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EBRD and EU support Serbian frozen fruit producer

By Bojana Vlajcic

Master Food increases productivity with modern technology

Master Food increases productivity with modern technology

Rich in vitamins and low in calories, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries have become some of the most popular fruit around the world. But did you know that many of them come from Serbia?

The country has been one of the biggest exporters of frozen raspberries internationally, making the production and packaging of this fruit an important segment of the local economy.

Master Food is located in the beautiful hills of western Serbia – a picturesque environment bearing natural products. The company purchases, processes and packages organic and conventionally grown berries. It has also developed a line of organic jams and smoothies.

“We insist on sustainability and are particularly proud of the relationship we have with local farmers. By helping farmers to produce the highest quality fruit, and through innovation, we provide our customers with unmodified and pure fruit: rich in taste, full of quality ingredients, with bright natural colours,” explains Svetislav Mladjenovic, CEO of Master Food.

High quality raw fruit is one of the main components for a successful product; another is modern technology and equipment.

“From the very beginning we have been striving to fulfil and implement high standards, which are so important in the food industry. We use a system of traceability, which means that we track all info about the quality and safety of our products, from the agricultural producer to the final product. It’s thanks to this that we are able to provide top quality products.”

The EBRD and the European Union have helped Master Food, a company specialised in the processing and packaging of organic and conventionally grown berries in Serbia, to invest in new equipment.

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Modern technology for better results

With plans to upgrade its equipment, Master Food applied for an EBRD loan for small businesses, available at one of its local partner banks, in this case Banca Intesa. The company received a loan and once the investment was successfully completed, Master Food received a cashback incentive financed by the European Union.

“Access to finance is a key enabler of business growth and competitiveness. We are delighted to join forces with the EU to support local companies like Master Food with loans and grants worth up to 15 per cent, making investments in raising standards even more attractive” explains EBRD Director for Western Balkans, Matteo Colangeli.

Master Food invested in an automatic packer for frozen fruit and a line for fruit washing and control, with the aim of reducing manual work and increasing production.

“With new equipment we managed to increase not just productivity, but also the quality and safety of our packaged products. We currently process around 2,000 tonnes of fruit every year but we hope that this investment will allow us to increase our annual production,” explains Svetislav Mladjenovic.

Master Food exports its products to Canada, the Middle East, Spain and Germany, but with increased production capacity and greener technology it hopes to reach new markets too.

“Accelerating the shift towards greener technologies and digitalisation should be a priority for SMEs in the Western Balkans and will increasingly be one of the main drivers of their ability to integrate in European value chains and gain increasing access to EU markets" adds Matteo Colangeli.

By investing in new equipment, Master Food has managed to increase its productivity while reducing labour and electricity costs. “We have also increased the quality of our packaged products, which enables us to be competitive in the market as well as opening new markets,” explains Svetislav Mladjenovic.

And what of the future? Svetislav concludes: “Our plans are to continue investing in sustainable economic development, which means acquiring additional processing equipment and investing in a small solar power plant. Of course, expanding exports and opening new markets is something that is always in the plan.”

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