A Conversation with Ahmet H. Demir

We have the privilege of conversing with Mr. Ahmet H. Demir, the Managing Director of Hafiz Mustafa 1864, whose journey from operations manager to global leadership has been remarkable. With a rich background in the food and beverage industry, including key roles in renowned groups in the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, Mr. Demir now steers the ship for Hafiz Mustafa’s global operations, overseeing not only Turkey but also the UAE and a forthcoming branch in London.

 

Can you tell us about your journey with Hafiz Mustafa, from your previous role as Operations Manager to now being the Managing Director of Global Operations?

Indeed, my journey with Hafiz Mustafa has been an exciting and transformative one. I joined the company as the Operations Manager, overseeing various aspects of our operations in Turkey and the UAE. During this time, I had the opportunity to involve myself in the rich traditions and notable qualities that define Hafiz Mustafa.

I was closely involved in supervising that our products maintained their exceptional taste and quality, even as we expanded our domestic and international presence. I learned the intricacies of our recipes, the attention to using the finest ingredients, and the pledge to traditional craftsmanship that sets Hafiz Mustafa apart.

In April 2022, I assumed the role of Managing Director of Global Operations. This promotion came with increased responsibilities, including overseeing our operations in Türkiye and the UAE and preparing for our branch opening in London, a significant milestone for the company.

Throughout this journey, I have witnessed firsthand how Hafiz Mustafa’s promise to preserve its centennial heritage while encompassing innovation has driven our success. We take pride in being a dessert brand and a cultural ambassador, sharing the essence of Turkish and Ottoman confectionery traditions with the world.

Our journey is a testament to our products’ abiding appeal and dedication to delivering the highest quality desserts. It’s an honor to lead Hafiz Mustafa’s global operations and be part of a brand with a heirloom spanning over a century and a half.

 

What do you think sets Hafiz Mustafa apart from other brands in the dessert industry in Turkey and globally?

What truly sets Hafiz Mustafa apart from other brands in the dessert industry in Türkiye and globally is our dedication to centennial tradition, quality, and innovation.

First and foremost, our history and legacy are peerless. With a heritage dating back to 1864, we represent a piece of Turkish culinary history, and this long history is infused into every dessert we bake. Our brand carries the weight of nearly 160 years of tradition, which is a promise of the quality and taste of our confectionary.

Quality is at the heart of everything we do. We source only the finest, 100% natural ingredients selected to maintain our desserts’ superior taste and quality. We adhere to traditional preparation methods while maintaining strict hygiene standards, guaranteeing that every bite of our desserts delivers an authentic experience.

Innovation is another key differentiator. While we treasure our traditions, we keep innovation and modern tastes boldly. Our ability to adapt and introduce new products, such as the Baklava Cake and unique Turkish coffee varieties like Golden Coffee, Anatolian Coffee, and Alaturca Coffee, demonstrates our forward-thinking approach. We continuously explore ways to enhance our product offerings while staying true to our cultural roots.

Our promise to customer satisfaction and the genuine warmth with which we welcome our guests into our branches play an important role in setting us apart. We believe in creating a memorable experience, not just selling desserts. Our global expansion and the upcoming London branch illustrate our ambition to share the delights of Hafiz Mustafa with the world. We are not just a brand but cultural ambassadors, introducing the world to the rich tapestry of Turkish and Ottoman dessert traditions. What distinguishes Hafiz Mustafa is our rich history, uncompromising dedication to quality, a blend of tradition and innovation, and our deep-rooted commitment to providing unforgettable experiences to our valued customers.

At Hafiz Mustafa, we harmonize tradition with innovation, ensuring the highest quality while maintaining sustainable practices. Our journey is fueled by perfection, from traditional recipes to state-of-the-art quality control. As we expand globally, we aim to bring the sweet taste of our heritage to diverse palates, all while upholding the timeless values that define Hafiz Mustafa 1864.

