Exclusive GCA interview

Dr. Abdullah Gayret, General Manager of Turkish container glass manufacturer GCA, spoke exclusively to Glass Worldwide about current market conditions in the country, having an innovative approach to its products and continuing to invest in order to be a digitally-forward brand. The full version of this article appears in the Nov/Dec 2023 issue that has been mailed globally and is also now available free of charge in the digital archive*.

Exclusive GCA interview

GW: What are the highlights of GCA’s performance since our last interview in 2020, and what is the company’s current standing in the local market?

At GCA, we have approximately 40% of the market in the flint (white, transparent) glass packaging market in our country, on which we currently focus most. Thus, we rise to the position of the second largest producer in [the] flint market. When we consider the domestic and international distribution of our sales, we can say that our domestic sales have 70% and our international sales have 30% share within our total business. At GCA, we will continue our efforts to further increase our export share.

GW: How would you describe prevailing market conditions for the hollow glass sector in Türkiye?

The glass packaging production industry in Türkiye has a production capacity of approximately two million tons. This large capacity is supported by five main manufacturers.

However, the negative impact of the recent global economic contraction, especially on the food and beverage sectors [...] has also indirectly affected the glass packaging industry. The decrease in consumers’ purchasing power due to the rise in energy prices and inflation poses a serious challenge for our industry. In order to overcome these challenges, we are expanding our export capacity to compensate for the shrinkage of the domestic market. We are trying to make our presence felt in different markets, with a special focus on the spirits sector. We continue to work to achieve the growth we targeted for 2023.

Accordingly, we will participate in some important exhibitions and fairs in order to increase the share of exports in our total business volume by establishing closer relations with our business partners. Having participated in Luxe Pack Monaco 2023 and the 27th Eurasia Packaging Istanbul Fair in October 2023, we aimed to meet our business partners and expand both our domestic and international markets.

GW: And what are the market conditions in the other regions you serve?

At GCA, we are one of the leading companies in Türkiye’s glass packaging industry and we are increasing our share in exports every year. We are proud to be the second-highest exporting company in the glass packaging category in 2021 and 2022 at the fourth and fifth Export Champions Award Ceremonies of the Turkish Exporters Assembly, held in December 2022 and in September of this year, respectively. The glass packaging industry in the world has a market of approximately 100 million tons. Half of this is a huge market, created by glass packaging production. At GCA, we are working to take our place in this large market and to represent our country in the international arena in the best way possible. We aim to carry this mission even further, especially in 2023, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Türkiye.

We take an innovative approach to constantly keeping our production processes at the highest level of technology. We currently export to more than 40 countries, and these exports constitute approximately 30% of our business.
In line with our vision, we want to deliver the glass packaging we produce in Türkiye across the world. We plan to increase the number of countries we export to by 25% to 50 countries in the coming period. This will allow us to source a larger portion of our business from international markets. In the last year, we have added Central America, South America and Mexico to our export regions. We aim to reach new countries, especially with our products in the spirits category, thus premium glass bottles for premium drinks. We plan to operate in a wider area in the global market by adding new countries to our export portfolio every year.

GW: How important is innovation when differentiating GCA’s products and services and can you provide any examples?

At GCA, we feel we have a unique approach in the glass packaging industry, and this establishes an advantage. We approach our customers, business partners and projects from a different perspective. Transparency, reliability and close communication are the cornerstones of our business model. We have created a flexible and agile structure to be competitive in the global market. With this vision, we became the first company in our country to implement CRM [Customer Relationship Management] investment in the sector. With innovative steps such as Customer Project Coordination (MPK), we make our customers’ voices heard in our factory and stay in constant communication. In particular, the importance we attach to digitalisation forms the centre of our business model. The wind of digitalisation brought by Industry 4.0 also has an impact on the glass packaging industry. At GCA, we seize the opportunity to equip our existing human resources with different competencies by embracing this digital transformation. This year, we have started a major work to further advance digital transformation, enrich customer experience and strengthen our technological infrastructure. We are also assertive about innovation. At GCA, we increase the use of fully automatic machines in production and automate business processes. However, digitalisation not only enhances production processes, but also increases the value we add to business partners. We believe that we will continue to be a pioneer in the glass packaging industry with these positive effects brought by digitalisation.

GW: Are any major product launches planned for 2024 and if so, in which segments?

