Serbian food producers on a survival test
Coronavirus is affecting businesses across industries and across the globe, and the food industry is no exception. In light of the outbreak, food companies are having to make difficult decisions like shutting down operations and instituting travel bans — and the impact doesn’t stop there.
Many food producers are facing supply chain interruptions, manufacturers are struggling with new product launches, some companies have reduced their financial forecast, state and local policies are confusing producers by limiting on just essential business to operate, they also have challenges with distribution.
Here’s how the food industry is responding to coronavirus.
We spoke to 9 food production companies about the current situation.
Read their stories.
From the humane approach of employing and caring about people with disabilities to finding new partners and selling channels.
People come first
“Lack of raw supplies is something we solved but the safety and health of our employees comes first”, says Valentina Bogdanovic from Chrono DOO.
Namely, the first problem we faced was the lack of raw materials on the market. The producers focused on white wheat flour and no one prioritized grinding specialty cereals and obtaining whole grain flour.
When we found a supplier from Cacak, the Post office stopped working and the pickup, transportation, and delivery of large packages and pallets were not possible.
At that moment we reformulated our offer on flour mixtures and spice mixes which we have sufficient quantities in stock, but the above transportation problem prevented us from distributing these products to our customers.
Last but not least, as a Business Rehabilitation and Employment Company for persons with disabilities, we hold a strong responsibility for social responsibility and the health of our employees is more important than any business success. Chrono DOO out of the 7 employees had one on sick leave already, three that were traveling abroad and it was unrealistic to ask them to risk transportation in a larger group of people (and intermittent transportation was discontinued soon), and one in the high-risk category because of the type of illness and was forbidden to move.
So at the very beginning, we left with only two people who, if needed, packed the goods that we sent to customers which did not mind the delivery time.
There was no other solution for us but to put everything on hold until the situation stabilizes.
Similar view shares “Slatka jesen” which is mostly positively described as disappointed for having to stop the creative process of a new line of jams they were planning to release. Hopefully, they will be able to continue once everything settles.
Sirana Jovanovic is not giving up and working their way to adjust the situation. But also giving discounts as a way to help people get over the situation.
As Mr. Zvonko Jovanovic says “During this current situation with the corona, our sales have completely stopped and we have stopped production because our capacities are filled with a finished product that is matured and is ready for distribution. We are currently adapting our manufacturing facility to obtain export licenses for non-EU countries from which we have a strong interest in our products and I hope we can get soon. We announced on social media that we are giving a 20-30% discount for our products during the state of emergency. I think it’s a small contribution from us when a lot of producers are raising the price of food.
So go ahead and follow Sirana Jovanovic social media to stay in touch with all the initiatives.
Does alcohol spark new ideas or what, but some companies took this situation as a real champ?
“Lucky or what we had pretty good e-shop in place which is currently our only sales channel,” says Kosara from “Kabinet Brewery”. They just continued working with markets that are open at the moment and mainly Singapore for now. Previously they were making new beers every month while during this situation they just do the proven recipes and optimization of necessary cost. The only goal during the crisis is to keep all 20 people they currently employ.
“We have great cooperation with the community of international breweries, designers and caterers with who we do entertainment series Travels from your Kabinet”.
Keep an eye on their special offers and discounts inside the Kabinet e-shop.
If you lack inspiration, “Moje gnezdo” has a huge bag of ideas for you!
We are a small family workshop for making homemade, handmade pasta “Moje Gnezdo”.
Our pasta contains no added salts and sugars, artificial colors, fragrances and aromas, additives, stabilizers, and hardeners but only basic raw materials. To improve the nutritional value of pasta, we enrich them with beetroot, spinach, turmeric, cocoa, grapefruit, mushrooms and herbs, and for those on a special diet, we have pasta made of integral flour and pasta made of spelled flour. The idea behind “Moje Gnezdo” pasta is the desire to offer a high quality product that combines the traditional way of making, as opposed to highly processed industrial products. By using raw materials of domestic origin whenever possible, we also reduce the carbon footprint.
Pasta and flour products are at the very top of the pyramid of healthy eating. If combine with legumes, dairy products, lean meats, fiber-rich vegetables to produce a healthy and balanced meal, easily digestible and quickly prepared.
