15 Jan Demand for European goods boosts Hungary’s manufacturing sector
Balázs Gellért, Managing Director, Naturtex, explains his company’s precipitous growth on the international market and the significance of the Hungarian brand
How has Naturtex grown to become a local leader in the manufacturing sector?
Naturtex is a manufacturer of mid- to high-end home bedding products. The company was established in 1989 by my father and three partners. In 2005 my father bought out the other three shareholders and it became a family-owned company. Naturtex immediately experienced massive growth. We invested a lot and saw our turnover increase dramatically.
Today our turnover is five times what it was in 2006. Our capacity has grown three to four times, and our market share has jumped from about 10% to 45%. In 2006 we exported to around 6 countries, and we now export to around 48 countries.
One of our biggest issues over the past few years has been our ability to meet market demand, as we lacked enhanced production capacities. We are creating a totally new factory, which represents an investment of $12 million. With this new factory, Naturtex will expand its production capacities by around 40% and will be better positioned to grasp more opportunities in the market.
Which international markets are the most important for the bedding manufacturing sector?
The most important markets for us are in Asia, such as South Korea, China and Japan. We were the first company in our industry selling products to China. The first two years were challenging, and no one wanted to meet us. However, we began to be successful in the third year. Today, a huge part of our turnover comes from Asia. Our next area of focus is the U.S. market.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your company’s operations?
2020 was a tough and challenging year. From mid-March to April many companies, stores and warehouses closed, and we had many order cancellations. We lost about two months of business. We also had to implement new arrangements in a matter of days to keep our employees healthy and happy.
By June 2020 consumers started spending again. If you are stuck at home every day, you start thinking of upgrading, especially with feel-good items. From June until the end of December we ran on full shifts and were completely booked. Online orders surged. We were fortunate in that regard.
How is the company innovating its marketing to meet the oncoming digital age?
We are increasingly investing in the digital space to catch the younger generation. In South Korea and China, we are influencers and use trendy platforms like TikTok to promote our products. We accept that the world is changing. Four or five years ago we would never have thought to use these kinds of platforms. Of course, we continue to exhibit at classical exhibitions, booths and showrooms, making presentations about our company and products live to customers and visitors.
How is your company engaging with environmental sustainability?
Our third factory is under construction. The new factory uses zero gas, and we are transitioning our old factory to do the same. We have a strong green mindset, and we have several international certifications, such as ISO 1400. We work with the University of Szeged and several companies in Switzerland that provide us with ecological treatments and processes. We also use the most expensive, green-certified soap to wash our down and feathers. Additionally, we are currently completing a 2-hectare solar panel park.
We also have a lot of recycling projects for reclaiming down and feathers. Many down jackets end up in landfills, which has a huge impact on the environment. Together with our partners we collect these old jackets and have reached almost 99% levels of reuse. We designed a machine that can automatically open old jackets and take out the down and feathers to be washed, sorted and reused as filling material for jackets or bedding items.
What kind of innovations have you made in terms of products?
We have a product called Climate Control that contains a special gel inside that regulates body temperature. When your body gets overheated, the gel opens and your body receives cooling air. When your body is too cold, the gel shrinks and increases heat retention.
We have also created a new treatment for our products that guards against all types of viruses. This type of treatment means that when people touch our products in stores there can be no viral transmission.
How does the company promote its Hungarian origins?
Hungarian goose down and feathers are the best in the world. That is not hype; it is a well-regarded fact. We are trying to promote Hungarian goose down products as controlled and traceable along with the Hungarian government. We also promote our products as European made.
We feel responsible as an ambassador for Hungary. We promote Hungary whenever we are traveling. There are huge developments and forward-thinking companies and entrepreneurs in the country. It is a great market to invest in.