Five minutes with... Christoph Appel, Chief Marketing Officer at hecht international
This month, we talked to Christoph Appel from hecht international. This family business develops and markets innovative products for housekeeping, living, gardening and DIY for the consumer goods market. It harbours a sophisticated global procurement network. The company was distinguished as a top innovator in German medium-sized companies in 2014.
You market consumer goods in a very price-sensitive sector. What is your secret to success?
Short decision-making paths are extremely important to us since we need to offer our customers high flexibility and a versatile range of products. Additionally, our good instinct for recognizing trends and needs sets us apart from the rest. Our products win people over because they are excellent for everyday use. As for production, we trust our global procurement network with its many reliable and long-standing partners – especially in China, partially in India and other Asian countries, but also in Europe. We are constantly evaluating our processes to also hit maximum efficiency. The most important thing is to always be one step ahead.
Your company has already registered 15 national and international patents over the last three years. Why is it so important to always stay a step ahead of the rest?
As already rightly mentioned, our segment of the market is characterised by intensive competition and high customer demands, which often go beyond the legal requirements. Conducting business in the traditional way for wholesale trade makes it very hard to set oneself apart. This is where we use in-house development to take a tremendous lead. Our designers and constructors have access to a fully equipped manufacturing workshop. Using 3D prototypes speeds up the process greatly, especially when it comes to implementing new ideas. If an idea for a product is fully developed, only a few hours are needed before the first prototype is available. We communicate with our partners in the Far East with a platform we developed ourselves. This helps us to be faster, more flexible and to work very efficiently.
Another aspect: Hecht International is BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) certified, and this certification also applies to our suppliers. This way, we can be sure that social standards are met.
Founded in 2005, you now have established an entire portfolio of products for discount stores that ranges from household and kitchen products to gardening and lifestyle, all the way to crafting and technology. How do you market your products?
In addition to the promotional products for discount stores, we also supply many other customers, from small retailers and chains up to huge online retailers. Our core business is certainly promotions, however we are also happy to supply in other ways. This is how our logistics area with its ready-made products division has grown so much in the last few years. From pallet goods to dropshipping, a type of direct trade, we also cover many segments in-house.
How many people do you employ at the Burgoberbach site?
Right now, we employ 50 people (full-time).
We also currently have 9 apprentices in wholesale and foreign trading, dual studies – Bachelor of Arts and technical product design.
Were you able to benefit from funding while establishing the headquarters?
Yes, thanks to an innovation support program for medium-sized companies. This helped us a great deal, of course. Our region is particularly friendly to innovation.
What are your favourite recreational spots in Burgoberbach and in the surrounding areas?
As a true Middle Franconian, the nearby Franconian Lake District calls to me for cycling, jogging and taking a breather. Once or twice a year though, I travel to more distant areas. That is where I keep rediscovering how beautiful it is at home.
As for production, we trust our global procurement network with its many reliable and long-standing partners – especially in China, partially in India and other Asian countries, but also in Europe. We are constantly evaluating our processes to also hit maximum efficiency. The most important thing is to always be one step ahead.
Bavaria's economy is full of life – and the people who live and work here make the biggest contribution to this. In our monthly “Five minutes with...” section, we introduce an interesting person from business and research.