EU bank backs organic Bulgarian bar maker by a cool €2m

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Eu-Roo-pean win:Smart Organic has big plans for its offerings in Europe & beyond...
Eu-Roo-pean win:Smart Organic has big plans for its offerings in Europe & beyond...

Related tags: Snack

Sofia-based healthy snack and ‘superfood’ producer Smart Organic has won a €2 million loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to aid expansion for the rising healthy snack and ‘superfood’ manufacturer.

Smart Organic’s executive director Yani Dragov told NutraIngredients that growing demand for its successful chia and herbal extract-based Roobar protein snack bar – along with its range of raw superfoods – means the company must restructure its production and distribution models.

“Orders are growing – both for our original-recipe products – like Roobar, Kookie Cat and protein powder mixes – and for our packaged superfoods as well,”​ said Dragov, adding that the EBRD loan will specifically help to finance the acquisition and renovation of the company’s production plant in Sofia.

“We will able to buy new production lines with higher capacity and more sophisticated technology, which will help us meet this growing demand,”​ he said.

“Once we move in the new plant we will apply and receive an International Featured Standard (​IFS)​ certificate, which will guarantee the highest standards of all our production processes.”

Business growth

SO-team
The Smart Organic team at the BioFach show in Germany in 2016.

Smart Organic has seen an average annual growth of over 80% in the past five years, making it the biggest organic food distributor in Bulgaria. “It all started with the opening of a small organic store in Sofia. Back then, the company was engaged in import and distribution of organic food.”

In 2012 the company decided to move in to the production of its own organic and raw bars.

“That is how RooBar was born,”​ he said. “Today we produce more than one million bars monthly and we sell them in over 50 countries around the globe.”

RooBar breakdown

RooBar

RooBars are a collection of high-protein and superfood bars. They are distributed in four continents and contain only four or five ingredients per bar. These organic, raw, vegan, ‘power bars’ contain a variety of superfood ingredients coupled with other dried fruits and nuts. Products in the range include macadamia nut and cranberry, goji berry, cocoa nibs, chia and spirulina protein, and rosehip. All products come with no added sugar are gluten-free. 

“We were looking for an institution that understands and endorses the kind of sustainable development we are striving for,”​ said Dragov. “We are delighted to cooperate with the EBRD and with their help we will be able to reach our goals for expansion in the years ahead.”

“In recent years we went beyond the organic stores channel and listed our products in various sports and fitness facilities, convenience stores, gas stations and supermarkets all over Europe​. Our clients now include some of Europe’s biggest food retailers.”

Key European markets for Smart Organic are Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Holland and the Scandinavian countries.

Restructuring for expansion

The €2m EBRD loan forms part of a larger €3.3m expansion plan. Dragov said the decision to approach the bank for a loan rather than exploring other financing options was down to the fact that the EBRD deal structure ‘corresponds well’ to the company’s short- to mid-term goals.

Smart Organic will finish the construction and renovation works on its new production plant by the end of 2017 with an expectation of adding further production lines in 2018.

“The quality of our products is another area that will see further improvement due to this investment,”​ said Dragov – adding that the company also plans to continue staff expansion, especially in its R&D department, “which will allow us to launch more innovative products.”

“We are hopeful that the expansion with this EBRD loan will place us on the radar of other companies with similar business and vision and we might engage in fruitful partnerships with them,”​ he added. 

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