Olympus has invested nearly 140 million euros in the Brașov Milk Factory during ten years of activity

The Brașov Dairy Factory, a new investment by the Olympus manufacturer, has attracted investments of nearly 140 million euros in the ten years of activity. The high level of technology at the factory, combined with constant investments, has turned Olympus into an important player in the dairy market, as the products were first introduced in Romania, manufactured locally, using raw materials from Romanian farmers, according to an interview with Progresiv Dimitrios Kelas, General Manager of the Brașov Milk Factory.

10 years have passed since the opening of the Olympus factory in the Brasov region. What was the dairy market like at that moment, more specifically the Roman consumer?

Domestic investments remain a strategic pillar in the development of Olympus and the Brasov Dairy Factory. The Romanian dairy market is growing annually, thanks to all the regulations and the increasing competition, and it will remain on an upward slope of development. With the milk collected from Romanian farmers, consumers’ demand for Romanian products is increasing, and this only makes us happy – Olympus produces dairy products in perfect harmony with nature, using raw materials collected from Romania. At the unit level, the Brasov Milk Factory is a pioneer in collecting milk from Romanian farmers, with a receiving capacity of over 1,000,000 liters/day.

In 2020, domestic consumption increased, especially for goods, as a result of changes in consumer behavior: they spent more time at home and chose to stock up to reduce the number of times they supplied themselves. The trend is still commodity-based, but in our case, we’ve seen significant increases in other categories, such as goat’s milk, juice or tea.

What production capacity did you start the road with and how many employees? What do the numbers look like today?

We started in 2011 with 90 employees and have been constantly evolving. In 2016, five years after the opening of the dairy factory, we had 350 associates with us, and now we have reached nearly 500 employees, as a result of the local development and demand in the dairy market.

In terms of production capacity, we started with eight production lines: Yogurt (120 tons/day), Tilemia (100 tons/day) and Milk (PET: 16000 L/h, Tetra Pak Packing: 10500 L/h) with milk. Receiving capacity of 40 thousand liters per hour. At the moment, we are proud to announce that at the unit level, the Brasov Milk Factory is a pioneer in collecting milk from Romanian farmers, with a receiving capacity of more than 1,000,000 liters / day. With 20 production lines in 2021, the daily production capacity is 550 tons of PET and UHT bottled milk in TetraPak, 170 tons of yoghurt and 120 tons of cheese.

What challenges did you face in the beginning of the factory activity in Hălchiu? How have these challenges changed over time, and what are the key milestones today?

Before opening the factory, we have developed a well-developed business plan with short, medium and long term goals. Thus, it was very easy for us to build a balanced business ecosystem, operating in an integrated manner from the beginning, and then invest, over time, in areas that were identified as strategic from this point of view. For example, we have focused on investing in electrical and generation systems so that they can withstand any power outages that could occur and affect production. After that, we made it as easy to access the factory as possible, for a more smooth development of our activities.

What is the impact of investment from Hălchiu on the local economy?

Ten years after the opening of the factory in Romania, Olympus employs nearly 500 employees, and selects employees not only from the Brakov region, but also from the surrounding regions, which is a strong pillar of the local economy and development. Over time, we have focused on providing our employees with training and courses in various fields, as well as retraining courses, so that we can continually support and motivate them and give them the opportunity to develop properly, organically and aromatically within the company.

What products were manufactured at the beginning of the factory and how has the supply changed in the meantime?

Among the first products that were initially manufactured were drinking milk, natural yoghurt, cream and limo. At the same time, when we opened the Brasov Milk Factory, for the first time on the Romanian market we introduced Greek yogurt, which is a local product. It was well received by consumers and quickly became the main product of the Olympus portfolio. Two years later, we launched the first organic yogurt made in Romania, a range we later supplemented with organic milk, senna, kefir, drinking yogurt, butter, and special products for children – 1Bio3. In 2018, we expanded our product range and, after investing more than 20 million euros in the product line, launched Stragghisto, a new Greek yogurt recipe, to complement the existing range. Furthermore, this product has been awarded the Superior Taste Award by the International Taste Institute, a reputable entity in the evaluation and approval of food products. The award received is international recognition for the taste and quality of Stragghisto 2% Olympus Greek Yogurt. Currently, we are proud of more than 170 products in our portfolio, with a wide range of dairy products, natural juices, vegetable drinks and cold tea.

What is the percentage of the factory’s production currently that covers the local market, and what is the share it exports?

The Brasov Milk Factory operates at 65% capacity. Our aim is to serve the local market first and then to become a regional hub, where we can feed the whole of Europe. Currently, 55% of production goes to the domestic market, and the remaining 45% is exported to countries such as Germany, Italy, England, Bulgaria and Serbia.

How has the presence of a local factory affected the innovations you brought to the market?

The Hălchiu Milk Factory opened in 2011, as a result of Greenfield’s investment of more than 55 million euros. Ten years later, we have reached a total investment of 139 million euros, which has been directed over time in the most modern equipment for receiving and processing milk, as well as in advanced technologies for packaging finished products. The high technological level of the factory, combined with constant investments, has turned Olympus into a big player in the local market, introducing products for the first time in Romania, manufactured locally, using raw materials from Romanian farmers. I remember here Greek Yogurt, Stragghisto, Organic Yogurt, Greek Drinking Yogurt and Organic Goat Milk, which were introduced into our portfolio this year.

In this regard, how active has Olympus been in introducing new products to the Romanian market this year? What product categories have benefited the most from launches?

2021 was a significant year in the Olympus product portfolio integration strategy. This year, we supplemented the current range of goat products with organic goat’s milk, a year later we introduced on the market Sana and goat kefir, produced in Romania. We celebrate 10 years of success with a symbol of confidence that together we can build a better future by launching the first milk packaged in r-PET, made from up to 35% recycled plastic, and 100% recyclable. This launch is a continuation of Olympus’ commitment to sustainability. We are confident that, together with those who choose our products, we can take good steps towards a future with less plastic.

What development plans do you have for the Romanian product portfolio?

Our efforts have always focused on enhancing the product portfolio in line with consumer preferences and specific market needs. In the future, our plans include developing and standardizing the existing ranges under the same innovation umbrella.

In 2017, as part of the company’s sustainability strategy, we implemented selective recycling in the plant and opened our biogas production plant, after an investment of €4 million. The technology used has helped reduce methane gas by up to 40% and significantly reduce the plant’s CO2 emissions.

This year, we continued our commitment and introduced r-PET packaging, with up to 35% recycled plastic and 100% recyclable. We want to develop the sustainability part as much as possible in terms of our product packaging and the day-to-day activity of the company.

Where do you think Olympus’ business growth in Romania will come from in the future?

Business growth is the result of a robust development strategy aimed at strengthening distribution channels and constantly adapting the portfolio to market demands. At the same time, we believe that an important pillar in the development of Olympus will be the company’s sustainability strategy, which is directly related to the promise of a cleaner future.

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