Homemade pasta “Moje Gnezdo” is made by hand, as it used to be done by our moms and grandmothers. We have developed a special method of drying under controlled conditions to maximize preserved nutrients from flour and pasta supplements.
We have also won the “Brand on the Rise” award presented annually by the Chamber of Commerce Of Serbia.
When you are in the food business, you do not find new partners as often because once you find a trusted partner, strive to keep him and build a long-term relationship of trust. In that sense, the new crisis situation was just an indication of how worthy your partners really are. Business relationships are like on some small test of trust. Some suppliers have simply withdrawn, probably did not manage to cope with the new situation. Fortunately, with proper planning, I was able to bridge the gap while I didn’t find any new partners. For now, everything is working properly, we will see how things will develop and how long the state of emergency in Serbia will last.
My business and brand development “Moje Gnezdo” is closely linked to social networks and by selling online. The good side of this situation is that the pages and social networks were created overnight and even entire platforms connecting small producers and farms with consumers. I try to follow all new groups and platforms and present and offer my products and that way I reach new customers.
I didn’t and wouldn’t try to adjust the products on my own. In my case, this would have to go to the detriment of the customers or the detriment firm. I’m not ready for that, no matter how bad the situation seems. Once this is all over, and we are back to normal business, the product must remain uncompromised. The only thing I did is that I adjusted the size of the pack. If someone doesn’t mind about our commercial packaging, I meet the need and pack for customers according to their family or personal needs.
At the moment I am delivering the products myself on the territory of Belgrade. In agreement with the customers, to optimize logistics costs and the time I have available during the day. Three times a week I’m in another part of town. Through social media, I inform consumers about parts of the city that I visit during the week. On the other hand, it also helps me plan the production itself, which is specific when it comes to “Moje Gnezdo” pasta. So far, the practice has been to send over the courier services, even for the territory of Belgrade. Now I want to meet consumers and deliver to them
“Moje Gnezdo” pasta to the doorstep. It’s not that I don’t trust couriers, but I try to
minimize the possibility of contamination. As before, two are available to customers payment methods: either by payment to your account or on delivery. At this point, I encourage them to pay the amount to the account, so that we can show caution and conscientiousness there too.
On one occasion I said that we, small producers or service providers, do not exist without the community that supports us. From the beginning of the state of emergency, I regularly share on social networks with my friends and followers manufacturers or providers who are most vulnerable in this one moment. I also launched #sharevirtusnotvirus and started one group on Facebook called “Hands in the Dough” in which I invite people to share recipes, play in the kitchen and experiment with new flavors, as well as share tips with us who love to cook and knead. The long-term idea of the group is not only that people currently find a place where they can gather and exchange their skills, but also to create a database of old words related to food or tools used in the preparation, and recipes, to start from Serbia.
I’m trying to connect food vendors to people who need their products. I participate in the Voice of Entrepreneurs group and make my suggestions on how to get out of this crisis as painlessly as possible.
Also, daily, I urge people in the area to pay attention to the people who live next to us and who are on the social margins. I mean homeless people, children without parental care, people with disabilities, autism or any other special needs.
Wow! Now, what do you say about this? Any excuse for not spending your time productively?
Crisis initiated some new partnerships!
Nikola Stanisic from “Stanisic bio/Sumska tajna” says “According to the needs of the current situation we have cooperated with a couple of online platforms that contacted us and opened their packages to be free due to the new situation. Also, we regularly have inquiries from overseas with a couple of well-known food platforms that send inquiries about our capacity and willingness to deliver goods quickly”. The World Trade Organization has announced that the world will soon have food problems as countries that are major exporters like Italy and Spain are affected. It will take time for them to return to normal and start up the economy, and there is an opportunity somewhere for countries like Serbia.
Online sales of food with contactless delivery is certainly something that has experienced great growth and is expected. “Sumska tajna” has a wide range of products on their online platform that, even when the situation is regular, they sell and distribute through. Nikola says that they have experienced growth because the situation is as it is. In addition to their platform, they will be moving into more online stores that use the instant opportunity to be heard about and continue working with more clients after the situation ends.
