Strauss CEO Vows to Make Company the Biggest Israeli Food Multinational Inside Three Years

Strauss Group CEO Gadi Lesin has big plans for the food manufacturer, starting with doubling sales within five years. Lesin spoke with analysts shortly before the release of the company's financial reports on Tuesday. To reach this goal, Strauss will increase exports and introduce four categories of products to more countries and continents.

The five-year plan is based on achieving certain three-year goals.

"The strategic plan for the next three years is for Strauss to become the No. 1 global Israeli food and beverage manufacturer," says Lesin, "and to see that we are building at least four categories in the global arena - coffee, salads, chocolate and water."

Lesin said he will strive to turn the Strauss Group from an international company operating in a few countries, as it is today, to a global power, implementing a vision and a values system spanning countries and continents. Lesin, who took the helm at Strauss about six months ago, did away with the management at the conglomerate level and put the group's companies in charge of their own management.

"Every CEO has a strong executive and full responsibility to implement the company 's strategy," explains Lesin. "The group no longer has a vice president of operations or a vice president of marketing."

Strauss has four subsidiaries: Strauss Israel, Strauss Coffee, Strauss North America and Strauss Water.

Lesin also plans to resume the acquisition of Israeli companies; his predecessor, Erez Vigodman, apparently thought there were no local companies worth purchasing after Strauss bought home water purification system manufacturer Tami 4.

"Despite the low potential for acquisitions, there is no saying Strauss Israel will not continue expanding and getting stronger," says Lesin, adding that candidates for acquisition will have annual sales of at least NIS 100 million.

Strauss is planning for more than 50% of its revenues to come from manufacturing operations abroad. In 2008, sales in Israel totaled NIS 3.3 billion, with sales abroad not far behind, at NIS 2.9 billion.

"To achieve our growth goals we will have to improve profitability in Israel," says Lesin. "We need pretax profits of over 11% for the company to boost operations abroad."

Strauss' profits in 2008 were 11.8% of sales, up from 10.3% in 2007.