Interviews & Features
CRISIS MADE US STRONGER
Before the start of the pandemic, you announced a major investment program and geographic expansion. Did you manage to complete it?
We achieved extremely strong results in all three directions of planned investments. We upgraded our manufacturing capabilities and introduced the newest quality standards in the food industry. Our company successfully entered new markets in Central Europe and in the Western Balkans. We invested in the logistics arm of the company, so we can deliver a large volume of food to every point of Europe in excellent condition and in compliance with the international standards for storing and shipping. In practice, we became a multinational company that has built upon its entrepreneurial core. While our competitors were trying to shrink expenditures, we remained calm during the pandemic, and boldly fulfilled our international investment plan. You could say that this crisis made us stronger. It highlighted our competitive advantages. The speed of our growth, along with the divestment of risk in every facet of our operations, has made our company a stable and more preferred supplier that can fulfill an emergency order of 20 tonnes of minced meat today and have it delivered to any given point in Europe by tomorrow. We have almost an unfailing manufacturing and logistical capacity, as well as international technological experience. Our manufacturing bases and trading offices are in key regions in Greece – the island of Crete and the capital city Athens – in Bulgaria, Romania, and in the heart of Central Europe, Budapest, Hungary. During the rough days of the COVID crisis, we delivered 100% of the quantities ordered daily and without any interruptions. Not only in Bulgaria but also in our export market – the whole of Europe, USA, Australia, and the Middle East. Our partnerships with retail chains across Europe are becoming more and more successful. We have excellent relations that are built upon conjunct development and marketing of new products, which address the tastes of a specific market and are affordable for consumers. Our company works hand in hand with our partners to maintain quality in the manufacturing processes.
How have the war and inflation affected the operations of your company?
Unfortunately, negatively. Even before the war, the main raw materials used in our processes suffered a double-digit increase in prices. As we were hoping for prices to calm, the war erupted. It produced additional inflation in the raw materials, which in conjunction with the more expensive energy, such as gas, electricity, and fuels, forced to raise our market prices, affecting our end-consumers as well. We had to do so in order to maintain the jobs we had created and to be able to pay salaries for our employees because we are responsible and indebted to them and their families.
Sustainable growth is key for modern companies. What are the ESG standards Bella Bulgaria is following?
Energy efficiency is a key aspect of the business strategy of Bell Bulgaria. Our company is sustaining the natural balance in our regions of operations, and we implement clean technologies to reduce the carbon footprint. We employ cogeneration technology, which is recognized as a solution to improving the climate in Europe by reducing the effects of climate change and reducing the local output of Carbon, Sulphur, and Nitrogen oxides. The entire manufacturing and office structure of Bella Bulgaria works with electricity from sustainable sources.
What are Bella Bulgaria’s projects in food innovations?
Our latest product innovation came this year. Orehite became the first line of meat delicacies in Bulgaria to receive a certificate from the international certification organization TÜV NORD for manufacturing quality control. The certification and adding the ‘Manufacturing Quality Control’ sign on the packaging, ensure that every product from our brand Orehite has had its quality tested by the independent food produce certification institute ТÜV NORD Bulgaria – a globally recognized benchmark for quality and reliability guaranteeing multilevel quality assurance throughout the whole year through surprise checks of every certified point of production, checks by ‘secret shoppers’, and independent tests in specially accredited foreign laboratories of products purchased randomly from retail. This year we invested in new production lines for chilled dough products – puff pastry, pizza dough, etc. – as the demand for freshly-baked dough products on international markets increases, and we would like to give a start to this trend in Bulgaria as well. In 2021, we successfully passed the Tesco audit, which is the most exacting in the industry, and we became an approved supplier of our brands for the retail chain. This achievement came after two consecutive years of proving ourselves by supplying our Bella products to Tesco Hungary. We developed and promoted our Bella strudels for this retail chain, while Shell Hungary is already selling our Bulgarian banitza. We also have the trust of other international retail chains, such as BILLA-Slovakia, Aldi-Hungary, and Kaufland-Germany.
What are your plans for development in the near future?
We follow international markets and are open to new partnerships. The purchase of the Greek leader in meat processing Creta Farms is considered the biggest Bulgarian investment in the food industry abroad. We gained a leading spot in the Greek market and the synergy between Creta Farms and Bella Bulgaria is already bearing fruit. On the Bulgarian market, our company offers meat delicacies enriched with olive oil, based on special patents, while the gyros Creta has already become popular on our market. Currently, we are negotiating to acquire another Greek dough-product manufacturer, but the specifics are still classified. In direct partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, this fall we expect to start manufacturing their beef specialty Rendang Padang here in Bulgaria with the patronage of the country’s president, part of the program Indonesia Spice Up the World. We are proud to be the first and only producer of this delicacy in Europe. Our Rendang Padang is entirely for export, which will be fulfilled by our export and international logistics divisions.