Bureks go west: Jami expands internationally

By Simon Zeh

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Burek is to the Balkans as croissants are to France.

A snack made of layers of filo pastry filled with meat, spinach or cheese, the burek can be found across the countries that were once part of Ottoman Empire. More recently, Bosnia and Herzegovina and its numerous buregdzinica have come to represent the quintessential burek experience.

But until now, bureks have traditionally been prepared and consumed locally. Through a €1 million loan from the EBRD-Italy Local Enterprise Facility and support from Small Business Services, the EBRD has helped one company expand its operations globally and improve its energy efficiency.

Jami is a local company established in Sarajevo in 2005 by Feđa Selmanagić. The family has always taken risks; with EBRD investment, they started the first chain of supermarkets and opened the first commercial complex in Bosnia and Herzegovina just after the end of the war.

In keeping with this entrepreneurial spirit, Jami’s owners decided to break with tradition and offer the local specialty to a wider public.

Jami’s core business includes the production of frozen pastry, traditional bureks, pizzas and other frozen meals. Following the great market success that frozen burek has met with in the local market, the company has started to export its products to neighbouring countries and to the EU, including Austria, Germany and Sweden.

To ensure Jami’s further success, Mr Selmanagić approached EBRD Small Business Support in 2011 for a project to help the company consolidate its position in the local market and further expand to international markets.

Small Business Support helps small- and medium-sized businesses like Jami access business advisory services with local consultants and international industry experts, connecting them to the wider industry experience and know-how that can transform their business.

Jami was looking for support in particular to improve their marketing, sales and distribution, and manufacturing and planning skills. In August 2011 Jami began a 21-month project with Small Business Support, working with a team of four Italian experts, all with years of experience in the production, distribution and marketing of frozen products.

The team underlined how important it was for Jami to consolidate its already strong position in the regional market. Jami’s brand is well known for some products and consumers appreciate the premium quality, therefore the team suggested implementing a common brand identity and changing Jami’s market positioning.

The team also helped the company reorganise their packaging to use space more effectively, and advised on the development of new products, like frozen croissants, chilled pasta and frozen pizzas. Also, by upgrading Jami’s facilities, the project will reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 940 tonnes a year.

In the two years the company has been working with Small Business Support, their sales have grown by more than 14 per cent and the outlook for 2013 is very positive, thanks largely to the development of their new product range. Given the success of the first project, Jami has decided to commit to a second phase, contributing 50 per cent of the project costs itself.

“We strive to overcome all obstacles and increase Jami awareness amongst the population through quality, value and competitive price," said Mr Selmanagić. "We have been extremely satisfied with EBRD consultants and found their advice helpful and relevant to our production strategies.”

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