A distinctive natural environment like Armenian soil, plenty of sun and lots of fresh water combine to ensure the unique taste and healing qualities of whole leaf herbal teas that EDNA LLC gathers, processes, mixes and packages according to the highest Organic European standards. Moreover, this income opportunity for 40 villagers from four communities offers proof of the result-oriented nature of EU4Business support, not only for developing SMEs, but also to ease unemployment in an Armenian border region with little production and even less access to markets.
Bringing nature closer to people
All of the herbs, flowers, berries and honey EDNA produces are sourced in Tavush Marz or Province in northeastern Armenia, sometimes referred to as the little Armenian Switzerland. Bordered by Georgia and Azerbaijan, the Tavush province is predominantly mountainous, with rocky hillsides covered in a green carpet of Alpine meadows.
In 2014, the Nazarian family set up a family business in Tavush to produce natural herbal teas under the EDNA brand. They had had first-hand experience with nature's healing abilities when they recovered from a serious medical condition with the help of herbal infusions.
Impressed with the results, the family decided to share their know-how and experience, so they founded a company that specializes in artisan teas, infusions and other natural products.
“We bring nature closer to people, and people closer to their roots,” says Gnel Nazanian, the founder and Executive Director of EDNA. “By offering organic herbal infusions, we help people restore their health, heal their body and fight pollution.”
Established as a support to Armenia’s impoverished border regions, EDNA works with farmers who collect and process the grasses and herbs, not only from Tavush, but also from the provinces of Lori and Syunik. Their products are sold under the Darman brand.
“In ancient Armenian, darman meant a natural remedy, medicine or care,” explains Nazanian. “It represents our belief in the healing power of Nature, its ability to purify our bodies, and to grant us health and longevity.”
A new brand and more production, thanks to EU4Business
In 2015-2016, EDNA and its Darman products were available mainly in Armenia. In 2017, the company began to export its products abroad and even tested the US market. The following year, France was added as a destination and an organic certificate was issued to EDNA in 2018.
Entering international markets meant EDNA had to develop a new approach to branding and packaging for its new assortment of Darman teas and to draw up corporate branding documents. This became possible with the support of the Advice for Small Businesses in Armenia program run by the EBRD with funding from the European Union under its EU4Business initiative.
Gnel Nazanian says that EU support was a significant step for EDNA to improve market performance and launch a new product. As part of the project, Edna LLC launched a new set of Darman teas, including a new packaging design for the new assortment of 9 different Darman tea blends, which was adapted for three different segments: HoReCa, economy and premium.
“Two-month expert support made it possible to take all the necessary steps: concept development, copywriting, packaging design, and tea label design, and the final processing of the print file. Within three months the developed branding was brought to life,” explains Nazanian.
Moreover, the EU assistance also helped to expand the brand to include organic honey and natural syrups, with 7 sub-product designs for each of the new products launched, as well as developing a Darman brand corporate presentation with a professional photo session.
“After this, the company was able to expand its product line with new offerings, expand its customer base, and increase awareness on the local market,” says Nazanian. “We also expand the geography of our sales, even exporting new product to France.”
As a result, EDNA’s sales increased by 30% and turnover grew 35%, providing stable income for the company and its employees. The company also recorded an increase in export sales by 25%. Since the entire production cycle is handled manually, an increase in production requires an equivalent increase in the number of workers. Over 2018 and 2019, 16 new employees were hired, for a total of 40 employees, of whom 34 are women.
The project has also played a significant role in the business development and sustainable growth of Darman herbal tea production and has made a direct contribution to generating additional economic and income opportunities in the vulnerable border province of Tavush.
“As a family business, our company cares a lot about the community and the environment,” says Nazanian. “We create jobs, which supports the local economy and we work with environmental NGOs, such as NABU Armenia, to protect Armenia’s unique nature and raise awareness of the ecological issues our planet faces right now.”
EDNA’s founder shared plans for the coming years: expanding the product range, increasing production capacities, and entering new markets.
All in all, over 3,000 new jobs have been generated in enterprises supported by the EU4Business Initiative in Armenia over 2009-18. EU support has come in the form of 15,099 loans worth a total of € 468 million and consultation services to 860 Armenian SMEs.