged. With the incentives and supports to be provided to the industry in this regard, it is important to establish a structure where contracted production will provide guarantees for both farmers and industrialists. The government must assume the role of arbitrator, and know-how and capital have to be brought together with the soil and the farmer by the virtue of the industrialist.
There is a severe migration to cities in Anatolia, especially in rural areas. The aging of the farmer population, the low interest of young people in agricultural production and the concentration of the population in the cities are all important problems before us. At this point, the country’s total supply and demand balance increases the risks in terms of feeding its citizens and supplying its basic products. Climate-induced risks such as drought also trigger this. As in the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war, international risks are also increasing. It seems that these risks will increase more for countries that cannot produce and meet their own needs in the upcoming period. Countries like Turkey have the potential and the opportunity to produce in higher amounts. Food security and supply will continue to be one of the most strategic issues in the world in the forthcoming years.
How can the private sector contribute to sustainable agricultural production?
We, as Yayla Agro Gıda, will contribute to the production mobilization throughout Anatolia in the upcoming period in order to increase contracted production and secure our supply. Food safety risks have increased the need to take care of agriculture, land and farmers. Agriculture is measured by the capacity of know-how and capital to meet the soil. In all developed countries, agriculture is at a very advanced and successful level, as know-how and capital meet the soil very strongly. In Turkey, our industrialists have to turn their faces to the soil more. We, as Yayla Agro Gıda, aim to be one of the pioneers of this in the upcoming period.
How do you see the future of the pulses industry?
The pulses industry is expected to increase its growth momentum and maintain its importance in the coming years. There is a worldwide trend towards plant protein and healthier and sustainable foods. Since pulses are a valuable source of plant protein, their consumption rates are increasing. In scientific research, pulses are defined as “valuable food” with their low calories, high protein values and high fiber contents. Today, when we feel the negative effects of global warming and climate change, pulses, which are a plant protein source, offer significant advantages compared to animal protein sources in terms of environmental effects. The amount of greenhouse gas emissions of animal-derived proteins is approximately 400 times higher than that of plant proteins. In order to reduce our carbon footprint, use water resources efficiently and leave good traces for the future of our planet, we need to reconsider our dietary preferences and make more room for pulses products on our tables.
Within the framework of our mission of “Building the Healthy Generations of the Future”, we regard it as a responsibility towards the society to develop products aimed at increasing the consumption of pulses in accordance with the health, convenience, practicality and availability criteria brought by today’s consumption habits.