Ahmet H. Demir

Hafiz Mustafa 1864 | Centennial Desserts

Hafiz Mustafa 1864 | Dubai Mall Branch

Hafiz Mustafa 1864 | Centennial Desserts

Hafiz Mustafa is known for its rich history and cultural significance. How do you envision preserving this heritage while expanding globally?

Preserving our rich heritage while expanding globally is the principal at Hafiz Mustafa. We are proud of our long and storied history to keep this heritage at the forefront of our brand identity as we expand our global reach.

One of the critical ways we preserve our heritage is by maintaining the authenticity of our centennial recipes and production methods. Our commitment to using the finest ingredients and traditional preparation techniques remains determined. We believe that these time-tested traditions are an integral part of our brand’s DNA, and we are dedicated to reassuring them in every branch, regardless of its location.

We prioritize cultural sensitivity and respect in all our global operations. We understand that each region has its unique culinary traditions and preferences. While we stay true to our Turkish and Ottoman roots, we also embrace the opportunity to adapt our offerings to suit our international customers’ local tastes and preferences. This flexibility allows us to connect with diverse audiences while staying authentic.

We view our expansion as an opportunity to share our cultural heritage. We are not merely selling desserts but introducing people to Turkey’s rich history and flavors and the Ottoman Empire. Each branch we open globally becomes a cultural bridge, inviting customers to explore our culinary traditions, learn about our history, and experience the warmth of Turkish hospitality.

We actively engage with local communities and encourage cultural exchange. We collaborate with talented chefs and experts from each region, fostering a sense of belonging and mutual respect. This approach helps us integrate into new cultures while also sharing our own.

Our vision for preserving our heritage while expanding globally is centered on respecting tradition, adapting to local tastes, and fostering cultural exchange. We aim to be a global brand with a Turkish heart, and this balance is key to our continued success and relevance in an increasingly interconnected world.

 

Could you provide insights into Hafiz Mustafa’s production capacity, quality control measures, and future growth plans?

At Hafiz Mustafa, we aim for continuous growth. Our annual production capacity currently stands at 1,000 tons. However, we have ambitious plans for the future. By 2029, we aim to increase our production capacity fivefold, reaching an impressive 5,000 tons annually.

Quality is irrevocable to us, and we have taken several steps to consolidate it. Our new production facility, spanning an extensive 5,000 square meters, adheres to the highest technology hygiene standards. We hold ISO 22000 and HACCP certificates, demonstrating our dedication to quality and food safety.

Our rigorous 3-phase quality control process further exemplifies our commitment to quality. Throughout the entire production cycle, we employ innovative technologies to monitor and maintain the integrity of our products. It builds customer trust and underscores our priority to safeguard their health.

We have a high production and employee satisfaction rate, with a workforce of more than 700 individuals worldwide. We believe everyone is sacred and hold ourselves accountable for their happiness and contentment. Our traditional values inspire us to foster a familial work environment that nurtures and supports our employees.

Looking ahead, we have ambitious growth plans on the horizon. By 2029, we envision a global presence with 45 branches worldwide. We plan to establish a sprawling manufacturing facility covering 40,000 square meters in Istanbul, further reinforcing our commitment to quality and scale. Additionally, we have plans to set up 10 additional manufacturing locations.

In 2023, we aim to welcome 20 million visitors to our branches, a promise to our customers’ love and trust in our desserts. By 2029, we aim even higher, with a target of hosting 80 million delighted clients. These growth milestones reflect our dedication to preserving our heritage and sharing the joy of Hafiz Mustafa with dessert enthusiasts worldwide.

 

Could you share some insights into the operational aspects of managing Hafiz Mustafa in different countries, such as Turkey, the UAE, and the upcoming branch in London?

Each location has its unique characteristics and dynamics, and our operational strategy must be flexible enough to accommodate these differences while maintaining the consistent quality and brand identity that Hafiz Mustafa is known for. We maintain a non-franchise model and operate our own production facilities in each country with our branches.

