The ice cream cone has been around for more than 100 years, and it was more or less done right the first time. There has been little change or innovation in the basic product since it was first invented, but that doesn’t mean just anyone can be successful manufacturing it. Costa Mavropoulos, CEO of South Africa’s Hermes Cone & Snack Manufacturers, says there are plenty of companies that have the capability to make ice cream cones, but Hermes stands apart because of its quality and capacity.
Providing a continuous supply of cones through its modern manufacturing facility is one of the reasons Hermes has become one of the largest ice cream cone and snack manufacturers in Africa. “In the winter time, everybody can supply ice cream cones,” Mavropoulos says.
However, when demand ramps up significantly in the summer, many of Hermes’ competitors find themselves outmatched. The ability to provide high-quality products at a consistent production level high enough to meet the current demand is how Hermes has distinguished itself as a leader.
The company was founded in 1977 by Costa and Steni Mavropoulos. Hermes’ original focus was on producing candy apples and marshmallow snacks, but soon diversified into ice cream cones and other snacks. Today, the company produces wafer and sugar cones, as well as sweets such as marshmallow cups and cones and snacks.
Devotion to Quality
Mavropoulos has always been a strong believer in treating their equipment right, always repairing it with original parts and never using copies or knock-off components. He says this has been a big part of the reason why the company has been able to maintain a high level of quality in its products, as well as why it can maintain its level of production.
Hermes still follows this edict today, and the company’s 14,000-square-foot manufacturing facility features some of the original machinery working alongside state-of-the-art equipment, thanks to its insistence on using original parts.
Hermes’ customers’ needs are relatively predictable, according to Mavropoulos, because of the simple nature of the product.
“Fortunately for us, ice cream cones are something very traditional, so that doesn’t change, really,” he says. “They evolve, according to customers requirements.”
For example, he continues, many customers have turned away from certain types of coloring and flavoring in recent years. However, there is still enough of a demand for brightly colored cones for Hermes to continue producing them.
The needs of Hermes’ customers are what drive the company, Mavropoulos says. It is always working to develop new products according to what they need, provided there’s enough justification for it.
“We’re not going to invest in machinery of half a million dollars if it’s for someone who’s going to be ordering $300 a month,” he says.
To meet those needs, Mavropoulos says Hermes always invests in the highest-quality equipment it can. Although other manufacturers try to cut corners by purchasing cheaper equipment, Hermes believes that you always get what you pay for.
“You can get something that will last you 20 years, or you can get something that will last you three years,” Mavropoulos says.
Although Hermes is well-equipped to serve the needs of its customers, that doesn’t mean the company is without challenges. Mavropoulos says maintaining a high level of productivity is always the company’s most pervasive challenge, but keeping costs down in the face of inflation is something else Hermes has to contend with.
Buying raw materials such as flour, oil and sugar means the company is always subject to fluctuations in commodity prices. However, Mavropoulos says the company is always on the lookout for competitive quotes from suppliers.
Additionally, because the company buys in large quantities, Mavropoulos says Hermes enjoys volume discounts.
Hermes has built itself up into one of the leading cone makers in Africa, one that counts leading international franchises among its customers in South Africa, along with locally based restaurants and retailers.
Mavropoulos says the company’s focus in the near future will be maintaining its broad customer base while also spreading out into other markets. Although the main focus for the company for now will be expanding into new markets in Africa, Mavropoulos says the company wants to expand into other regions of the world in the years to come.