Interview with Chairman Eren Ongurlar of Hafiz Mustafa 1864: “Quality is non-negotiable and core to our identity”

Sponsored: Serving as the driving force behind Hafiz Mustafa 1864, he has not only preserved the brand’s century-old heritage but has also propelled it onto the global stage.

Eren Ongurlar is a trailblazer in the confectionery world, fusing the traditional with the innovative. With a devotion to a centennial heritage and a sense of creativity, Eren Ongurlar has taken Hafiz Mustafa to an unprecedented level. In this exclusive interview, we explored his journey, challenges, and visionary outlook for the future of Hafiz Mustafa 1864.

You have played a pivotal role in Hafiz Mustafa’s expansion within Turkey and internationally, including establishing branches in Dubai and London. Could you share some insights into the challenges and triumphs you’ve experienced during this global expansion journey?

The expansion of Hafiz Mustafa within Turkey and internationally has been a considerable journey, with its share of challenges and triumphs. When we ventured into Dubai in 2019, we encountered the challenge of introducing a brand deeply rooted in Turkish culture to a diverse and cosmopolitan audience. It required solid positioning and planning to adapt our desserts while keeping in line with their authenticity. Without compromising our quality, we focused on understanding local preferences.

Opening the Dubai Mall outlet was a meaningful achievement, and we are proud of the warm welcome our desserts received from Dubai residents and visitors. I also want to highlight the benefits: Hafiz Mustafa has been internationally recognised and respected for many decades, a key factor that undoubtedly benefited us.

The decision to set up a shop in London has also brought with it its own unique challenges. London’s dessert scene is lively and competitive, so we had to stand out and respect the city’s diverse culinary landscape. Rebuilding Hafiz Mustafa’s centuries-old reputation has been an ongoing journey.

In both Dubai and London, the key to our success has been the promise of quality and tradition we have made. We have worked to ensure each Hafiz Mustafa outlet delivers the same century-old taste and experience our loyal customers expect. While these international expansions have been challenging, they have also been immensely rewarding and have allowed us to share our rich heritage and desserts with a global audience.

How do you balance preserving the brand’s heritage and introducing innovation to meet evolving consumer tastes?

At the heart of our strategy is the balance between preserving Hafiz Mustafa’s heritage and fostering innovation. We see tradition as the cornerstone of our brand, something we deeply value. However, we also recognise the need to adapt to the changing preferences of our consumers. To achieve this balance, we focus significantly on research and development, constantly exploring new flavours, ingredients, and techniques that align with our traditional products. This allows us to introduce new products that meet modern tastes while staying true to the spirit of Hafiz Mustafa.

We are focused on using the finest ingredients and following traditional preparation methods, promising that each product keeps the high standards our brand is known for. Innovation is about improving the customer experience while keeping our century-old heritage intact. We actively engage with our customers, valuing their feedback and insights. This helps us understand their changing preferences and adjust our products accordingly.

Could you tell us about your role in developing new flavours and products at Hafiz Mustafa? Are there any particular creations you’re incredibly proud of?

I have a deep passion for gastronomy, and it’s a pleasure to combine this with my role at Hafiz Mustafa. One of the inventions I am particularly proud of is Ala sauce, which has received worldwide acclaim. Ala sauce integrates smoothly with our traditional desserts, elevating their flavours and overall taste.

In addition to the Ala sauce, I have had the pleasure of introducing several unique Turkish coffees to our menu. Anatolian Coffee with Mesir Paste, Golden Coffee with Saffron, and Alaturca Coffee with Salep have all been well received by our customers. These coffee innovations have allowed us to offer our customers something distinctive and culturally rich.

I have also been actively involved in the production of Ottoman Kadayifs, where we have worked to create a delightful twist on a classic treat. Like many others, Ottoman Kadayifs reflect our promise to explore new flavours while staying true to the traditions that have defined Hafiz Mustafa for over a century. The desire to surprise and delight our customers while preserving our ancestors’ heritage drives my role in developing these new flavours and products. It is about striking the perfect balance between tradition and innovation, a challenge I wholeheartedly accept.

Can you share some innovative strategies and projects you’ve implemented to promote the brand and its products?

Indeed, branding and marketing play an essential role in shaping the image and perception of Hafiz Mustafa. Our dedicated team of brand directors and professionals work diligently to keep our brand strong and relevant in today’s dynamic marketplace. I oversee the final touches of branding to align with our company positioning. This attention to detail in our branding and marketing efforts has allowed us to maintain our heritage while adapting to the ever-changing consumer preferences and expectations landscape.

One of the innovative strategies involves detailing how Hafiz Mustafa is presented. We draw inspiration from Ottoman and Seljuk culture, from the service plates to the store décor, the music we play, and the aromas in our stores. This experience is designed to transport our customers to different times and places, enhancing their overall visit to Hafiz Mustafa.

Eren Ongurlar

Our social media efforts are designed to showcase our delicious offerings and to tell the story of Hafiz Mustafa, including the rich history and cultural significance of Hafiz Mustafa. Each guest receives our attention to ensure a warm welcome, even during busy periods. This is fundamental to our brand strategy.