In Turkey, where our brand originated, we have a well-established presence, and our operations are intensely rooted in the local culture. Our team in Türkiye is experienced in resuming our traditional production methods and delivering remarkable customer service. We prioritize sourcing the finest local ingredients and maintaining the highest quality standards. 

In the UAE, where we have expanded significantly, the operational landscape is distinct due to the diverse customer base and the regional preferences for certain flavors and products. Managing our branch in the Dubai Mall involves adapting our offerings to cater to a cosmopolitan clientele while still adhering to our core values of quality and authenticity. 

As for our upcoming branch in London, this marks a new and exciting chapter in our global expansion. Managing operations in the UK presents its own set of opportunities and challenges. We are committed to bringing the authentic taste of Hafiz Mustafa to the UK while also meeting the multicultural environment of London. Our offerings will resonate with the Turkish culture and local customers interested in exploring new flavors.

Maintaining consistency in product quality, taste, and presentation is a top priority for Hafiz Mustafa. We have stringent quality control processes that apply to all our branches worldwide. We verify that our staff receives comprehensive training to uphold our standards.

Ahmet H. Demir

Hafiz Mustafa 1864 | Centennial Desserts

Hafiz Mustafa 1864 | Dubai Mall Branch

Hafiz Mustafa 1864 | Centennial Desserts

What strategies are in place to ensure consistency in taste and quality across all Hafiz Mustafa branches worldwide?

We have implemented comprehensive strategies to maintain uniformity in taste and quality across all Hafiz Mustafa branches worldwide. First and foremost, we adhere rigorously to our time-honored recipes and traditional preparation methods. These methods have been perfected over generations.

We strictly control our supply chain, sourcing only the finest and freshest ingredients. It maintains that the fundamental components of our products, such as premium pistachios, walnuts, plain butter, buffalo milk, flour, and other vital ingredients, meet our high-quality standards consistently.

We train and employ highly trained and skilled chefs and confectioners who are well-versed in crafting our desserts. These experts bring their culinary expertise and undergo continuous training to uphold Hafiz Mustafa’s standards.

Regular quality control processes are another crucial aspect of our strategy. We conduct thorough checks at various stages of production, from raw ingredients to finished products, utilizing modern technology to guarantee consistency and safety.

Open communication and knowledge sharing among our teams across different branches are vital. This keeps everyone aligned with our quality objectives, and can learn from one another’s experiences and insights.

Our promise to preserve the authentic taste and quality of Hafiz Mustafa’s offerings is underpinned by a combination of traditional recipes, stringent ingredient sourcing, expert craftsmanship, rigorous quality control, and a culture of continuous improvement and shared expertise across our global operations.

 

Opening a branch in London is an exciting development. What opportunities and challenges do you anticipate in this expansion?

Expanding to London offers Hafiz Mustafa a range of opportunities and challenges. London’s status as a global hub and cultural melting pot provides us with opportunities for international recognition and a diverse customer base eager to explore our traditional Turkish desserts. London’s appeal as a tourist destination allows us to serve those who have fond memories of Hafiz Mustafa from their travels to Türkiye.

However, the venture also comes with its set of challenges. London boasts a vibrant food scene, particularly in the dessert and pastry sector, necessitating a well-planned strategy to stand out and establish a solid presence. Adapting our offerings to align with local tastes while introducing our traditional delights is crucial. Managing production in a new country, including navigating different regulations and supply chains, presents its complexities. Respecting cultural sensitivities and ensuring our products and marketing resonate with local sensibilities is essential. 

While expanding to London opens exciting doors for us to showcase our heritage and culinary treasures globally, we approach this endeavor with a complete understanding of the challenges ahead. We are well-prepared to address these challenges strategically, assuring the success of our London venture.

 

What drew you to the dessert and confectionery industry, and specifically to Hafiz Mustafa?

I was initially drawn to the dessert and confectionery industry because of my passion for delightful experiences. The world of sweets has always fascinated me, and I wanted to contribute to being a part of phenomenal Turkish desserts that bring joy to people’s lives.

