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From field to table

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Since 1992, Žito’s focus has been on farming in various segments, and it is the only company in Croatia that covers the entire agricultural segment in one way or another. In recent years, Žito and its host of brands have emerged as leading names in food manufacturing. Some of Žito’s brands have become household names for customers.

“Our flour brand Tena provides a wide range of flours, wheat grits and corn grits to the end consumer’s table. It bears the quality tag ‘Flour of the Croatian fields’ and it is the number nine among the top 500 food brands in our country. For a simple flour product, this is quite an achievement. It goes the same way with our sunflower oil Tena,” points out Board Member Saša Pajdić, who is responsible for the company’s sales and marketing activities.

Mr. Pajdić joined the company in October last year, having previously worked for an Austrian lighting company. He was vice president and had focused on marketing and business development. “Originally, I am from Osijek and had known the owner for ten years. He asked me to bring a different point of view to the company, different values and experiences, in order to support international product development,” he says.

Agriculture has always been the heart of Žito, which employs a total workforce of 1,600 people and generates a turnover of 400 million EUR. An important segment is the company’s industrial production, vertically built up on crop production.

Annually, Žito processes 500,000 t of sugar beets, 100,000 t of oilseeds, 80,000 t of wheat, 40,000 t of corn and 8,000 t of seed, as well as 80,000 t of raw material for the animal feed production. “Today, we own more than 20,000 ha of land, in a radius of 90 km, where we are cultivating different agricultural products, from grain to various seeds. In the same radius, we operate our own sugar and oil factory, feed factory, dry-cured meats production and own mill for flour production,” stresses Mr. Pajdić.

In fact, flour production goes back to the 18th century when watermills were first built in the area. However, nothing is reminiscent of traditional milling, as the mill in Đakovština is fully automated for milling wheat and corn. The sugar factory produces sugar for the well-known sugar brand Premijer, the oil factory concentrates on the production of crude and refined oils from sunflower seed and rapeseed, while Žito’s animal feed manufacturing site ranks among the most state-of- the-art factories in the region.

Besides producing animal feed, the group of companies is also active in pig farming, rearing about 200,000 pigs each year, and it is also the largest egg producer in Croatia with 140 million eggs annually. “The business areas are all connected. We are vertically integrated from field to table. We cultivate our own fields and process the material in our processing factories, oil crushing and refining sites and the animal food factory, and we feed our chicken and pigs on our own farms with our own food,” points out Mr. Pajdić.

In the last 15 years, the group has scanned the market and its opportunities and it has invested constantly in green-field projects, new farms and factories. In 2016, Žito set up a plant for producing, cutting and packing cured meat products, including high-quality prosciutto, cured salami and other cured meats.

“We do have a premium Slavonian black pig and hold the European eco label for that,” stresses Mr. Pajdić. “In Croatia, we use the Dobro brand – meaning good – for our dry-cured meats, while for the markets in Europe, we have established the brand Adria D’Oro, which stands for pure, simple and high quality dry-cured meats, made from Duroc pig, with a process of complete traceability within 90 km radius. For our cured meats, we use simple recipes and adhere to an old-style production without any additives.”

Žito holds all the required food standards, like the IFS and BRC certificates, and places great emphasis on its production processes and on standardization. With new products like cured meats, the company aims to pursue a different approach with regard to international key accounts, dealing with international supermarket chains and it has already built up a strong international network.

“Currently, we are exporting 50% of our oils to the Czech Republic and Slovakia and about 50% of our flour to countries of the former Yugoslavia, for instance. Our activities within the coming years are focused on the growth of our exports to 85%. We are already operating as Žito GmbH in Munich and have our own staff in Belgium. In addition, we have joined forces with partners, distributors and agents in different countries,” says Mr. Pajdić. “We want to become known as a company that brings traceable, sustainable, added value products to the market, which extends to an international dimension. We are working really hard on this.”

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