ISO certificates are awarded to companies that have tight control of all operations from product development until distribution. Only six other companies in Estonia have been awarded with an ISO certificate.
TP, which received the certificate Aug. 6, the day of its 105th birthday, was privatized four years ago and has a share capital of 80 million kroons ($5.5 million). The share capital is divided among three private individuals and three large companies - EPEKS, the Estonian Union Bank and Epexim LLC. Since 1997, it has invested 2.2 million kroons for improving the quality of its system.
TP Board Chairman Aare Annus told the ETA news agency that the certificate will give the company an advantage in exporting products to the CIS countries because these countries are eager for more European quality products to be introduced in their markets.
The CIS connection should help offset declines in profits to Russia. Thanks to the high taxes Russia imposes on imports, exports to Russia, CIS countries' main trading partner, have not been profitable, TP representatives said. In addition, TP says that it does not plan to enter the Western market.
Exports have decreased from 28 to 15 percent, according to TP, mainly because of political conflicts between Russia and Latvia that erupted last spring. The tension between Russia and Estonia's southern Baltic neighbor, which had parts of Moscow shying away from all Latvian goods, seeped over to the exports of the other Baltic states, thus diminishing TP's sales in Moscow.
It also didn't help when Moscow Mayor Yuri Luhzkov urged Muscovites last spring to avoid Latvian products.
"For the Russians, Latvia and Estonia are almost the same and we have had difficulties selling our products there," Annus said.
The dairy employs 300 people, 80 of whom work in production. Most of the production process is automatic. Investment in thermal processing machinery accounted for the largest share of development spending last year
TP, together with its four subsidiaries, is producing and marketing 43 different dairy products under TP and Tere ("hello" in Estonian) brand names.
The company started producing and marketing to Latvia this month under the Sveiks brand name, which means "hello" in Latvian. There are plans to expand to Lithuania and the Ukraine. But TP is mainly interested in the local market, where it controls more than 20 percent of the dairy product market.
In addition to dairy products, TP produces juice under the Rio and Largo brand names.