My journey with Hafiz Mustafa began as an operations manager, and what indeed attracted me to this iconic brand was its rich history, quality, and tradition. Hafiz Mustafa’s legacy, dating back to 1864, is a testament to its continued excellence. Being part of a brand with such deep cultural significance and a global reputation for its unique Turkish delights, baklava, and pastries was an opportunity I couldn’t resist.

Hafiz Mustafa’s dedication to maintaining its heritage while engaging in innovation aligns with my values. Hafiz Mustafa is a brand that has successfully merged tradition with modernity, and I’m honored to now serve as the Managing Director of global operations, overseeing our expansion and ensuring that the world can savor the same authentic flavors and experiences that have made Hafiz Mustafa a permanent icon.

 

Could you shed some light on the role of innovation in Hafiz Mustafa’s product development and how it aligns with the brand’s tradition?

Innovation plays a pivotal role in Hafiz Mustafa’s product development, and it’s a careful balance between honoring tradition and embracing new possibilities. Our brand has a rich history dating back to 1864, and we hold our traditional recipes and methods in high regard. These time-tested techniques and flavors are the foundation of our identity.

However, innovation allows us to take these traditions to new heights. We constantly seek ways to enhance the quality of our products and introduce exciting variations that resonate with modern tastes while maintaining our commitment to authenticity.

One example of this harmonious blend of tradition and innovation is our “Ottoman Milk Kadayif,” a Turkish delight and kadayif we have introduced, which was awarded the International Taste award. We also understand the priority of preserving cultural authenticity. When developing new products, we consolidate they align with our Turkish, Seljuk, and Ottoman sweets’ essence. Our commitment to using high-quality ingredients remains staunch, just as it has for over a century. Innovation is not about reinventing the wheel but enhancing our traditional offerings and expanding our product range to cater to a broader audience. By combining the best of tradition and innovation, we can continue to delight our customers and carry the Hafiz Mustafa inheritance forward for generations.

 

Looking ahead, what is your vision for Hafiz Mustafa, and what can we expect from the brand in the coming years, both in terms of expansion and product offerings?

Our vision for Hafiz Mustafa is intensely rooted in our commitment to quality, tradition, and global expansion. You can expect several exciting developments from our brand in the coming years.

First and foremost, we are commencing a journey of global expansion. Our soon-to-open branch in London is a commitment to our ambition to establish a presence in key global cities. This expansion will make our traditional Turkish desserts accessible to a diverse and international audience.

While reassuring our traditional recipes, we will continue introducing innovative products that resonate with our heritage and evolving consumer preferences. It means you can anticipate diverse, delightful treats and experiences, marrying the best of tradition and innovation. We see Hafiz Mustafa as more than just a dessert brand; we consider ourselves cultural ambassadors. In the coming years, we will actively engage in cultural exchange, sharing the richness of Turkish culinary traditions with the world. It enriches the global culinary landscape and deepens our brand’s cultural significance.

Maintaining consistent taste and quality is non-negotiable for us. As we expand globally, we will invest in stringent quality control measures to ensure that every Hafiz Mustafa product, enjoyed in Istanbul, London, or anywhere else, lives up to our legacy of perfection.

Our commitment extends beyond our products. We value our customers and the communities we serve. As we expand, we will actively engage with local communities, contributing positively to our operating regions.

Environmental responsibility is significant in today’s world. We are committed to sustainable practices in our operations and sourcing to minimize our ecological footprint. It aligns with our broader mission to operate as a responsible global brand. Our core mission remains unchanged throughout these exciting developments: to preserve and celebrate the rich heritage of Turkish desserts. You can expect us to continue honoring our history while cherishing the future. We aim to become synonymous with quality Turkish desserts globally, just like in Türkiye. We will adapt to local preferences while staying true to our roots, and we’re excited to share the joy of Hafiz Mustafa with dessert enthusiasts worldwide.