Any young business looking to make an impact in the snack food market could do a lot worse than take a page out of the playbook of Twistees, the ever-popular snack that has become something of a national icon. In fact, a lot of the success of Twistees is rooted in the tried-and-tested strategies of its parent company, Strand Palace Agencies. This homegrown family-run business, with a legacy spanning over a century, has deftly navigated countless market changes with a knack for understanding its clients and customers, staying true to its core values, and maintaining a keen sense of when and how to innovate as each successive generation of the Calleja family has been welcomed into the fold.

Strand Palace Agencies began its journey as a humble grocery shop in Cospicua in the early 1900s, founded by Lawrence Calleja. When Lawrence's son, John, took over, he expanded the business by transforming it into a distribution company. And by the time the third generation stepped in, the company had diversified further, launching manufacturing plants and producing a range of confectionery items, including the Twistees snack.

Strand Palace

For Steve Calleja, the current Managing Director, the family business has been his life’s work. Starting on the factory floor at 18, he gained invaluable hands-on experience in every aspect of the business, which laid a solid foundation for his rise through the company's ranks, culminating in his leadership role today. Together with his late brother John and their father Ray, Steve further expanded the business's reach by becoming agents and representatives for an impressive stable of international food brands. Among these are United Biscuits, which produces well-known names like McVities and Jacob’s, as well as British Premium Sausage, Galbani, and Saka, among many others.

“I believe the family element has been very important to our growth over the years as it has ensured we’ve remained stable and consistent internally despite how the market has changed,” Steve explains. “This has been especially beneficial with regards forging and maintaining business relationships with our international suppliers. We represent their products well in Malta and they have remained happy with our performance. Because we have such a solid reputation with clients locally, they know that we can help grow their brands quickly on the island.”

In addition to growing their import operations, Strand Palace Agencies has also steadily been expanding its exports as it continues to launch its Twistees products— represented as Tastees internationally—into new global markets. Despite tough competition from established snack giants, these beloved Maltese treats are carving out a niche everywhere from Europe to the Middle East and South Korea.

“Twistees is unique because it's rice-based and baked, unlike most similar snacks that are corn-based and fried,” Steve explains. “This means our product is naturally gluten-free, and we make sure all our flavourings are natural too, which appeals to a growing demand for healthier snacking options worldwide. In fact, we make sure that all the products we manufacture are in line with our policy to include natural ingredients. We also ensure our factories are certified gluten-free and halal, and we are currently in the process of attaining an IFS certification to demonstrate the safety and quality of our food products and production processes to the very highest standards.”

Steve admits that he and his team have been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response they’ve received so far. “When we entered the UK market recently, the flood of positive emails and comments praising our product was mind boggling. It’s rewarding to see we’re making a significant impact in such a pivotal market as the UK.”

Even as Twistees gains international recognition, Steve and his team remain committed to maintaining its strong local presence, refusing to rely on the brand's household-name status to coast along. Instead, they are continuously working to manage the brand effectively, keeping it fresh and exciting while staying true to the product that so many people love.

Steve Calleja

“Local competition has certainly increased, and we’ve even seen some competitors try to imitate our product,” Steve notes. “That’s why we’re always tuned into the market, conducting surveys, and responding to what we find. Whether it’s through new flavour variations, our bigger sharing pack options, or other innovations, we’re always taking steps to keep Twistees relevant and popular.”

As the fifth generation of the Calleja family begins to take on more responsibility with the business, Strand Palace Agencies is gearing up for significant expansion. The company is investing heavily in expanding their warehouses and factories and updating their machinery with a multi-million strategy. With plans to grow their global footprint, Steve also mentions they’re considering setting up factories in the Far East to streamline export operations and boost efficiency.

“This is a massive undertaking for us, and there’s a lot to manage while also keeping the business running smoothly,” Steve explains. “But I’m positive we’ll come through in the next few years and these efforts will significantly impact our growth and enable us to reach even more customers.”

Additionally, there are new products in development, but Steve remains tight-lipped about the specifics. “Yes, we are working on new products and ranges, including some exciting new snack flavours and options,” Steve says. “However, we’re keeping those details under wraps for now. At Strand, we always aim to surprise our customers, and I can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on when the time is right.”

Main Image:

Steve Calleja

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