"Sales increased sharply when comparing 2021 to 2020, and they are even higher compared to 2019, which was already a good year," says Eyal Inbar, Export Sales Manager at Hishtil. All in all, he is very satisfied with this year's results and is looking forward to 2022. In this article, he looks back on the last year, the changes within the company, the challenges they faced - and are still facing - and the positive outlook for the coming year.
2020 in brief
As for many companies, 2020 has been a challenging year, but, all in all, it has been a good year, explains Inbar. "Exports of our young plants decreased significantly, but fortunately, the demand from the domestic market skyrocketed. We also added a new grape plant for wineries and it is a huge success. So, despite exports decreased, the high domestic demand resulted in a good year overall."
A lot happened in 2021
Prices - In 2021, when looking at the export department, Hishtil changed a lot in its way of working. First, they realized the importance of logistics. "We ship everything by air, and in 2020, we saw the number of flights decreasing. Therefore, the prices fluctuated heavily, and for this reason, we decided to charge the freight costs separately from the product prices. In this way, we stay transparent and can offer our clients fair prices." When talking about prices, the prices of the products were updated due to the fact that most of the raw material costs increased.
Assortment - Then, when talking about the assortment, Hishtil decided to focus on the beneficial plants like vegetative herbs, organic and conventional, and grafted vegetables. "We are the largest vegetative herb producer, and since COVID, we noticed a sharp increase in these products, especially Organic ones as well as grafted vegetables. That is why we decided to shrink the assortment of other products like perennials, patio plants, and annuals a bit and heavily focus on the beneficial plants category instead."
Export markets - "We focus on the main high potential countries, putting less attention on small and low potential countries."
Long planning period – Covid makes it challenging to plan years ahead; thus, we adapt shorter and faster responsibility to changes, together with general long future plans.
Automation - Another challenge they are facing, like many companies in many countries, is the recruitment of new people. "It is difficult to find people, not only for in the nursery but for in the office as well." Employee conditions improved, but as many companies are trying to attract employees in this way, Hishtil also invested in robots and improved technology in the nurseries. "Now, a big part of our plugs are rooted by ISO robots that work 24 hours a day during the season. We are very pleased with this investment; quality improved and is constant and reliable."
Zero pests - On top of that, they invested in more techniques that enable them to take care of pests prior to shipment. They just started working with it and so far results are very pleasing. "The purpose of this tool is to ship a product free of pests, which will be a huge achievement."
Sales team - Hishtil's sales team in different countries has been updated over the last years. Last year, Hishtil added a local distributor in Sweden, and in 2021, large French company Graines Voltz started selling Hishtil's herbs and grafted plants in Germany and Austria, in addition to the existing other two distributors.
All in all, 2021 has been a successful year with a significant increase in sales. "We increased sales dramatically compared to last year and also compared to 2019, which was a very good year for us; sales have been even higher." When looking at the plant categories, Inbar sees that the demand for organic products has been high, especially for organic herbs. Hishtil more and more becomes an organic company that also exports conventional plants.
According to Inbar, the outlook for 2022 is positive. "The challenge will be to continue the increase. Of course, we realize that we cannot repeat the massive growth seen in 2021 again in 2022, but we aim to keep up with demand. On top of that, we continue to work according to our strategies, like separating the freight costs from the cost of the product, focusing on the big countries, investing in the production of our core products like organic herbs, and shipping them 100% free of pests and pesticides. Also, we experienced that getting raw materials on time is a challenge, so we therefore will order them much earlier. Finally, as traveling to several countries remains problematic, we will stay in touch with our clients by Zoom meetings and uploading videos of our products on Youtube (Click here to see the videos). All in all, we are very optimistic for 2022!"