09 February, 2018
Ice cream maker GIPA is celebrating 40 years of successful business in Tunisia and its CEO Youssef Ghrib has further ambitions to grow the company well into the future.
With support from the EBRD’s Advice for Agribusiness programme, funded by the European Union, the company has modernised its business and is ready for new ventures.
Tunisia welcomes more than six million foreign tourists every year and, perhaps as a result, its ice cream industry is constantly evolving. Meanwhile, among locals, domestic ice cream makers have become so popular that world-renowned brands have taken a backseat.
As one of the oldest Tunisian producers, GIPA knows this very well. The company started ice cream production in 1978 and is proudly one of the most competitive companies on the Tunisian market.
Their ice cream brands Selja and Olà have been summer staples for generations and are some of the most beloved brands among Tunisians.
Thanks to EBRD and EU support, the company has geared up its operations for even greater success in the future.
This is good news for the local economy and for GIPA’s approximately 1000 employees. GIPA is an important source of employment for its suppliers and people working along the entire logistics chain too.
“We are sourcing most of our ingredients locally,” explained Youssef Ghrib, GIPA CEO. “For example, we buy milk from local producers in the region of Cap Bon and we cooperate with other local producers as well.
“We are happy that we can link up with small businesses and contribute to creating more business and jobs opportunities in the region.”
Ice cream revolution
“At the beginning, our ice cream was sold only in tourist sites in Tunisia and only during summer time. Even I was reluctant to buy my children ice cream when it was not a hot month,” said Mr Ghrib.
“Nowadays, people like to eat ice cream all year round. We like to think that we have contributed to this change in consumer habits.
“Another example of this is that for weddings, instead of a traditional cake, often couples now choose to serve an ice cream cake, which is one of our best selling products.”
GIPA sells a startling 20 million litres of ice cream every year.
“In the 1980s, consumption per person was around 0.6 litres each year. Today it is 2.7 litres,” said Taoufik Elghak, GIPA’s Production Manager, who has been in the business for over 28 years.
Along with the rise in consumption, demands and opportunities have grown as well. Back in 1978 GIPA had only one production site. Today they operate in nine different sites across Tunisia.
This business expansion translates into more jobs for Tunisian people, and better prospects for local economy, which since 2011 has been receiving significant support from the EU.
Helping agribusinesses expand and excel
Selling millions of litres of ice cream annually does not happen without challenges. One of the biggest has been to secure regular production during the busy summer season and to ensure regular supply to all GIPA’s sale points across the country.
Even one day without production or delivery to the sale points and supermarkets could have serious financial implications.
This is why the company contacted the EBRD for help. The programme, which in Tunisia is funded by the EU, provides agribusinesses with targeted advice and support to improve their operations and help them to become stronger market players.
“The project helped us develop our distribution system and supply chain. There were too many actors working separately, which was difficult to coordinate. With the new system and procedures in place we structured our organisation and improved services and supply to our buyers,” said Mr Ghrib.
“This successful cooperation with GIPA illustrates once again that the EU, together with its partner EBRD, is committed to support Tunisian businesses in their endeavour to grow and become more competitive,” said Patrice Bergamini, EU Ambassador to Tunisia.
“The Advice for Agribusiness programme aims to support Tunisia in its economic transition and to further deepen EU-Tunisia economic integration."
Victoria Zinchuk, EBRD Head of Agribusiness Advisory, said: “Investing in agribusiness is at the core of our mission, in particular in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region where agribusiness is an important employer and driver of local economies.”
Constant drive for innovation
“What has directed our upward path to success is our constant drive for innovation and improvement,” added Mr Ghrib.
“This year we will launch a few new high-quality ice cream products, and also some new flavours like coconut and red berries.”
And what about the global trend for non-dairy ice cream?
“We are not there yet,” he said. “But if our consumers start showing interest in such products, we will of course consider this production line as well."