We have certainly made some changes as far as online sales are concerned and we are promoting products more than before, says Nikola. Like flour, there is a great demand for this food because people are home and they make bread. In addition to flour, there is a great demand for honey, and we noticed a difference here because earlier honey was not so much wasted, which is all because of its beneficial effect on the human body and boosting immunity, which is necessary for this situation.
We simply stepped up the stock of certain products that we thought would sell better and thus took our place in the online marketplaces. In terms of off-line sales and retail chains, demand and sales have increased and this is expected, at this point people are buying only food and there are bigger visits to retail chains. Restaurants do not work and people are at home, also, they care to eat healthily and maintain their health, and this is where the healthy food sector comes to the stage.
Though we didn’t add new employees we care to keep everyone on the team. We didn’t fire anyone but we look to retain people and focus on channels that can bring us extra revenue that we can remain in the same composition during the current situation. It is very important now to show the employees that the company is behind them and that they are there in difficult times. I think this is very important for the strength of the team and its further growth in the company.
We have donated a certain amount of our products and are helping as much as we can to those who need it the most. We are also arranging a project with one American charitable organization to join as one of the companies in Serbia that would donate more products to our residents who are unable to provide food for themselves and their loved ones. We certainly help from the beginning of our online sales environment by having all the labels we use for our products are made from recycled paper and thus significantly reduce the greenhouse gas impact, which is a major problem for civilization and not yet talked about as much as we think it should.
Real expansion from Granum
Granum has a similar view and expanding its e-shop partnerships.
For the first three weeks since the onset of the state of emergency, our sales in the retail sales channel jumped 20% over the same period last year, says Ksenija from Granum. While online sales of our webshop jumped by 32%, in the fourth and fifth weeks this growth percent is slightly lower.
From 20.03. we have provided all our customers with free shipping for orders through our site. That action will last until the end of the state of emergency. By that, we want to encourage our consumers to go out and go to the market as little as possible and protect themselves and their loved ones.
This situation has encouraged us to cooperate with other webshops specialized in
food products, and we see that the number of these shops is growing more and more in our market every day. We also increased the presence of our products in smaller delicatessen and domestic product stores to support the development of local retailers.
Even before the crisis started, we had a plan to further develop our webshop which showed as a good investment. We are also preparing a donation in the form of our products that we will deliver to the Red Cross.
Support from the municipalities and government key to withstanding the crisis
“Hoff” sees the number of potential buyers is drastically reduced due to various restrictions.
Since we work with companies in the Horeca sector, our business activities have stopped quickly after the state of emergency is announced, says Milutin Pantic from “Hoff”.
We are a little in favor of private buyers who have started ordering our products. In this sense, we have somewhat adapted to the market, cooperating with new customers – individuals.
We are involved, as a socially responsible company, in helping certain people who need help. Since we are a small company, we cannot engage differently in community actions we do as much as we can.
And without the help of the state, we will hardly be able to continue our business.
True visionaries – True Story
The True Story brand’s vision is to enable the use of nature through innovative technologies to create healthy and delicious fruit and vegetable products.
Our products retain in themselves all the properties that they had in nature, says Dragan from ACM INT DOO (True story brand).
In this new situation, our goal is to make our products as accessible to our consumers as possible. To this end, we have stepped up activities related to ordering online portals and delivering our products to courier officials in the shortest possible time. For orders over a certain amount, we have provided customers with free delivery and a gift in the form of products from our product range.
Also, due to the need for greater availability of our products in retail stores, we established cooperation with the renowned distributor of consumer goods “Silbo”.
During the new situation, the market was offered a new and unique product in our market “Dried watermelon”. In a time of limited production, purchase, and tapering choices, the bar “Dried Watermelon” meets most of the needs for a healthy and delicious snack.
Arrangements are underway with the municipality of Stara Pazova to donate our products where they are most needed at the moment. Most likely, our products will be delivered to assist kitchens to assist our most vulnerable fellow citizens.
This crisis has shown humanity in us, the will and the desire to help in these difficult times, strengthened real partnerships, created some new ones. Food manufacturers have shown that change does not scare them, and quickly adapted their businesses to new challenges.
In the end, we will come out more appreciating what we have and understanding how little we really need.