Sabri Ülker, one of the first generation industrialists of the Republic

Ahmed Hayek
5 min readAug 27, 2021

From an immigrant to the founder of one of the top food industry companies in the region

Sabri Ülker Founder of Ülker and Yildiz Holdings

Sabri Ülker was born in 1920 in Crimea. His Childhood was very difficult due to the Soviet revolution in Crimea. Unable to endure the hardships in Crimea, his family immigrated to Istanbul in 1929. He studied in Kadirga Primary School then enrolled in Istanbul Boys High School and graduating from Bilecik and high school in Kutahya. After the second world war had started, he enrolled in the Sultanahmet School of Economics and Commercial Sciences for Higher Education.

The Establishing of Ülker

Now you know about his background, let’s get into how he started Ülker and Yilidiz

Ülker first biscuits factory

Holdings. When Sabri Ülker finished his higher education, the war ended. He and his elder brother Asim Ülker, set up a shop in Istanbul to produce biscuits for children who forgot the taste of biscuits during the war. He had two more brothers who worked in a factory (I believe it is a Butter and Fats Factory) and the family ran a confectionery shop for a while.

Sabri Ülker described those days as follows: “As you can imagine, in 1944, it was very difficult to find production tools in our young republic, which was the results of the Second World War. Early in the morning in the autumn of 1944, I came to Nohutçu Han in Eminönü, which was considered the business center of Istanbul at that time. I went up to the third floor and walked through a slightly low building. By examining the cauldrons, ladles, molds, furnaces, and other tools in an area of approximately 100 square meters one by one; I said, ‘I have to get this job done.”

It was a miracle for the two brothers to succeed in this job. Sabri and Asim started in the small shop with old machines that keeps breaking down and a production of 200 kilos of biscuits per day to delivering the love and passionate biscuits to the world. Even with the difficulties they used to have in production, Ülker now has productions in 10 countries including Turkey, has 54 factories and 300 brands, and exports to more than 80 countries, contribute to the economy of A2A World home country and the world.

“Daddy, don’t forget to bring Ulker in the evening” (“Akşama babacığım, unutma Ülker getir”)

In 1950 Ülker started advertising, they have given importance to advertising from the very first day as Sabri says “we do now, we will always do. Especially when a quality product is advertised, the result is great”. In the past, advertising was not known in Turkey, the classic “Daddy, don’t forget to bring Ülker in the evening” was a phrase that explained everything Sabri wanted for children, Turkey, and Ülker. The perfect phrase to reach every home and every child is the delicious, healthy, hygienic, and quality products.


Sabri Ülker had a defined vision for the future of business in the country and industry. He discovered business ideas that Turkey had met in the 1990s and implemented them at Ülker much earlier. He was one of the leading entrepreneurs of the Turkish industry and the food sector. With a great and clear vision of the future, he competed with international companies and establish the Research and Development department at Ülker in 1947.

Since the 1980s, Ülker’s production diversity has also been enriched and in the 1980s a successful competitive test was given with imported products. Sabri Ülker advanced the idea of integrating into the world long before the globalization movement. From the 1980s to the 2000s Ülker was integrated into the world as pioneers, Sabri Ülker described it as follows “We are the first biscuit company in Turkey to bring in experts from outside. We have worked with the best international experts. We have partnered with many foreign companies and benefited from their expertise and experience. We have opened some of our companies to the public. Our priority has always been the health of our customers. For this reason, we first established a hygiene department. We followed all global developments and caught up with the speed of the world. We invested to increase our capacity, established new factories, and provided job opportunities. Thus, we started to produce new products that won the hearts of our customers.”

The Honorary

Sabri Ülker assumed the honorary chairmanship of Ülker Group in 2000. Murat Ülker his son, who assumed the Chairmanship of the Holding’s Executive Board, took the management flag from him.

Until the last days, Sabri Ülker continued to guide the Ülker Group with his ideas.

In addition to contributing to Turkey’s economic development, Sabri Ülker also played a pioneering role in contributing to social development. It supported joint projects with the Ministry of National Education to strengthen Turkey’s education infrastructure. Expressing that he believes in the importance of working in coordination with non-governmental organizations to leave a more livable Turkey and the world to future generations, Sabri Ülker was among the founders of the TEMA Foundation. With his encouragement, Ülker is the first institution to support TEMA’s projects for the development of villages.

Now, Yilidiz Holdings is one of the top food firms in the country and the region having under their umbrella food and non-food products including the famous McVitie’s and GODIVA.

The secret of success he Left us

Yildiz Holding Founder Sabri Ülker Passed away on Jun 12, 2012, and left us the secret of his success which I believe is one of the secrets that we should all implement in our lives “First, The basis of success is working harder and harder. Second, Honest Work. Third, Quality Work. Forth, the introduction should be given great importance.”




Ahmed Hayek

All about food commodities and the food industry. The blog will include food trends and notable figures in the food industry.