“We face obstacles head-on”
You began by importing Greek food to the Czech Republic; when did the idea of producing your own products come about?
I’d had the idea of health bars in my head a long time before. I often – at home, while doing sport, on my travels – thought I needed something healthy and tasty to give me energy always at hand. I’d first thought about kolaches made with dried fruit and nuts, but in the end practical bars won out. I came across them when visiting the USA and Australia, where there is a really diverse and very inspiring range of such bars.
Over the course of the whole process, I bore in mind the vision of producing a healthy energy bar made of purely natural ingredients which doesn’t just provide fast energy at times of increased activity, but also gives your body the vitamins, minerals and fibre it needs in the right amounts. I decided our company would only use the highest quality ingredients and would take maximum care to ensure the bars had a unique taste as well as functional benefits.
What obstacles did you come across to begin with?
Probably mechanisation. Moving from small manufacturing to the world of industrial equipment. Getting out of the “kitchen” into production sites, coming up with our own know-how and beginning to produce in large quantities. The production process is very complex and its development is a never-ending affair. Similarly, expanding distribution was not easy – we are a local Czech company and “small” compared to multinational companies, so negotiations with retailers was difficult; in a number of cases we simply said outright that we would not go down their route – high listing, facilitation fees, etc. Our determination and hard work paid off and you can now find us in almost all health food stores, and also in DM drugstores, Tesco and Albert supermarkets and I’d say Starbucks is the icing on the cake.
From 2015, we began expanding into neighbouring countries – mainly Slovakia and Poland.
How do you see the current political and economic situation? Is it helpful to entrepreneurs?
I perceive the growing Czech economy positively, like other citizens. In terms of the political situation, I regularly vote in elections but I’d rather not comment on the political situation. What I should note, however, is that I think bloated bureaucracy at a national and European level is a fundamental problem for the business environment, and it slows down development for all of us.
The current situation in the labour market is difficult for employers. How are you managing to attract new employees?
We don’t perceive this problem in our sector, and specifically within the Krnov region; I have never yet had the experience of having to work hard to attract new employees. I try to secure the conditions such that I and my employees are satisfied and everyone feels I appreciate the work they do.
How do you perceive the hot topic right now of double food quality standards?
My opinion is that the state should not get involved. I think most intervention ends up backfiring on those it was originally designed to protect – the customers. I believe that customers should make their own decisions on the quality of the food they buy, how much they spend on food and how healthily they eat.
You chose the health food segment which is very popular today – organic, raw food – did you realise when you began the upsurge would be so big?
I must confess that I had the feeling the segment would become very popular, and that has happened, but I remain convinced the main upsurge is yet to come.
It should be added, however, that you can’t just stick an Organic label on a product and hope it sells itself. The whole process is much more complex – we begin right with the selection of pure natural ingredients. Then in developing the recipe we base ourselves on the latest findings in health and active lifestyles. We carefully select high quality natural ingredients and in order to preserve the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals, we don’t heat process our products in their production. Our products contain no additives and are not just a source of great taste, but above all they keep the human body and mind in perfect physical and mental balance.
Which of your products is the most successful, and why?
It’s hard to answer that question; we like all our products, each of them has its own story. Both the chocolate and fruit varieties of our Bombus bars are very popular. The date syrup and now also date paste make it popular – these are great ingredients to use in raw confectioneries. Our portfolio is so diverse that we are grateful for almost everything we have managed to show success in, and we don’t intend to abandon this.
What are your development plans for the future?
We’re planning loads; space currently limits us, but we are a very active and hard-working team so we face such obstacles head-on. We absolutely want to continue on the path of producing healthy and tasty food at an acceptable price. We would like to work on developing innovative products and spending time on the health food segment, which we want to be able to offer to the widest possible spectrum of customers.
How do you see yourself as a leader in your company and in your sector?
From my perspective, you’re not born a leader, but become one through hard work and diligence. You need results to be a leader; without any you might be a boss, but you won’t be a naturally respected leader your colleagues can rely on in an emergency. That’s the idea that I’m trying to pass on to my people, to my team. I’m not engaged socially or politically and I don’t plan to be in the close future due to my work and family commitments.