Atanas Valev explains why teaching Americans about Bulgarian yoghurt led to his marketing success. By Aneta Nedyalkova
Atanas Valev arrived in the United States more than 20 years ago to participate in agro workshops. Nine years ago he registered his brand of yoghurt “Trimona”. In 2016 “Trimona” won the first place in the WORLD DAIRY INNOVATION AWARDS for new dairy products, competing with over 200 other manufacturers from across the country. It also reached the finals of the competition “Made in America” hosted by popular star Martha Stewart. Today “Trimona” is sold in over 700 stores across the US and this number is growing.
You put the word “Bulgarian” with yoghurt.
In this enormous competition, we could have put some trendy name on it, like everyone else. But our yoghurt is Bulgarian, we have invented it, it is part of our culture. One must bet on what’s different, although it may be harder to establish on the market. The point is to succeed in telling the world our story. “Trimona” has become an ambassador for Bulgaria, through it people can learn more about the country and where the best sour milk is made and fermented into yoghurt.
Tell us about the first steps of “Trimona”?
My story is no different than that of thousands of others like me, like that of producers of tomato sauce in Italy, for example. It all starts in the kitchen, the restaurant, the garage ... I came to America with two jars of yoghurt and used the lactic culture in them to ferment new batches. I first brought the milk myself to organic grocery stores in Manhattan, I travelled for hours, those were long work days.
Teaching People - Is This the Secret of Good Marketing?
Educating while selling is the best way to promote. The creator of the product is emotionally engaged, the energy he will give, no one else can give. Between 2013 and 2015 I did over 300 promotions of 4-5 hours each. I stood in the shops and explained the product to the customers.
It’s tiring, but I saw how each promotion ended with a sale. Now, I am constantly involved in symposia, conferences, forums, I meet with healthcare professionals and nutritionists, specialists in the field of healthy eating, writers. Getting to know new people, acquiring new knowledge, keeping in touch with people - that’s the meaning of business and the basis of its successful development. We are about to begin a series of webinars which include a lot of information, facts, recipes and tips. I’m convinced that communicating with people and providing useful information is the right marketing approach
Simply put, the network of contacts is at the heart of business development. And that is the idea of creating IBA.
Undoubtedly! I fully support the idea of linking Bulgarian entrepreneurship around the world. I believe the Alliance will be established on a very professional basis and it will enable us all to work better.
How will “Trimona” develop?
First of all, we have to do our job here, to establish ourselves on this large
market because - as we say - we have only just scratched the surface. Having more capital, we’ll have the opportunity to start thinking of expanding. We already have inquiries from Asia, the Netherlands, France and England. We are currently producing around 40,000 litres per month, the dairy farm is in the northern part of New York City, the animals are free range and graze clean mountain grass.