We continue to work with a global perspective, emphasising quality, innovation and sustainability in glass production. In 2023, we have produced world-class glass bottles and jars for the food and beverage industry, especially the spirits category. In addition, we have offered our business partners premium options for products such as water and fruit juice by using flint glass. We aim to increase our premium glass bottle projects and production capacity in the spirits category in the global market. At GCA, which has a privileged position in the sector with our design talent, we design packages that highlight the spirit and identity of brands. We also contribute to environmental awareness using innovative and sustainable materials. With these projects and designs, we achieve significant success not only in our country but also around the world. We are rapidly progressing towards becoming one of the most preferred players in the glass packaging industry in the international arena. In this regard, we closely follow new markets and regions and carry out studies accordingly.

GW: What resources is GCA devoting to R&D initiatives?

At GCA, we have successfully carried out projects that will move the glass packaging industry in our country forward with the effective and sustainable work we carry out in the field of R&D. In our factories, where the latest technology is used at every stage, all production processes are carried out with an automation system. By carrying out various R&D studies on both the chemical aspect of glass and technology development, we have developed different projects every year with universities that stand out with their pioneering work in the field of glass in the world. We continue our investments with the vision of becoming a brand that captures digital trends in the industry.

GW: What is GCA’s approach to reducing its carbon footprint?

We are aware of the threat that awaits our environment and our world, and we realise approximately 20% of our production is with glass cullet. As a glass packaging industry manufacturer, fulfilling our extended producer responsibility is one of our indispensable policies. We take an active part in all non-governmental organisations that will benefit recycling in both the food and beverage industry and the packaging industry and provide the support we can. We strive to help establish a sustainable recycling system with the contribution and participation of industry, local governments, and consumers for the economical and regular recycling of packaging waste. Accordingly, while we produce glass, which is a material that can be recycled 100% and infinitely, in accordance with global standards, we have also developed plans that will reduce the carbon footprint of production named EKOMAT. Throughout this project, we have been trying to make every moment of the process of turning waste back into a resource more efficient, creating an integrated system that includes everything regarding waste management. Our main goal is collecting numerical data for waste management, in addition to creating recycling awareness and implementing mandatory deposits.

Our EKOMAT Project is a first in terms of digital transformation of recycling and being a large-scale systematic application in terms of transforming waste back into resources. EKOMAT Project has been rewarded with the Special Jury Award at the 25th Luxe Pack Monaco exhibition in October of this year. At GCA, we will continue to work in this field to leave a better world to future generations. We have established the GCA Sustainability Committee this year, and we are working on our goals and our Sustainability Report.

GW: What importance do you place on recycling in the regions served?

We recognise that recycling plays a critical role in industrial production and efficiency. Accordingly, we use water in a completely closed cycle. We are among the leading companies in the use of glass cullet in Türkiye. Following the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change, we outsource glass cullet. In one year, we have recycled more than 1.6 million glass, metal and plastic beverage packaging items with our EKOMAT Project. With this project, we have achieved great savings in the use of natural resources and contributed to the country’s economy. We aim to increase recycling awareness in Türkiye with our social responsibility projects that we initiated in Yalova and Kütahya. We are aware that recycling rates are quite low in Türkiye because infrastructural arrangements have not been completed yet. However, we have full faith that these rates will increase soon with the newly implemented practices such as deposit and zero waste. We plan to support the development of the Turkish Environment Agency’s mandatory deposit application with the data we collect. We are trying to raise public awareness with statistics showing how much energy and natural resources are saved by recycling. In co-operation with the ÇEVKO Foundation (Environmental Protection and Packaging Waste Utilisation Foundation), we organise training programmes to increase environmental awareness, especially targeting younger generations. At GCA, we aim to contribute to a sustainable future by fulfilling our responsibilities to society, environment and nature. In line with this vision, we constantly review our production processes and corporate relations.

GW: As a Board member of FEVE, how important is collaboration to ensure the glass industry’s continued prosperity?

I think co-ordination is essential to ensure the continued prosperity of the glass industry, because this sector is critical not only for economic development but also for sustainability. Glass is made from natural materials, is completely recyclable and can be reused infinitely, making it an ideal packaging material for the environment. However, in order to fully benefit from these advantages and sustain the prosperity of the glass industry, constant co-operation between different stakeholders is required. I can say that co-ordination between manufacturers, suppliers, recycling facilities and governments is critical to increasing glass recycling rates, improving energy efficiency and creating a sustainable glass economy. For this reason, we support projects such as Close the Glass Loop and Glass Hallmark, which were initiated under the leadership of FEVE.

GW: How are you investing in digital platforms to assist the production capabilities?

