EBRD and EU help Vitinka modernise water production

By Stasha  Igrutinovic

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Bosnian mineral water company invests in modern equipment

Located in Kozluk, a village in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vitinka is a leading bottled mineral water company nestled in a natural paradise of gorges, caves and burbling underground streams.

Vitinka’s owners consider their location to be nature’s gift to their small town. Over the years, they have sought to keep their production local and their water as crystal clear as the springs from which it flows.

Through the SME Competitiveness Support Programme, which is supported by funding from the European Union (EU), the EBRD helped Vitinka step up its eco-friendly production and invest in modern equipment.

The programme provides dedicated credit lines to partner financial institutions for on-lending to local enterprises in the Western Balkans. The funds help small businesses introduce EU standards and strengthen their competitiveness on local and international markets.

Fresh from the source

First established in 1974, in a region abundant in springs with some of the highest mineral content, Vitinka has evolved into a renowned and respected bottled water. Over the past five decades, it has built a label that has become synonymous with love and deep respect for nature’s resources.

Todor Panic, Vitinka’s general manager, encapsulated Vitinka’s story in one popular local saying: “Water always find its way. Somehow, we, too, have been swept away by the water’s energy and drawn back to its source.”
“Our goal is to protect this environment by establishing a fully modern system for extracting water and checking its quality every day,” he adds.

Although Vitinka sources its water directly from the mountains of the Drina Canyon, it lacked the technology to make its own packaging and bring its production fully in-house.

Accelerating innovation

“The investment helped us tie up the loose ends in our production cycle. In just a few years following the investment, we scaled our business rapidly and developed an entirely new approach to marketing our product across Bosnia and Herzegovina,” says Todor.

A modernised production system helped the team move in lockstep with the market’s needs.
As a result, the mineral water business opened up new distribution centres, launched new products and expanded its market reach to Montenegro and Serbia.

After the initial success following the first investment, Vitinka received another loan under the Competitiveness programme in 2019 in order to enhance product quality.

Since Vitinka reuses and recycles glass bottles, its employees would spend many hours a day inspecting the bottles one by one.  A credit line, also facilitated by the SME Competitiveness Support Programme, financed Vitinka’s investment in a machine that automatically inspects and cleans water bottles before they are filled. Thanks to the new technology, Vitinka expects to reduce its carbon footprint and therefore pave the way to a greener future of bottled water. 

Manuela Naessl, EBRD Head of Bosnia and Herzegovina said: “We are proud to support many companies across Bosnia and Herzegovina like Vitinka, who are improving their competitiveness while also strengthening green and sustainable ways of working. They are truly blazing a trail for others to follow. Our SME Competitiveness programme has been instrumental in helping small businesses in the Western Balkans access investments that build sustainable and resilient operations that will withstand the current and future crises.”

Head of the EU Delegation and EU Special Representative in BiH Ambassador Johann Sattler said: “The pandemic has hit the SME sector very hard not only in BiH, but across the globe. The innovation and growth potential of SMEs and family businesses are the engine of any economy and will certainly be a driver towards recovery. In that sense, the European Union has taken strong action to support SMEs in BiH to maintain their productive capacity and keep employees in a job. Our latest support worth €30 million to SMEs in BiH is focused on increasing their competitiveness and modernisation via the application of new standards, technologies and skills. Vitinka is a good example that with the proper planning and adequate support, businesses can prevail over the pandemic and even thrive”.

 

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