Interview with Mr. Nenad Vukoje, owner of the dairy Padjeni
- The dairy Padjeni was founded 18 years ago and is now recognised on the market as a successful domestic company. How has the company developed since 1999?
More than 18 years ago, my wife and I started a small family business. Our initial idea was to make a living as a family and survive on the market. We started off with a very small investment into a military cauldron and a yogurt cup filler in rented premises of about thirty square metres. The initial capacity was 150 liters of packed yogurt. We did not have any employees, it was just our family. It is through hard work and our willingness and ambition to succeed that we managed to expand our production capacity every year and purchased equipment step by step, until 2002, when we decided to build a new facility. A year later, we moved our production there and continued to expand our business, make new products and started to conquer a new market. In 2011, we realised that we needed to have a structured plan in place to further expand. Based on the analysis of our previous work, we made a plan of activities for the period until 2025, with another analysis of the overall status in 2020. We adopted this plan and started to build a large additional hall of 1,700 square meters in 2012. Construction works finished within a year and we then installed new equipment.
There is a high level of confidence between us and 1,000 cooperatives, which is a prerequisite for us to be able to expand the processing, sales and purchase of raw materials. We now process some 40,000 liters of milk for thirty products, which are packed and processed in accordance with the latest technology. The production process is monitored on a daily basis by four technicians, who would not let a product be placed on the market if it was not safe and of excellent quality. To make sure that the raw materials are to the high quality required, two agricultural engineers work with dairy farmers in the field on a daily basis.
- What products does your assortment include?
Our product assortment is divided into several units: sour milk (yogurts, creams, spreads), soft cheeses, semi-hard and hard cheeses, as well as traditional products (cottage clotted cream, “sack” clotted cream, “sack” cheese, “torotan” cheese).
- Products of the dairy Padjeni are distinctive on the market of BiH, and you also obtained a permit to export these products to the EU as of 2016. In which markets are your products sold nowadays?
You can buy our products in almost all cities of BiH, as well as in Montenegro.
- Milk and dairy products belong to the group of most sensitive products, which requires more control. When it comes to modern production methods, it is impossible to imagine any kind of serious production without control over quality and sanitary safety of the products as well as the technological process itself. How important is it for you to invest in new production technologies and keep up with European standards?
Once you enter the production plant at our dairy, you may notice that all of our technical equipment is new and belongs to the category of new technologies. The processing cycle is completely closed and constantly monitored by technicians using the HACCP system and internal control on a daily basis. Aside from our own laboratory, all products are also controlled in authorised external ones. To be able to survive on the market, we must invest in new technologies and new products on a daily basis.
- You are one of the BiH companies that has benefited from the support of the EBRD and the EU through the Project for supporting competitiveness of small and medium enterprises in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH-SME-CSF), which helps these businesses to make necessary upgrades to production facilities and comply with EU directives in the fields of environmental protection, occupational health and safety and product quality and safety. How did this improve your business and make you more competitive on the EU market?
A project like the EBRD’s and EU’s is very important for our future development: it provides a boost to new investments and new technologies that ensure environmental protection, occupational health and safety and product quality and safety – all crucial elements to support both for our business as well as our country’s economy.
- How many people do you employ and how important is their protection and safety during the production process?
We currently employ 112 workers who are subject to all measures of occupational health and safety during the production process. It is enough to say that there have been no injuries at work since we started our business.
- Are you satisfied with the business results you achieved in 2017?
2017 will be extremely successful for us. We realised our plan to invest more than BAM 1,600,000 to expand our production facility, to purchase equipment and new vehicles to distribute our final products, as well as to establish lacto-freeze stations for collecting raw milk. Our plan for processing and selling final products was to grow by 20.4 per cent, which we will exceed by more than 9 per cent. I think this is a great success. Furthermore, we will soon start a number of activities to reach out to other new markets.
- Which other markets do you plan to expand to? What are your plans for business development on the local, regional and EU markets in 2018?
Our plans are based on daily expansion, primarily on the local market as well as in the neighbouring and EU countries, Russia, Turkey etc. It is also important to adjust the production programme to the market, to listen to demands of the market and to adapt immediately to it.
- Aside from investments in new production technologies, your company is also known for investing in the community through socially responsible activities. What kind of projects are you particularly proud of?
For our local community, which consists of around 250 households in fifteen settlements, we launched a water-supply project worth more than BAM 1.5 million five years ago. The project is coming to an end and the RS Ministry of Agriculture and the local community have helped us a lot. Approximately 90 per cent of the project has been implemented so far. We are planning to complete the rest of it next year.
The project ensures that more than 50 kilometers of the water supply network and several pumping stations will function without difficulties. I am very proud of this because our community has believed in it since the very beginning, although there were unsuccessful attempts to do this project before.
We also participate in helping people who need help the most, as well as in projects of general interest, such as construction of local infrastructure, religious facilities and similar activities.