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Stojan Kemera, Barry Callebaut Group General Manager For The Region Of Southeast Europe

Shaping Today’s World Of Chocolate And Cocoa

Barry Callebaut is a global company and leader of its industry that’s shaping the world of chocolate and cocoa today. Headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, the Barry Callebaut Group is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products, mastering every step in the value chain, from the sourcing of raw materials to the production of the finest chocolates, operating as a business-to-business company, fully vertically integrated, with a strong position in cocoa-origin countries and a unique global manufacturing footprint with a diversified local service presence

Barry Callebaut has succeeded in creating a new, modern European hub in Serbia that will serve not only as regional centre for Southeast Europe, but will also cater to the network of customers on a broader scale.

Your regional office for logic for Southeast Europe has existed in Belgrade for a decade and is constantly recording double-digit growth. Was that one of the reasons you opted to open a factory in Serbia?

The success of our Regional Headquarters, which have – over the course of a decade – developed a wide regional distribution network and become a valuable supplier and long-term partner to various customers, was just one of the reasons that Serbia was chosen as a location for the further expansion of the Barry Callebaut footprint in the region. This expansion was implemented in line with our ‘smart growth’ strategy, with the idea to extend to new market segments and expand geographically, in order to supply current customers, and attract new ones, with a wide range of chocolate, compound and filling products. It was planned for this factory to serve as a regional hub from which Barry Callebaut could address the rapidly growing chocolate markets of Southeast Europe and today, when we look at our fully operational production and growing distribution and exports, it is clear that we made the right choice.

With 55 million euros invested, your factory is one of the most significant investments in Novi Sad, thanks to which Serbia will be among the largest producers of chocolate. No more doubts there?

The investment of 55 million euros is a major investment for Novi Sad and Serbia, but is also very important for Barry Callebaut Group. And to date it has satisfied, and I can gladly say overcome, the very ambitious expectations of all interested parties, both internally within the company and with our customers, but also with our partners in this public-private partnership, key stakeholders in the local community and the Serbian government. This new state-of-the art factory in Novi Sad has been completely built and equipped during the Covid-19 crisis, over the course of just one year, and with zero accidents during construction. It is now operating to its full capacity, annually producing and delivering 50,000 tons of chocolate to different customer segments. So, if there were any doubts, we can leave them behind and let our accomplishments and results speak for themselves.

Barry Callebaut Manufacturing Novi Sad is a modern chocolate factory, the latest new European production location that has been realised with an investment of 55 million euros and is now operating at a capacity of 50,000 tons and has plans to double that capacity. It is a state-of-the art production facility with the highest standards of quality and safety of products, and the health and safety of employees

Just over four months have passed since the opening of the factory in Novi Sad. What are your first impressions?

After the ground-breaking ceremony for the Barry Callebaut chocolate factory in Novi Sad took place on 5th March 2020, we, in our project and our company, like the rest of the world, were hit by the life- and business altering Covid-19 crisis, which confronted us with various challenges and imposed necessary, but strict and rigid rules and measures that had a strong impact on our organisation, our daily work and our overall plans. By making the health and safety of our employees our first priority, we managed to reorganise our project implementation and process, so during the Covid period, which is still in effect today, we’ve accomplished even more than we planned and, most importantly, during the whole period we’ve proven to be a credible partner and reliable supplier to all our customers.

Thanks to our growing and dedicated team, great network of collaborators, clear operational framework and optimisation of resources, management agility, but also our decisiveness and flexibility in execution, we’ve been able to complete two major projects in Serbia.

By recognising its leadership role, Barry Callebaut takes it upon itself to preserve the industry by making an impact in unprecedented times with ground-breaking innovations and gamechanging partnerships. We made a pledge when launching the Forever Chocolate Strategic Initiative in 2016 and promising to make sustainable chocolate the norm by 2025!

First, in just one year, we’ve constructed, equipped and launched production at our chocolate factory in Novi Sad and, second, we’ve designed, created and executed our Chocolate Academy in Belgrade, which also features an application lab that will enable us to create customised recipes and solutions for our customers, and which will serve as an education centre where we will host dedicated courses for artisans, innovation sessions for industrial and semi-industrial customers and partners, workshops on new trends, tasting sessions and similar.

Due to the Covid rules, we only managed to organise the symbolic inauguration of our factory four months ago, but we stand ready for 2022, during which we hope to be able to present all our facilities and stories to the interested public more frequently and freely.

Your employees can boast of having the sweetest job in the world, but also excellent salaries. What have your investments brought to Novi Sad, Vojvodina and Serbia in economic terms?

Yes, people do comment that it is the sweetest and best smelling job, and in truth that’s a great metaphor. Barry Callebaut is a premium employer in Serbia, offering respect, security and long-term prospects to young people and families, as well experienced experts. The company values its employees highly, providing a safe and dynamic work environment in a performance-based organisation and competitive working terms, with the potential for development and advancement.

Barry Callebaut is both an attractive employer and a long-term dedicated loyal and respectful partner.

As for Novi Sad, Vojvodina and Serbia, we are dedicated to supporting the local community, starting from referential educational institutions and special individuals, through the attracting and development of talent.

Additionally, Barry Callebaut is mastering every step in the value chain, and is therefore dedicated to investing in local development and the sourcing of raw material, thus enabling the progress of the local community.

The Barry Callebaut Academy at Belgrade riverfront brings added-value to products and services by utilising new technologies and proactive scientific innovations, adapting existing products and creating new ones to address specific market needs by feeling the pulse of industry and driving the business ahead of trends in the industry. Making the best possible chocolate takes craftsmanship and passion, which is why Barry Callebaut is driving this industry

Is there still room for the optimism that you showed before the factory opened? You then presented the great plans of Barry Callebaut in Serbia and globally. How do you view those plans today?

There was the reason for optimism before opening, and there is even more room for positive thinking today, when we know what we can do and that we can even do it during uncompromising circumstances and difficult times. Barry Callebaut is the heart and engine of the chocolate industry, with the mission to be number one in all attractive customer segments. With more than 175 years of chocolate heritage, the Barry Callebaut Group has an unparalleled blend of expertise in cocoa and chocolate, including insights into future consumer trends that are gathered through the existing and growing chef’s network.

By recognising this leadership role, Barry Callebaut takes it upon itself to preserve the industry by making an impact in unprecedented times with groundbreaking innovations and game-changing partnerships. We made a pledge when launching the Forever Chocolate Strategic Initiative in 2016 and promising to make sustainable chocolate the norm by 2025! We stand by that promise today and see it coming to life.

Will your positive experience contribute to the arrival of other investors from Switzerland, not only from the food industry, but also from other industries?

I am sure that our experience can be very useful, exemplary and inspirational to various businesses in different industry segments who consider Serbia as their next location for direct investment. Barry Callebaut is very satisfied with the choice of location and we’ve so far had an exceptionally positive experience in cooperation with the Serbian and provincial governments, the City of Novi Sad and referential institutions that provided us with all the necessary support and assistance. Serbia is now recognised as growing economy and enticing investment location. And this is the result of dedicated efforts to create a positive business climate, develop infrastructure and public administration, support and transform the area of education and drive so much needed regional initiatives and collaboration. It is my expectation that these realisations will present strong arguments for more global companies to opt to invest in Serbia, but also the presence of global business in Serbia will provide security for local companies and investors to grow locally and transform their businesses.

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