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Los Angeles: Non-startup from Lower Austria wins “Startup-Oskar”

On the sidelines of the Oscar ceremony, the Los Angeles International Trade Center honored Austrian top achievements in the American market with the USA-BIZ AWARD. In the Startup category, Wewalka was founded in 1987 by the founding of the low-energy fresh dough company Wewalka.

“The USA Biz Award, the so-called Wirtschafts-Oskar der AUSSENWIRTSCHAFT AUSTRIA, brings the outstanding achievements of Austrian companies to the highly competitive US market on the red carpet and in the media spotlight,” says Walter Koren, former foreign trade chief and now Austrian business delegate in Los Angeles, about this year’s ninth ceremony. The winner in the Startup category this year was the Lower Austrian fresh producer Wewalka, founded in 1987.

Wewalka: Dough export to 30 countries

At that time, the company was founded by Johann Wewalka as a pastry chef in Sollenau, Lower Austria. The years later, Anton Gsellmann, who still owns the company, took over. In 1994, the beginning of the production of fresh doughs followed. “Wewalka is today the world’s largest family-owned fresh-produce manufacturer and partner of many international brands and retailers. We deliver products to around 30 countries, “says Sabine Kahrer, Marketing Manager Austria.

US sales office founded

For about four years, the sales office “Wewalka Trading Crop.” Has been operating in the USA for the distribution of the fresh egg assortment overseas. It focuses primarily on the establishment of the consumer brand Wewalka in the US food trade. “The US market is dominated by doughs in the can. Our innovative fresh dough concept, fresh dough rolled on baking paper, hit the market very successfully in 2015 among convenience-conscious American consumers”, says Kahrer.

“Fresh dough market around two trillion US dollars big”

This step was preceded by intensive market research and preparatory work. However, it was certainly a logical step, if you look at the numbers in the area: “Ready-made fresh doughs have been around in the US since the 1950s. Today, the fresh dough market with high per capita dough consumption is around $ 2 trillion”, says Kahrer.

Well scaled and high sales

That explains the step into the United States of America, but not yet the profit of the Economic Oscar in the category “Startup”. “We know that Wewalka is not the typical startup, but they have been in the US since 2015 and have scaled well. Their marketing is successful, sales are in the tens of millions and they have big customers, “says Walter Koren.

East and West coast conquered

The celebrations were held in a private residence in Brentwood, Los Angeles. The business delegates and the jury were particularly impressed that Wewalka “started from scratch” in the states, as Koren says. Wewalka has made the leap from the east to the west coast – with the listing of trading giant Safeway Albertsons, in addition to Walmart and Kroger national – managed. “We also liked that time was not an IT startup, but a food company”.

Tips for the way into the US market

According to Wewalka CEO Werner Schiessl, this award is the reward for five years of hard work to conquer the American fresh dough market with fresh dough products. For this to succeed, there are a few things to keep in mind, as we are told: “Consumer-relevant differentiation characteristics compared to competitors, excellent product quality and target-group-specific communication have made us a successful newcomer in the US food market. Close cooperation with distribution partners and retailers to expand the sales network is also essential. And of course, the familiar little bit of luck – being in the right place at the right time – is just as much a part of every startup, “says Kahrer.

Further winners of the WirtschaftsOskars

The WirtschaftsOskar was also awarded in the following categories: Market Footprint (Winner: KNAPP), Trendsetter (KTM), Investment (Anton Paar), Innovation (AVL List) and Spectacular (StreamUnlimited). In 2019, Styria is the leader with three companies, followed by one winner each from Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Vienna. “There will be another WirtschaftsOskar in 2020 as well. The ingredients for the prize are the outstanding, innovative and spectacular of the Austrian economy in the US, packed in a compressed email pitch, “concludes Koren.

Also published on Medium.

Published inStartups

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