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PME Connect Interview with Nuno Ribeiro, CEO of Suavecel

We interviewed Nuno Ribeiro, Founder and Sole Administrator of Suavecel about his experiences and perspectives of leading a successful Portuguese company.

Nuno Ribeiro asserts itself by dynamics and determination when in 1994, at just 22 years old, he opened his own business. A born entrepreneur, the business related to the commercialization of hygiene products is proving to be a success and ideas seethe in the head of Nuno Ribeiro, who always maintained the motto that: "success is work".

Two years later, he acquired the first toilet paper machine and started producing one of the best-selling products in his store, with packs of four and six rolls. It is from here that its role unfolds in the creation of a large tissue paper industry in Portugal.

At just 24 years old, he became a Suavecel administrator, began to explore the world in search of new knowledge and innovation. In Italy, a country at the forefront of this industry, he gets support to start building his corporate structure – Ghost Group. Today he is the sole director of three companies with more than 300 employees, with an annual turnover of 75M€ and constantly growing.

1)    All companies have a story to tell about their foundation. In the case of Suavecel, what is the context in which it was created?

Suavecel started in 1996 the commercialization of toilet paper after identifying this need in the market. In a small space, in Ponte de Lima, Suavecel starts the commercialization business mainly in the north of the country. The massive demand for this product and the short supply at the time boosted the tissue paper products business for domestic use.

2)     In the several years of Suavecel's life, there were many moments that marked its performance. Can you list some of the most memorable moments in the company's history?

Over these 22 years, Suavecel has gone through many important moments that have translated into great and sustainable growth. We can list some of the most striking ones: in 1998 the acquisition of the 1st line for the production of toilet paper, the moment that marked the beginning of Suavecel's affirmation as a tissue paper transformer, obtaining the first quality certification in 2005 - ISO 9001. In 2007 the implementation of an automated system for the end of the manufacturing process that marked the entry of the most developed technologies in Suavecel. In 2017, when we started the installation of 8 new technologically advanced production lines, with the move to an area of 100 thousand m2, because we joined Fortissue (company of the Ghost Group of Tissue paper production) and reached 130 thousand tons / year transformation capacity.

3)   If the history and the most important events of the past teach us today to make more thoughtful decisions, in your analysis, what do you evaluate as the main challenges and restrictions to the growth of the organization?

The biggest challenge was to develop, innovate and grow in an area as demanding as personal hygiene and at the same time little valued by the consumer and making it a profitable business. All of us do not go by without tissue products mainly for domestic use, but the consumer always looks for the most economical price. We work daily to achieve the best balance between quality and price. We are talking about products that have to be soft, resistant and absorbent, the combination of perfection. Over the past 10 years, Suavecel has experienced remarkable growth and it is a constant challenge to have quality as the main pillar, coupled with a strong commitment to the most advanced technologies, maintaining competitiveness, flexibility and adaptation to markets.

The biggest constraints we feel are related to the excess of existing regulations.

4)  Internationalization is a process increasingly used by Portuguese companies to support their growth in international markets. In the case of Suavecel, what is the internationalization strategy in progress?

We believe in the quality of our products and, therefore, we want to go as far as possible, we wish to “open” new markets and explore different consumers, test new consumption habits that challenge us. Especially over the past five years, we have conquered new markets and this growth also reflects our concern in wanting to strengthen and expand our experience in different markets. Internationalization is also a factor of competitiveness and we want to be increasingly competitive.

5)   PME Connect is a program to support the internationalization of Portuguese companies with the particularity of bringing SMEs closer to large companies. What were the reasons that supported the company's decision to join the PME Connect program?

PME Connect will help us connect to large companies that already have sustained internationalization. It will allow access to share the constraints, challenges and successes of the internationalization processes. It is a networking program that connects people with common interests for the purpose of internationalization. We think it will help to minimize risks by sharing experiences between companies.

6)    What is missing to have even better results in internationalization?

Suavecel is in a highly competitive market and (through PME Connect) it should have access to new opportunities and markets. We still need to seek greater flexibility and more mass markets. Our big bet on internationalization goes through Western Europe (Spain, France, England) in the private label segment and with our own brand, but we want to internationalize in as many countries as possible for the penetration and expansion of our products.

7)    Finally, what are the plans for Suavecel's future?

Suavecel asserts itself as a major tissue player in the Iberian Peninsula. We innovate and continuously improve our products to satisfy the demand of consumers who are increasingly demanding, and we want to be the choice of excellence for the price / quality ratio.

About Suavecel

Suavecel Indústria Transformadora de Papel, S.A was founded in 1996 and is today one of the biggest Portuguese players in the manufacture of tissue paper products for domestic use, installed in Viana do Castelo. It produces its brand and "private label" for the main Portuguese and Spanish supermarket chains.

Investing in research, in the best technology worldwide, together with continuous improvement, gives our products a superior and recognized quality in the most demanding markets. We have more than 200 employees.

At Suavecel we always face challenges with courage and determination, believing in our capacity for sustainable growth, with a brand that presents quality products focused on its customers / consumers. We are demanding and compliant with our quality standards, guaranteeing environmental, social and business sustainability.



Publicações sugeridas

Suavecel distinguished at the APIGRAF Business Excellence Awards 2019


APIGRAF - Portuguese Association of Graphic Industries and Paper Transformers, distinguished the companies in the graphic and paper processing sector that had the best performance in 2019, in an event that took place at the Marriott Hotel, in Lisbon, on January 31.



Suavecel - Indústria Transformadora de Papel, S.A. is pleased to have Compete 2020 recognized for the value and merit of the Internationalization Project presented to Notice 19 / SI / 2015.