Legendary Ali Group founder Luciano Berti is adamant that the company is well-placed to extend its position in the foodservice equipment sector, but admits that Europe’s economic troubles still concern him.
Berti, who has been at the helm of the Milan-based catering equipment behemoth for more than half a century, believes external economic factors will continue to impact on the industry, especially in Europe.
“The long recession still isn’t behind us,” he said in the latest issue of the company’s Ali World magazine. “It is hard to say if we will have a full recovery in the next five years, but something’s got to give. For the economy to become stronger we need a stronger Europe. The handbrake is still on because of the political situation, but Europe is still a top tourist destination where entrepreneurs are innovative and willing to take a risk.”
Berti also offered an insight into the approach that has helped him build his empire over the last 50 years, revealing the importance of focusing on the small details of the present while retaining a view of the bigger picture.
“Concentrating on the short-term means being able to adapt day-to-day,” said Berti. “You have to think long-term but also consider the small details of the present. It is like trying to cross a river. You need to keep looking at the other side of the river, but you must also focus on keeping your balance on the stones beneath you. Sometimes you need to take a step back, or sideways, to keep your footing. But in business, as in life, it is important to look ahead and push boundaries. That’s the beauty of life.”
Ali Group is known for its acquisitive strategy and its most recent takeover came in the form of Metro Industries, the manufacturer of foodservice storage and transport solutions. It now owns almost 80 separate brands and operates 58 manufacturing sites.
These days, Berti is joined on the executive management team by son Filippo, who runs its rapidly-expanding North American operations. Filippo is also convinced that the global foodservice industry is set for further changes in the next five years.
“It’s still very fragmented on the manufacturing and the distribution side,” he told the Ali World publication. “In some markets, though, we are experiencing consolidation trends at both ends, especially in mature markets, while Asia and the Middle East are seeing new players coming to the game. There are now more players in competition and I think we are likely to see more consolidation at the top in the sector. One of the bigger players could become significantly bigger.”
He also stressed that Ali Group’s focus wasn’t only on acquiring leading businesses in the industry, but creating innovative products. “We are increasingly manufacturing products with more technological content and innovative features,” he said. “We listen to consultants, distributors and end-users. We take the pulse of the market and adapt to it.”