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Anca Foods – Taste the difference

A premier poultry giant in the Eastern Cape region, Anca Foods has a history of making great strides in a bid to consistently set new standards for the industry and Endeavour Magazine spoke with Devin Isemonger, company Sales Manager, to find out how.

Anca Foods is a leading poultry farming, processing and distribution operation based in the Eastern Cape, but don’t go thinking that there’s nothing else to know, as this is far from your average food production company. With a desire to be constantly reaching above and beyond recognised industry standards, Anca has sought to bolster itself with a team of dedicated professionals and Devin Isemonger, Sales Manager, is one of the most vital team players, but how did he find himself in his coveted position?

I have been head of sales since Feb 2015. I began my career at Anca in 2013, as Quality Control Manager. When the previous head of sales left us suddenly, I was moved into the position as a short-term solution. This was a huge jump for me in terms of authority and responsibility and I have since become entrenched in this department and feel that it is in sales that I can make the greatest contribution to the company. I guess you could say I was dropped in at the deep end and very quickly learnt how to swim.”

 The really impressive aspect of this rise to leadership is that at no point did Anca give Devin anything other than full support and faith, which is why he is still in position and able to directly influence new and innovate sales directives. More than that, he has been able to impact on the style of leadership employed throughout the company, which, essentially, defines it as a whole,

“Effective leadership requires one to empathise with one’s staff and make them feel appreciated as members of a team. The key is to achieve this without a breakdown of respect. This is a fine line to walk and a daily discipline. Once this balance has been struck, clear goals must be set and a roadmap to success created. This must be regularly updated and communicated. In short, we support staff while still holding them accountable.”

So what are these goals? What is it that Anca is trying to accomplish? And what has it managed in 25 years of operation? A key selling point is the continuation of healthy and humane farming techniques, which Anca feels is vital in terms of tastier chicken and therefore, customer satisfaction. Animals are bred and nurtured with the utmost care and farms are run in accordance with the strictest animal welfare standards, with regular inspections being welcomed. Add in spacious barns that are geared towards the comfort and happiness of all animals and a regular supply of high-quality feed and you can see that this is no mere profit-making endeavour, which is why a creative philosophy has been adopted by Devin and his team,

“I consider myself, foremost, as a pragmatist. Practical application is, to me, the be all and end all of business. Rather than designing large complex plans and strategies, I prefer to implement small and simple plans. These I refine through practical applications, before allowing them to grow and evolve into large-scale strategies. I feel this approach suits unpredictable industries such as ours by minimising risk, but not to the expense of creativity and innovation.”

Right there is the key to Anca’s success; innovation. This is a crucial part of any high-flying operation, but it is even more critical in the Eastern Cape poultry-farming industry, as the market is currently fraught with obstacles to overcome,

The Poultry industry in South Africa is currently in crisis, due to the illegal dumping of cheap frozen cuts from the European Union in our market. European producers recoup their farming costs from the breast and wing meat alone, leaving their drum and thigh portions as waste products. Unfortunately, the South African consumer prefers drum and thigh cuts while the EU will not allow South African farmers to export to their shores. This leaves South African producers in an unsustainable position. 2016 was the most challenging year to date for the industry and saw the closing down of several major abattoirs.”  

Setting itself apart and rising above the domestic industry troubles has become second nature to the ever-resilient Anca Foods, which prefers to supply poultry to the fresh market, wherever possible. With 80% of production feeding this section of the industry, the unfortunate influx of frozen portions of meat from the EU has had little impact on the success of Anca, whereas many rivals have fallen by the wayside.

Despite a turbulent marketplace, Anca is celebrating an impressive 25 years of operation and more than that; there has even been growth, especially in terms of staffing numbers,

“Anca Foods currently employs upwards of 500 people in total. We seek to employ from local communities and have found that to promote from within is the best practice. Our corporate culture is one of high intensity, which some may find intimidating. This has evolved as a result of the difficult market we operate in.“

 Add to this the strong and steadfast relationships being enjoyed with key suppliers, including Epol and Keystone, and Anca has everything in place to not only continue enjoying fantastic success, but also explore new and exciting opportunities in the future. With a history of brilliant developments being implemented, including a new 270-ton cold storage facility and processing plant expansions, it will come as no surprise that there are plans afoot for more innovations.

Key to future successes is a total rebranding of Anca Foods, with new labels being showcased on consumer products, but Devin also hinted that there is something even more exciting to come,

“We are always expanding and will be increasing our output again in 2018. There is another major project in the pipeline for 2018 as well, but at this point that is confidential.”

 Consider us very much intrigued and looking forward to finding out what this project is!

Regardless of future developments, what we will say is that Anca Foods has consistently impressed with its strong brand within a commodities industry. Despite poor market conditions that have lasted four years, through unrivalled quality, commitment and strength of identity, Anca has risen where so many others have fallen, without compromising on key areas such as price or production standards. If that doesn’t inspire you to maintain a steely gaze on the future of this incredible operation then we don’t know what will.