Jaffa Cakes have become a Turkish delight


You might think that what lay behind Murat Ulker’s agreement to buy United Biscuits from its private equity owners for £2bn were the synergies between his confectionery business and the British maker of such goodies as Jaffa Cakes and Hobnobs. Not according to Martin Glenn, the current CEO of United, who told a Turkish news agency that the most important fact was that “Murat Ulker really loves food.”

He went on to say that of all their potential suitors, Ulker was the one who showed most interest in how the products were made. He is said to have spend nine hours inspecting one of United’s factories. That might sound like spin, but it rings true because biscuits are close to his family’s heart – as well they might be when they have made Murat Ulker Turkey’s richest man.

His father and uncle started making biscuits way back in 1944 in Istanbul. The first product they made were Ulker brand Potibor biscuits, which are still popular in Turkey today. The business long ago grew beyond that iconic product and the family’s Yildiz Holding now owns Godiva chocolates and Campbell’s Soup, among other brands. It had $7bn of sales last year.

The United Biscuits deal isn’t all about Murat Ulker’s sweet tooth, of course. The deal gives the Turkish firm access to the UK market, as well as English-speaking African countries and India, where United’s products well well. And it shows that a deep knowledge of one product, even one as seemingly unglamorous as biscuits, can bring you huge success.