According to Kameliya Naydenova, Legal Counsel South Central Europe at Mondelez International in Bulgaria, the market has somewhat recovered from the blast wave of the COVID-19 crisis. Yet, many industries still need to overcome the change in demand and consumer habits, as well as certain difficulties brought on by the pandemic.
“Even though the food industry was less affected by COVID-19 than other industries, the ‘new normal’ brought certain changes regarding the categories of products people buy,” Naydenova says and explains that not only the people’s purchasing power but also their habits have been affected by COVID -19 measures, lockdowns, and social restrictions. “For example, people used to grab a snack on the go on their way to work,” she says and notes that, since most people are working from home, their habits followed the newfangled sedentary lifestyle. Despite these trends and their effect on the volume of sales of certain goods, Naydenova describes the Bulgarian food market currently as relatively stable and predictable.
Related to the purely legal sphere, Naydenova reports that the implementation of the EU Unfair Trading Practices Directive, which was adopted in April 2019, is one of the core topics for the food and retail industry. The directive contains rules that ban certain unfair trading practices imposed unilaterally by one trading partner on another. The rules are aimed to improve the position of businesses and farmers in the food supply chain. The true effects of the directive remain to be seen as some markets have implemented the directive just recently.
Naydenova also points to certain technological and regulatory hurdles which have persisted into 2021. “We still need to sort out the regulation regarding working from home, such as labor incidents, privacy, home network security of the network, as well as efficient means of communication,” she says.
As to what the future holds, Naydenova believes that optimism isn’t unwarranted. “Even though the crisis isn’t behind us, people believe that in 2021 vaccination will bring back some sense of normalcy.” Nevertheless, Naydenova treads carefully as she is aware that people are still under a lot of pressure. “There is an abundance of work ahead of us and I try to keep a positive mood, sense of belonging, and team spirit,” she says. According to her, the South Central European team is built on trust, cooperation, and open communication. “Build a team so strong you don't know who the boss is,” she adds.
In order to maintain the morale of her team of three, she has taken, as she describes it, a people-centric approach. “My belief is that the profits and business results will come when the people feel appreciated,” she says. To that end, she makes sure her team’s efforts do not go unrecognized and she explains she tries to make their every success visible and rewarded. Furthermore, she believes that people need to properly disconnect from their job and to keep the “work-life” balance, so the practice of having “short summer Fridays," when her colleagues may go offline earlier, will continue in the future.