In addition to automating production processes with the use of fully automatic machines in production processes, we also use digitalisation to increase the value we add to our business partners. As is the case in many sectors, the glass production sector is also feeling the effects of digitalisation positively along with Industry 4.0. At GCA, we believe that digitalisation will bring an opportunity to equip existing human resources with different competencies. To take advantage of this opportunity, we constantly analyse the data we collect digitally in the production field in order to improve our processes and provide better service to our business partners. We do not limit the value we can get from digital transformation to the production area only. We are further digitalising our shipment processes with shipment projects. Currently, we make our operations efficient with our business partners by using the most modern customer experience tracking tools. We carry out projects that will make our world-leading CRM system more effective every year. One of the best examples of this is the GCA BPEC, GCA Business Partner Experience Centre and Shipment appointment system that we are launching new this year. With these efforts, we embrace digital transformation end-to-end in order to add more value to our business partners, from the first step of production until our products are delivered, and we are integrating it into our processes with increasing momentum.

GW: How important is adopting the latest manufacturing technology to achieve the company’s goals?

Technological advances continue rapidly in the glass packaging production sector in which we operate. We have a fully-automatic production system, which gives us superiority in both efficiency and quality. However, it is critical that we follow technological developments closely and adopt the latest production technologies. The slightest technological backwardness can cause us to fall behind in market dynamics and lose our competitive advantage. We produce high-quality products and thus have the capacity to supply products to global players in both the food and beverage industries. Successfully passing the audits of global companies is an indication of our understanding of quality and production competence. To ensure the continuity of this success, we will continue to constantly add technological innovations and developments to our portfolio.

GW: What is the status of GCA’s major investment programme that has taken place over recent years and was scheduled for completion this year?

Technology and material development efforts will continue to differentiate GCA from its competitors. Accordingly, we have continued to work on image processing technologies and their use in glass packaging production in 2023. We will continue to develop and implement smart production technologies in-house, which combine image processing systems supported by artificial intelligence algorithms and high-level automation software. We will also continue our R&D projects with various universities. Furthermore, we will use digitalisation to increase the value we add to our business partners, in addition to automating production processes with the use of fully automatic machines in production processes. We believe that digitalisation will bring an opportunity to equip existing human resources with different competencies. One of our most important priorities for 2023 is to realise digital transformation in our business. Accordingly, we are carrying out a great work within our group. With the projects we will implement as a result of this work, we aim to increase our customer experience to even higher levels, move GCA further in its leading role in glass packaging, and take our technological infrastructure even further.

GW: Looking ahead, are there any other important investment projects in the pipeline and if so, what is the main focus?

There are many investment projects for the future brought about by the steps we have taken towards digitalisation. The main focus of these projects covers the technological infrastructure and innovation studies required to fully implement digital transformation. We also aim to maintain our leadership in the sector and offer the most innovative solutions to our users by constantly increasing our R&D investments.

GW: What was the motivation for GCA to conduct the Glass Packaging Usage Study earlier this year and did the results surprise you?

We wanted to better understand our position in the glass packaging industry and the demands of consumers in this regard. We conducted this research to see how important glass packaging is for consumers, and to evaluate in detail the perceptions regarding health and safety. The research results clearly revealed why glass is so valuable to consumers. We are not surprised to see that glass is preferred by consumers for reasons such as being healthy, not giving off taste or odour to foodstuffs, being reliable and offering a longer shelf life, because we were already aware of these unique properties of glass. However, we were very pleased to hear this information directly from consumers and understand their real demands in this regard. Since we always prioritise customer experience, this information has been important feedback for us to further develop our business model.

GW: And finally, what is next for GCA?

We continue our investments with our vision of becoming a brand that captures the digital trends in our industry and aim to increase our production market share above the industry averages. We plan to make a serious contribution to our country by increasing the ratio of exports in our total business. We have developed and implemented smart production technologies in-house, combining image processing systems supported by artificial intelligence algorithms and high-level automation software. Not only that, we have recently launched our shipment appointment system and barrier-free (accessible) website to provide better experiences for our customers, because with the rapid advancement of technology, customers’ expectations are also changing.

Now, when customers purchase products or services, they expect not only a quality product or service but also a good customer experience. At this point, digital solutions have become an important tool to increase customer satisfaction. Next year, we hope to increase our premium glass bottle projects, especially in global markets, and therefore the ratio of premium glass bottle products in our total production.

Image: GCA General Manager Dr. Abdullah Gayret.

Further Information: 

GCA, Kütahya, Türkiye
tel: +90 274 277 01 20
email: info@gca.com
web: www.gca.com

* The full version of this article appears in the Nov/Dec issue that has been mailed globally. The digital version of this issue can also currently be read free of charge in its entirety in the Digital Archive (sponsored by FIC) of over 65 issues of Glass Worldwide at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/Digital-Issues.