Europe Outlook spoke with Elza Markova, CEO of Bella Bulgaria, in a Q&A discussing its success across Southeast Europe and how the company has become the belle of the Bulgarian food manufacturing industry
Q&A WITH BELLA BULGARIA
Could you give us a brief overview of Bella Bulgaria?
Elza Markova, CEO, Bella Bulgaria (EM): Bella is a market leader in the food industry in Bulgaria, with a portfolio of over 200 products focusing on the creation of meat, milk, oils and pastry products. Since the establishment of the company in 1992, we have been following an upward trend of development, which in 2013 resulted in the company making over EUR 130 million.
The company uses advanced technologies to monitor production processes and has implemented systems for Quality Management; namely ISO 9001:2008, ISO 22000 and IFS (International Food Standard) across our facilities. We operate a successful business in Southeast Europe, where we employ 3,000 people in Bulgaria alone, and we export to more than 20 countries worldwide including; USA, Spain, Turkey, Australia, Armenia, Germany, Britain, France, Cyprus, Holland, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and the Lebanon. We owe this success to our excellent business strategy, long term planning and the continuous introduction of global know-how.
What advantages do you have over your competitors?
(EM): Our innovative products are one of our strongest advantages in the complex and ever changing food industry. Consumers are always on the lookout for new products, new tastes and most importantly, variety. With this in mind, our R&D teams work tirelessly to ensure our company offers a large range of high quality products with new and exciting tastes.
Over the last year we have increased our product exportation, which builds on the successful export growth we saw in 2013. From this expansion into new markets abroad, we have achieved a 25 percent growth rise in sales from foreign markets. Having our brand in as many countries as possible is a big bonus for us, as it will help to strengthen the brand name across our industry and Europe.
Can you tell me about the supply chain involved in food manufacturing?
(EM): Raw materials are the most crucial part of any company in the food processing industry. They are essential and in direct correlation with the quality of the final product. If the raw product you use is of a lesser quality, your end product will also be of lesser quality. That is why it really is important to only use the highest quality ingredients from the beginning.
At Bella, we have built a system of stringent measures with clear and specific parameters to control the quality and origin of the raw materials that we use in our products. We only work with companies that meet our high standards and our partners are proven companies, many of which are established names in the global industry.
What are the areas of Corporate Social Responsibility that Bella Bulgaria are working in?
(EM): Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is at the heart of the sustainable and socially responsible business model of Bella. The company carries out its commitments as a responsible citizen by actively working with employees, partners and the public for causes dedicated to solving important social problems. Bella is one of the members of the Bulgarian Forum of Business Leaders, which is the leading organisation in Bulgaria devoted to promoting the principles and values of corporate social responsibility; and is something we take great pride in.
Energy efficiency is part of the company’s CSR and green business strategy. We strive to ensure a strong balance between productivity and implementing clean technologies and reducing our carbon footprint. Bella uses co-generation technology that is renowned as a primary technical solution for the improvement of Europe’s environment by reducing the impact of global climate change and reducing the local emissions of particulate, such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides.
Bella recently became one of the nine founders of the first Bulgarian Food Bank, an organisation aimed at providing healthy nourishing food to those who do not have access to proper nutrition. Our company is one of the regular donors of food products for the needs of the organisation and our employees participate in fundraising campaigns for those living below the poverty line.
What are your business goals and forecasts for 2014 and beyond?
(EM): Our main focus for the rest of this year and into 2015 is to continue developing a new line of innovative and tasty products and then enter those products into the markets across Southeast Europe. The success of our products in Romania and Greece is down to selling goods that are in keeping with the taste preferences of local consumers. For example, in Greece, where the bakery traditions stretch back generations, our products are loved because we create products that closely match the taste and traditional recipes of the country.
Alongside this, we will continue to create new and exciting products for the Bulgarian markets, with each of our brands investing in the study of taste and consumer habits, to best understand and analyse what the customer wants next. Finally, we will carefully look at geographic expansion by entering new foreign markets in neighboring countries and look to garner the same success that we have seen in Romania and Greece.