Could you shed some light on the measures and processes to ensure consistent taste and excellence across all outlets in Turkey and abroad?

Whether in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, or the United Kingdom, we prioritise maintaining consistent quality. It’s a commitment we take very seriously, and we have several measures and processes to maintain this standard of excellence.

First and foremost, we never compromise on the quality of our ingredients. We source the finest raw materials, whether pistachios from the Nizip region for our baklava or buffalo milk for our dairy desserts. The authenticity of these ingredients is a non-negotiable aspect of our production. Our loyalty to traditional methods is another critical factor. We maintain time-honoured techniques passed down through generations and ensure that our chefs and artisans are trained to keep these methods consistent.

Quality control is built into every step of our production process. We use innovative technology to monitor and maintain the highest hygiene and quality standards. Our 3-stage quality control process ensures that every product meets our stringent criteria before it reaches our customers. Quality goes hand in hand with our commitment to sustainability and organic production. We avoid the use of chemical preservatives in our products. We believe that organic production is about health, taste, and quality.

Quality is non-negotiable and core to our identity. Whether you enjoy Hafiz Mustafa in Istanbul, Dubai, or London, you can expect the same excellence and taste that has defined our brand for centuries.

What strategies have you used to build brand awareness and trust in regions where it may have a different historical presence than in Turkey?

It is a significant undertaking to build and expand the brand awareness and trust of Hafiz Mustafa in regions where we may have a different historical presence than we do in Turkey. To achieve this, we have adopted a multi-faceted strategy that combines authenticity, innovation, and local adaptation. We capitalise on our commitment to tradition and quality. We are proud of our centuries-old history and the rich heritage of Hafiz Mustafa. This historical legacy is a foundation upon which we build trust with our local and international customers.

In addition to our historical significance, we are at the forefront of innovation. While preserving traditional recipes and methods, we also understand the importance of adapting to local tastes and preferences. Products such as Anatolian Coffee with Mesir Paste, Golden Coffee with Saffron, and Alaturca Coffee with Salep exemplify how we bring innovation to our offering while staying true to our roots.

Localisation is another vital aspect of our strategy. We take the time to understand the cultural nuances, preferences, and eating habits of the regions we enter. This enables us to tailor our products and marketing to local sensitivities while maintaining our core identity. We prioritise sustainability and organic production in line with global trends and resonate with health-conscious consumers worldwide.

Our strategy combines tradition and innovation, authenticity and localisation, quality and adaptation. Building brand recognition and trust in new regions is a journey, and our approach is one of continuous development and adaptation, meeting the unique demands of each market.

What’s next for Hafiz Mustafa 1864?

Our vision is to continue to grow and bring the taste of Hafiz Mustafa to more people worldwide. We plan to expand our presence in several countries, including Germany, France, and the United States. These regions offer unique opportunities to introduce our rich heritage and exceptional desserts to diverse audiences. We aim to establish a strong foothold in these markets, just as we have done in Dubai and London.

By 2029, we aim to have a global presence with 45 stores worldwide. This expansion will be complemented by developing an extensive 40,000-square-meter manufacturing facility in Istanbul. This facility will enable us to meet the growing demand for our products and reinforce our commitment to the highest quality standards.

In addition to our Istanbul facility, we plan to establish 10 other manufacturing sites. These strategic locations will allow us to produce our renowned desserts more efficiently and meet local market preferences. Looking further ahead, by 2029, we aim to have 80 million satisfied customers worldwide. This ambitious target demonstrates our commitment to continued growth and innovation.

Regarding new product offerings, we constantly explore ways to expand our menu while remaining true to our heritage. Our recent launches, such as Anatolian Coffee with Mesir Paste, Golden Coffee with Saffron, and Alaturca Coffee with Salep, have been well received, and we plan to continue innovating in this direction.

What message would you share with aspiring entrepreneurs and those who want to impact the confectionery industry?

Staying true to your roots, exploring new horizons, and always putting quality first. It’s a challenging but rewarding journey. An understanding and deep appreciation of your cultural heritage is vitally important. It provides a strong foundation for your brand and allows you to connect deeply with your audience.

Promote your culture, tastes, and traditions to make you stand out from the crowd. Practice is essential, but so is innovation. Look for ways to breathe new life into traditional recipes and flavours. Be visionary and open to new ideas. Quality is non-negotiable. Never sacrifice it for any reason. Maintain the highest standards in your ingredients, preparation methods, and presentation. Consistency in taste and excellence is what builds trust with your customers.

Avoid imitation. Imitation may bring short-term gains, but it takes more to achieve lasting success. Instead, focus on what makes your brand unique and authentic. Celebrate your distinctiveness, and customers will appreciate your genuine offering. The entrepreneurial journey has its challenges. Be prepared for setbacks, and don’t let them deter you. Perseverance and resilience are essential qualities that will see you through the tough times.

Have a deep passion for what you do, and let that drive your commitment to excellence. Your enthusiasm becomes contagious when you genuinely love and share what you create with others.