When a Swiss entrepreneur and jetsetter met a charismatic, Mallorcan friar with a mission, the outcome was a successful marketing and sales campaign for a regional, exquisite product. Hanna Bornebusch talked to Ivan Levy and Tomeu Pastor about almonds, business ideas and making a difference…
Only five years ago the philanthropist from Zurich and former founder of the Swiss Body Shop bought a secluded finca (Son Naava) near Montuïri, where he not only recovers from his usually fast-paced everyday life but also produces certified, organic olive oil. While he and his Indian-born wife Sheela spend about five months of the year on their beloved island – which Ivan had been visiting since the late 60s – the remaining time he travels between China (where he takes part in a grand-scale school charity project), Switzerland and the rest of the globe.
As if this wasn’t enough to keep one man busy he is now also the force behind the new branding of a superb, locally produced almond turrón, made by friars in the convent Sant Antoni in the northeastern town Artà, which is situated in one of the most untouched regions of Mallorca.
“Last year in June I went to a charity event at the Castell Son Claret Hotel in Calvia,“ Ivan tells us in a calm yet powerful voice – a voice of a man who has set goals. There he listened to the speech of Father Tomeu who was presenting his association ‘Dignitat y Feina’ and also had the above-mentioned almond confectionery on sale.
Ivan was captivated by the generous and convincing personality of the Franciscan and equally impressed with the quality of the product itself. Intrigued, he arranged to meet the man behind the turrón about 4 weeks later. They spent some hours together, chatting in Tomeu’s garden and, as Ivan puts it “hit it off“ right from the start.
“As there was an instant mutual trust on both sides, I told Tomeu that his product was fantastic but that his packaging sucked,“ the experienced business man chuckles, apologizing for his own phrasing. They decided to embark on a project together and Ivan took over the marketing. The new logo was done by a designer in India (www.designsmn.com) where the daughter of the multinational family lives.
The actual – now very appealing – final packaging was designed here on Mallorca by yet another interesting man called Toni Grau (www.som2.com) from Sóller, who is also a passionate artist.
“I don´t believe per se in just giving money to charities, but if there´s a good concept behind a good product then it´s a different story and I am still amazed how many inspiring people are taking part in this adventure,“ Ivan explains.
Tomeu founded the association ‘Dignitat y Feina’ in 2009. His concept does not mean feeding, dressing or donating cash to socially marginalized people in need, but rather helping them to gain dignity, by offering them temporary employment, future plans, training, contacts – and consequently giving them back their self-esteem and re-integration into society.
What the workers pick (mainly almonds) they get paid for weekly. Mostly, they harvest on fincas whose owners no longer consider it worthwhile to collect the fruits of their trees. Normally, the seasonal teams cover approximately 130 fincas in about three months, mainly in the Llevant area and in some northern regions.
The idea to make the turrón was based on the necessity to somehow self finance the association. The income from the sales is used to pay for tools, transport, fuel and insurance for the workers.
Tomeu says smirking: “I cannot even prepare scrambled eggs but I am excellent at making cookies and turrón – and the latter could not be more authentically Mallorcan as the recipe is from my own grandmother.“
When Ivan is on the island, they meet every week to discuss their progress and have gradually changed the production process to the association owning the whole supply chain. The Swiss put some money forward to make this possible and the Mallorcan pulled several strings and achieved sufficient donations to pay for the rather costly almond-cracking machine. Now the ‘frailes’ can produce 400 turrones per week.
To cut a long story short: Over 6,000 packages have been sold through the private networks of the people involved, but there are immediate future plans with the Swiss CO-OP Supermarket chain, El Corte Inglés, etc. One of their big expectations is to sell mini-turrón to 5-star hotels for their guests instead of a chocolate on the pillow in the evening. The first customer to step forward is the prestigious Castell Son Claret – where it all began!
Two passionate men with a worthy cause, a top-quality product and authentic marketing: A successful, Swiss-Mallorcan co-production which inspires us all that… yes we can…. make a difference…
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