Serbia 2015: Zlatiborac
Interview with Mr. Aleksandar Stojanovic, Founder and Owner of Zlatiborac
Zlatiborac in Analysis – The Region’s Leader in ConfectionaryOne of the leading producer of delicacy meats since 1885, Zlatiborac has acquired a strong reputation in Serbia for high-quality and traditional products, and is today one of the flagship companies that can proud itself of pushing the ‘made in Serbia’ label.
General overview of Zlatiborac: key milestones since creation, market positioning, performance, and plans for the consolidation of the meat industry in SerbiaFounder and Owner of Zlatiborac, Aleksandar Stojanovic (A.S.): Zlatiborac is a Serbian company which was established in an authentic way by preserving the tradition of making top cured meat delicatessen, which has been passed on from generation to generation in the family Stojanović. My family is the sixth generation of the Stojanović family, which is committed to preserving, fostering and continuing of the secret of our ancestors.
It all started a long time ago, in rare natural surroundings of the village Mačkat under Zlatibor, the most famous Serbian mountain, where our traditional products were first made. Unique climate gave special taste and quality to our products, and inherently an identity, which became recognized among consumers worldwide.
Soaring demand for our products required an increasing scope of production and consequently in 1992, we made an important and bold decision to turn our family artisan manufacturing into a company. We were aware that only a modern and well-organized company could answer the demands of a modern market. Today, 23 years after the founding, Zlatiborac has grown into a modern and well-organized company with an unusual blend of tradition and cutting-edge technique, technology and top quality standards, implemented on over 30,000m2 of developed area, with 400 employees, young professionals.
We have built our market position over the years and become the best Serbian brand in its category, breaking through all the boundaries and becoming a leader in the region. We export our products onto the markets of surrounding countries – Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro. Our brand is in expansion on the markets of the Euro-Asian region as well, and recently we started exporting to Sweden, as an approved exporter for the EU market. There is huge demand for our products in the very respectable market of UAE, as well.
The meat industry represents an important part of each strategy of developing sustainable production and it is a key resource in a country’s economy. This is especially true for Serbia which is a developing country at the gates of EU. As a significant business entity in the meat industry of Serbia, our company sets the best example and supports all activities of our Government in the measures of consolidating the meat industry and the overall economy.
Focus on Zlatiborac quality control, norms and standardsA.S.: It is suffice to say that our company and our product, as a success formula, are associated with top quality and constant control of food safety and norms, which is the main characteristic of our production process. Focus of these elements provides us certainty and there are no compromises there. High level of continuous quality control is achieved through cooperation with all major domestic and foreign scientific institutions for assessment and measurement of quality. By obtaining strict quality standards, the European HACCP, Russian GOSTR, as well as the HALAL standard, we managed to answer to the toughest of requirements from various markets and in that way we have acquired the trust of a large number of consumers.
Your plans for strategic growth and development in Serbia/the region/internationally - investment and partnership opportunities in your companyA.S.: Our strategic plans for growth and development in the market of Serbia, where we have been absolute leaders for a long time now, are directed towards the fortification of our leading position and fight for an even bigger market share, which is not always easy. Often, it is more difficult to maintain the leading position than to obtain it. Through developmental projects of our own farming we will ensure the stability of our raw material base and inherently our primary production, which is of essential importance for the further development of our brand.
For now, we are not considering joint ventures with a change in ownership structure because we have managed to implement all our set investment-development projects of the company independently. Since our market position has been seriously expanding outside the borders of Serbia, we are not ruling out the possibility of some sort of international joint venture in the future.
Challenges and opportunities on Serbia’s meat market todayA.S.: The state of the meat industry in Serbia is not admirable, but efforts of the Government and all companies to change such a state are evident and it could be said that certain level of progress has been obtained.
One of the key problems of the meat processing businesses is the lack of continuous supply with quality domestic raw materials at stable prices. Our livestock breeding is at a very low level today, despite the fact that it has big potential to become the main economic branch. Solution to this problem is in the clear concept of long-term strategy of sustainable development of livestock breeding, through incentives in agriculture and rural development, investments in the revival of closed production capacities and farms, loans under favourable conditions, subsidies, support to the processing businesses, as well as a serious approach to export incentives.
Serbia: Gearing up for EuropeSerbia is aiming to deepen its political and economic relations with the EU, and to gradually integrate into the largest single market in the world. Trade liberalization and integration into the world’s major markets are the main priorities of the government today. How will this integration change the business landscape of the meat industry in Serbia?
A.S.: Geographically, Serbia is already part of Europe, and in the future, we believe, part of EU as well, which is what our country and its citizens strive towards. I expect that the Serbian market will become part of the united European market in due time, which is why liberalization of the meat industry is inevitable and we must be ready for this.
With the integration of Serbia in the EU market, the complete business landscape will change significantly. These changes will certainly happen in the meat industry, as well. Liberalization of the market will make room for free trade and foreign investments in agriculture, livestock breeding and processing industry, which will contribute to the increase of competition, but it will also, surely, stir domestic companies and compel them to adapt to the new business landscape and face new and strong competition. In our company, we look at liberalization of the market as something inevitable and we are ready for that moment because we are already facing foreign competition in our exporting markets. It is very important to prepare for the changes and not to wait for them to happen.
Maintaining competitiveness and innovationHow Serbia and Zlatiborac are preparing to face increased competition with E.U. Integration
A.S.: Serbia is yet to undergo reforms and as I have already said, preparations need to start in due time and to go for the integrations, which represents a key moment in relieving the pressure on Serbian companies after joining EU. Companies will need to become more efficient and more competitive, able to adapt to new conditions and to indulge the growing demands of the modern market and consumer.
I see our competitiveness in the uniqueness and possibility to offer something new, different, at least when it comes to food, because the market demands constant refreshing, and therefore constant innovations. We need a vision of the economic future of Serbia, which involves answering the following question “Where do we want to be in the future and in which sectors are we going to invest”? So, in this process the biggest load, but also the biggest advantages, is in the economy. This is why it is important to learn more about the EU common trade policy, to understand what awaits us, what are its advantages and where are our opportunities, in order to utilize those opportunities as best we can.