"Romania is still in the «early days» of the Health & Wellness global trend, but rapidly adjusting"

English Section / 28 octombrie 2022

"Romania is still in the «early days» of the Health & Wellness global trend, but rapidly adjusting"

(Interview with Marco Tschanz, Deputy CEO Bell Food Group, Head of Eisberg and Lucian Trofin, General Manager Eisberg România)

Reporter: In the actual context, in which more and more consumers are turning to organic food, to products that are as healthy as possible, which is your offer to the worldwide market and the Romanian one? 

Lucian Trofin: First of all our Group is a major european player offering a wide range of fresh and healthy Convenience food solutions, from Ready-to-Wash to Ready-to-Eat or -Heat products in Romania. We have also already been successful with fresh leafy mixes, like rucola, valeriana, iceberg, endivia and more, washed and dried to be readily consumed in a variety of tasty and colourful recipes...limited only by imagination.

We are also testing the market for bio products, especially ready-to-wash baby leaves.

Reporter: If you were to make a comparison between the demand in Romania and that in the region, what conclusions could you draw, both related to trends and its quantity and quality?

Lucian Trofin: It is difficult to make comparisons, as Romania is still in the ‚early days' of the Health & Wellness global trend, but rapidly adjusting due to a dynamic, fast growing and open minded consumer market. The potential is there, it just needs time and of course a relatively stable general environment, mainly talking about climate and geopolitical challenges driving all prices up.

Reporter: How do you evaluate the food sector in Romania?

Lucian Trofin: I believe the best word to describe it is "dynamic", the food sector in Romania is still a young, not quite fully developed (experimented/sophisticated) market, but as I said before, it is very fast in changing behaviors. Even if Romanians are adopting trends from Europe, the traditional food is still very much in demand and mostly preferred. However we have noticed that salads with traditional flavor, leak is to be mentioned here, are appreciated and constant communication to inform and explain healthy food options are the successful way forward.

Reporter: How much have you invested in our market and in what, exactly?

Lucian Trofin: Since we entered in Romania, back in 1995, we have followed a Master Plan with 3 major Investment Milestones:

Explore and adapt to local business and consumer's market,

Build and develop consumption demand,

Consolidate our established market position.

Financially speaking we always calibrate investment to existing or potential results. Right now as we are in full market consolidation plans, we are ending a 7 mio. Euro investment cycle in order to increase processing capacity, upgrade and update technology to fully comply with increasingly challenging sustainability targets, without neglecting all Quality, Food safety and security standards.

Reporter: What other investments are you going to make in our country?

Lucian Trofin: As we strongly believe in the Romanian market, the plan is to continue investments required to further consolidate our market position, with a clear focus on supply side strategic partnerships. So far we haven't been able to ‚harvest' any of the local options...however we will not give up and will continue to evaluate available proposals.

Reporter: In which other countries are you runing business?

Marco Tschanz: The Bell Food Group has grown from a small Swiss butchery established in 1869 to become one of Europe's leading food specialists with 13'000 employees. We are offering product ranges from ultra-fresh and fresh products such as salads, sandwiches, ready meals etc. Furthermore we are producing and selling meat, poultry and charcuterie in 15 countries within Europe. We also do export our products worldwide.

Reporter: How do you assess the future of the field in which you work, considering the imminent approach of a food crisis that most analysts are talking about?

Marco Tschanz: Every period has its challenges, for sure the best times of our lives are when all the things are moving smoothly, but the hard times make us stronger. We have to stay flexible, be close to the customers to make the right decisions. The fast pace will remain; managing supply chains will continue to challenge us in the future. The exchange of experience within the various units of Bell Food Group is crucial in order to be able to multiply good approaches.

Reporter: What are the financial results for the first semester, globally, and how much of the turnover comes from packaged salads segment? 

Marco Tschanz: The Bell Food Group's sales markets have experienced the expected normalisation process regarding the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. For the Bell Food Group, this means that food service sales recovered substantially in the first half of 2022, while retail sales, which were excellent during the pandemic, declined. The market situation in mid-2022 was therefore once more comparable to the pre-pandemic situation in 2019.

The Bell Food Group posted encouraging organic growth in the first half of 2022. Net revenue, after adjustment, rose by 6.2% to CHF 2.1 billion. This growth is also attributed to the recovery of the convenience sector. On the other hand, we are confronted with massive cost increases on a daily basis and are constantly on the look-out for solutions to minimise cost increases.

Reporter: Which is the sales value in Romania, for the first semester, compared to the same period of 2021?

Lucian Trofin: For the first half of 2022 we had a 17% volume growth in Romania (entirely from packaged salads segment).

Reporter: What financial results do you estimate for the group, but also for the local market?

Marco Tschanz: The procurement and price situation is likely to remain tense in the second half. For as long as the uncertain geopolitical situation persists, it can be assumed that inflation will continue for raw materials, packaging materials and energy. For the Bell Food Group, this means a further hike in production costs.

Lucian Trofin: In Romania, if the current situation does not get worse than it is right now, we believe that it should be possible to offset some of the additional costs with volume growth. We are preparing for the future, as we believe it will remain challenging and turbulent for the next 2 to 3 years.

Reporter: Thank You!