The secret of Puratos Belgian chocolate lies in its special taste and the story behind it
The top-quality baking and confectionery products arrived in Serbia a quarter of a century ago with the entry of the Belgian company Puratos to this market. We spoke with three executives from the company’s branch in Belgrade – Ljubomir Milošević, General Manager, Aleksandra Radičević, National Sales Manager, and Ivan Aničić, R&D Manager – about Puratos chocolate with the geographical origin and the Cacao-Trace project, which benefits the local community of cocoa producers.
Your company has been doing business in Serbia for a quarter of a century. What is your view of the Serbian food industry&market? Is there a noticeable improvement in quality, that is, is Serbia getting closer to European standards when it comes to this industry?
Ljubomir Milošević: The Serbian baked and confectionery product market has changed significantly in the past 10 years. Previously, bakeries and shops usually sold only Sava-type white bread, crescent rolls, simple puff pastry and buns filled with jam. Now, the offer is more diverse – there is a significantly bigger selection of nutritionally better products and the focus is on products with added value, of a rustic appearance, improved taste, higher fruit content, etc. Of course, these changes were influenced by global trends, with the inspiration for many products coming through social media and from the increasing number of tourists who visit Serbia and have different quality requirements. The presence of European retailers in our market has perhaps had the greatest impact on the quality of local products. In a certain way, retailers forced domestic producers to bring the quality of local products that are closer to European standards. In recent years, industrial baked goods producers have been investing more and more in new technologies, the latest equipment and process automation to facilitate the daily work of their employees. More and more baked goods-related projects are focused on products that have plenty of seeds, reduced salt and fat content, fewer E-numbers and more fibre and protein.
Confectionery products have always been quite innovative in terms of taste, shape, and texture. The quality of traditional cakes and pastries has been improved by the constant implementation of new technologies and improved ingredients. Locally made products inspired by global trends are becoming increasingly popular in our market, such as Belgian waffles, Tres Leche, macaroons, pralines, etc.
As a company that invests in the development of new technologies, what do you see as the biggest challenge today related to technological processes in the food industry?
Ivana Aničić: The biggest challenges in food technology are certainly the lack of adequate workforce and investment in new technologies. Numerous industrial producers have initiatives and plans to innovate their existing technologies or to invest in new plants and production lines, however, the financial moment is a hindering factor in most cases. On the other hand, employee education is crucial for working on new equipment and with new technologies and an important element of their motivation to stay with such an employer.
We are a development-based company and innovation is part of our DNA
In Belgium, you are known as a family business that has been producing premium chocolates for a very long time. What is the secret of Belgian chocolate and do Serbian consumers recognize its quality?
Ivana Aničić: The secret of Puratos Belgian chocolate lies in its special taste and the story behind it. Our strategy is not mass chocolate production, but rather focusing on top quality and unique taste. Our Cacao Trace initiative benefits local communities. From every kilogramme of our chocolate sold, 0.1 euro is given to the farmers growing cacao trees, mostly in underdeveloped countries. We believe that sustainability is the key to the future of chocolate. In order to differentiate ourselves in the market, we are focusing our development and technology on the research of special types of cacao trees. As a result, we have created a special line of products called Belcolade Origins – chocolate with geographical origins. Thus, we offer chocolate from Mexico, Peru, Papua New Guinea, etc.
Responsible business and environmental protection are imperatives nowadays. Do you participate in projects that focus on sustainable business and what are you particularly proud of when it comes to your company?
Ljubomir Milošević: In 2021, Puratos became a member of the UN Global Compact and we are committed to embedding its principles into our strategy, culture and day-to-day operations of our company, as well as to engage in collaborative projects which advance the broader development goals of the United Nations, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals.
Puratos fully supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We have linked the specific SDGs to our sustainability commitments. We want to inform all our employees, suppliers and customers about our goals and raise their awareness so that everyone forming part of our supply chain can contribute to accomplishing the SDGs.
We are very proud of the fact that under the 17 points of our commitment, number one is related to ending hunger through our initiatives like the Bakery School and Cacao-Trace. Thanks to our bakery schools, we ensure job security for underprivileged youngsters to help them provide for their families. With Cacao-Trace we brought to life an integrated, sustainable cocoa programme. The goal of our set of initiatives (including education, training, fair and premium pricing) is to create a better life for farmers.
We are working to make the Bakery School project realized in Serbia in the upcoming period.
What makes your production portfolio in Serbia so recognizable? Which products are the most popular here?
Aleksandra Radičević: Puratos Serbia produces margarine and powdered products for the baking and confectionary industry at its production facility in Kragujevac. We are a development-based company and innovation is part of our DNA. Customers have recognized the quality of our products and margarine makes up most of our sales. Nowadays, when opting for healthier food choices is an absolute imperative, it is important to point out that our margarine is hydro-free, i.e. without trans fatty acids. Our bakery and confectionery mixes offer innovative development solutions for functional and fortified products, like protein bread and pastries, which have high fibre content, less salt and sugar, etc.
The quality of traditional cakes and pastries has been improved by the constant implementation of new technologies and improved ingredients
What are your plans for Serbia? Are you planning to expand your capacity and production programme?
Ljubomir Milošević: Considering that, in previous years, we have been recording constant growth in both turnover and results, we soon realized that our current production capacity became an obstacle to further development. After careful analysis of the current situation and plans & ambitions for the years ahead, we decided to build a new factory in Serbia. This factory will have the latest equipment and the best working conditions. The factory should become operational in 2023. It will help us to realize our plans and ambitions that will benefit not only us but also our partners and consumers, to whom we will continue to provide both our top-quality products they are used to and completely new products in the years to come.