The first Bulgarian company for Chia oil is in Ruse
We are a small family company with big ambitions and goals, the owners Mariana Mircheva and Venelin Stoyanov say
People started paying attention to what they eat and look for healthy foods. This led us to get on with the production of such products, says Mariana Mircheva, who together with her brother Venelin Stoyanov, own B&M Production LTD. The company is manufacturing and marketing cold-pressed vegetable oils and is the first in the country to make cold-pressed Chia oil.
It is relatively new, known as seeds but not so much as oil, explains Mariana Mircheva. To extract 1 liter of Chia oil you need about 8-10 kg of seeds. Therefore such oils are more expensive. We extract the most useful part of the oil, the company owners explain.
Currently their portfolio offers over 10 types of oils. They started with sunflower oil, followed by apricot and pumpkin oil and by the end of 2014 the number increased to eight.
The healthy lifestyle is passed on to them by their father. He died in 2011 and then Mariana and Venelin created their company. We thought it would be difficult to obtain the machine. But the market also proved difficult - to start with a name and a brand that you need to develop, the entrepreneurs explain.
They already had a workshop with older equipment, which however did not allow them to implement their idea. Therefore they started looking for a company that can offer them the necessary machine. Fortunately for us, it turned out that this company is headquartered in our hometown Ruse, Mircheva says.
Once they found the machine they started going to banks. They looked at them a bit strangely, after having shared what they wanted to do and funding was refused.
The machine cost BGN 20 thousand and Mariana and Venelin did not have such money. A friend told them about an agricultural business center in Kubrat that worked with the microfinance institution of the Bulgarian Development Bank - JOBS. These people helped me a lot. I told them about the idea, they thought it had potential and I must have impressed them with the zeal I have, Mircheva said.
After applying to Jobs, they received a positive response. Thus, in February 2013 the idea of the entrepreneurs received funding.
The technology of extraction by cold pressing involves an auger machine. Seeds or nuts need to have sufficient humidity. The temperature during pressing is very important and continuously monitored. Then the oil should settle naturally, it is filtered and is ready for filling the bottles. The oils are not kept in stock, when there is an order by a client, they are bottled and shipped.
In many cases our customers are waiting for the pressing of oil and we ship it very fresh. We work with frequent small batches, the company owners said.
For the introduction of a product we make a small amount, samples of which are sent to the Plovdiv University of Food Technologies. Unfortunately, in Bulgaria we cannot find raw materials for many oils.
For example, we take nigella, which is more popular here as cumin, from abroad. Hempseed is not Bulgarian, although years ago it was grown near Ruse - in the region of Silistra. Others - flax, apricot, sunflower oil - are produced from Bulgarian raw materials.
There were also some difficulties with the first aluminum screw caps, since the factory did not have closing machines. They had to import them from the Czech Republic, although it was very expensive. Over time the company achieved success and now has many customers, including from abroad.
I am grateful to many people who valued the quality of the oil, said Mircheva. The best advertisement was the first recommendation by customers. In Ruse initially there weren’t many organic shops. Over the past 2 years there have been more such shops, our oil production is becoming well known and is sought from around other cities.
Initially they sold in Ruse and Varna, and then in Sofia. Thanks to our participation in exhibitions many people learned about us, tried out our oils and became our customers. The oils reached Burgas, Plovdiv and other cities.
"Last year we started working with large corporate clients, foreign companies also contacted us. We managed to negotiate with Bulgarians who sell Bulgarian goods in Austria. We made labels and brochures in German," says Mircheva.
She remembers a time when the flaxseed oil was depleted in an Austrian shop. The factory was preparing the next batch which had to be ready within a week. The shop had a client who was very insistent. The Austrian came back to the shop three times to look for the oil, but he was told that it would be delayed. The man refused to buy another product and waited for the delivery of the Bulgarian one.
This year the company started exporting pumpkin-seed oil for Serbia and expects more orders. Samples are sent to other foreign companies, recently a Hungarian company was also interested in the products.
Mariana and Venelin explain that they want more machines and a large company. There are many oils that can be made. For example, from watermelon seeds or melons. We have to be the first on the market with more unconventional oils, they say.
"We are a small family company, but we have big ambitions and goals. And I believe that if there are people to support you and lend you a hand in the beginning just like the Bulgarian Development Bank, you can achieve a lot. I am grateful to all who stood by us," explains Mircheva.