Havanna (Argentine company)
|Headquarters||Mar del Plata, Argentina|
|Key people||Benjamín Sisterna (founder)|
|Products||Alfajores, cone-shapped alfajores, dulce de leche, cookies, puddings|
Havanna is a leading Argentine manufacturer of food products (mostly known due to its famous alfajores, which are considered amongst the best of Argentina). The company also operates its own system of franchise coffee stores and exports its products to Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Israel, Mexico, Paraguay, Perú, Spain, United States and Venezuela.
First years and expansion
The firm was founded in 1948 by Benjamín Sisterna, Demetrio Elíades and Luis Sbaraglini and began its activities as a producer of alfajores in the city of Mar del Plata. Sisterna was a baker (he had worked in his home town and later in traditional Argentine bakery "Confitería Los Dos Chinos"). The first product he made was "Alfajores Santa Mónica", created along with his partner Sbaraglini. These alfajores were offered at some points of sale in Buenos Aires for a brief time.
In the 1940s Sisterna arrived in Mar del Plata, the most important coastal city of Argentina, where he soon formed a team with Demetrio Elíades, the owner of the Confitería Havanna situated in downtown Mar del Plata. It was said that the name "Havanna" was an homage to the capital city of Cuba but the reason why the name was written with a double "n" is now unclear.
The products of Confitería Havanna were made to the same formula used today. Following the success of the chocolate-flavoured alfajores, other varieties were added. For a long time Havanna's alfajores were chosen by the tourists who spent their vacations at the popular seaside resort and the Havanna brand became representative of the city and of Argentina as a national product.
In 1998 Havanna was sold to the local company Exxel Group for about USD $85 million. At the time of purchase, Havanna produced 5.5 million dozen alfajores per year in its two industrial plants located in Mar del Plata. The company also had 130 shops in both cities, Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata, employing 300 people (increasing to 600 in summer, when most visitors go to Mar del Plata).
By 2003 Havanna had increased its debt to more than USD $30 million because of the collapse of the economy in Argentina between 1999 and 2002. As a consequence, the Exxcel Group sold the company to a group of private investors called "Grupo DyG" (Spanish DyG Group)
Expanding the business: the coffee stores
One key to Havanna's long presence in the market has been the opening of coffee stores (which sell not only different varieties of coffee, but also the classic and popular Havanna products like alfajores, lemon cookies, brownies, cakes and other chocolate and dulce de leche desserts). The concept was named "Café Havanna" and the business expanded successfully, with 230 points-of-sale throughout Argentina.
While many restaurants closed because of low sales, the franchise stores increased considerably. The greatest success has been the coffee stores, selling their products under different brand names, according to a report written by the Argentine Franchise Association
Havanna was cited as the biggest success among the coffee stores. After financial problems during the economic crisis in 2001, the company successfully positioned its brand and became one of the leaders in franchising stores outside Argentina.
One reason for the success of Havanna stores is the high per capita consumption of coffee in Buenos Aires (about 1 kg per person in a year). This average is higher than 2009 statistics but below the record reached in 1969 (1.7 kg). On the other hand, in the rest of the provinces of Argentina the consumption of coffee decreases, due to people there preferring other beverages (like "mate") rather than coffee.
The following is a list with the most representative products manufactured by Havanna:
|Alfajor||chocolate, dulce de leche|
|Easter eggs (seasonal)||chocolate|
|Dulce de leche||traditional|
- Los alfajores, una tradición argentina
- Ranking de los mejores y peores alfajores argentinos
- Oh!Buenos Aires: Havanna
- Havanna, en manos del Excel La Nación, 1997-12-08
- Nuestra Empresa (web oficial)
- "El Alfajor que nació a orillas del mar" La Nación, 2000-10-30
- Venta de Havanna a ex ejecutivos del Citibank Clarín, 2003-08-26
- "Dulces negocios desde Argentina" article from El Mercurio]
- "Las franquicias de café gourmet", iEco, 2009-11-29
- "Café porteño: tradición, amistad y consumo", from the website notio.com.ar, nota de Maximiliano Kronenberg – 2011-03-05
- Official site (Spanish)