Focus on SERBIA 2015

Featured content from the current report

October 15th 2015


Serbia 2015: Zlatiborac

Interview with Mr. Aleksandar Stojanovic, Founder and Owner of Zlatiborac

Zlatiborac in Analysis – The Region’s Leader in Confectionary
One 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 Serbia
Founder 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 standards
A.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 company
A.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 today
A.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 Europe
Serbia 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 innovation
How 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.

Personal insights as an entrepreneur onto Serbia’s economic and business landscape today, competitive and working environment, strengths and weaknesses, key trends and place in Europe
A.S.: It must be said that economic and business landscape in Serbia is not great at the moment and that the level of quality of the business environment represents one of the basic adverse effects on the total economic system of Serbia and lack of competition of the Serbian economy. Certain progress and efforts of the Government in the creating of a more favourable investment climate are there and I hope that they will attract foreign investors, export-oriented ones, and incite development of the private sector. It is very important to maintain a steady pace of reforms in all areas: the public sector, public companies, education, judicial system. It is necessary to professionalize management, finish privatization and all other things which refer to the creation of an attractive business environment. Our advantages are in the industrial-agricultural sector, geo-strategic position, resources, free trade with Russia, Belarus, Turkey, CEFTA countries. Also, serious work needs to be done on the removal of deficiencies – transport and logistics infrastructure needs to be regulated, flexible regulations need to be passed, conditions for increase of productivity need to be created, constant improvement of the investment and business climate of Serbia should be an imperative.

German Cooperation: Growth enabler for Serbia
Germany and Serbia celebrate this year 15 years of bilateral relations. Since cooperation with Serbia began in 2000, the Federal Government has provided more than EUR 1.6 billion, making Germany the largest bilateral donor and one of Serbia ́s most substantial economic and trading partner. Leading as example for companies all over the world, Germany offers technological expertise and processing.

Your assessment of the role and importance of the German cooperation in Serbia and what could be done to further enhance partnerships with Germany
A.S.: Today, Germany is the most important economic and foreign-trade partner of our country in all areas of the economy and movement of Serbia on the European path. Over the past years, increased intensity of cooperation and Germany’s assuming of a dominant role in the transfer of know-how, technologies and experience through bilateral cooperation of Serbian and German companies has been noticeable. What is very important for us as a country and our economy is that Germany, as a key political and economical factor in Europe, clearly recognizes and supports Serbia’s commitment and efforts made in terms of reforms on its European path. Transitional processes in Serbia have increased the level of interest and share of German companies in the privatization and other investments. This is a chance which should be used by Serbia and Serbia must work on the achievement of a more favourable business environment for German investors, creating of safety and trust, with which we would encourage German companies and investors to invest in our country.

Potential and perspectives for future cooperation with international/German companies
A.S.: Potential and prospects of future cooperation of our companies surely lie in the big diversity of economic cooperation. It should be noted that a lot of our citizens have been living and working in Germany for a long time now and they are expressing constant initiative and wish to invest and thus take part in all areas of economic activities in Serbia. This is why they should be mutually encouraged and all forms of economic connecting and partnerships of our companies should be utilized. I am confident that Serbia will continue the processes of essential reforms and European integrations, which will largely create positive economic climate and attract quality international/German companies, which will change and strengthen the business environment and the image of Serbian economy.

Your final message to the readers of Der Spiegel
A.S.: You are welcome in Serbia, country of an open heart, with a proud and hospitable people committed to its tradition and culture, with great respect towards other nations. You are welcome in the country which sees its chance in the changes and commitment to European integrations, for a better future of its own and other nations. You can be sure that the reform path of Serbia will in the future create a very interesting place for living and investing.