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Hristivoje Milošević, chairman and owner of Aleva

70 Years of Tradition and Trust

This year, Aleva celebrates an important anniversary – 70 years of business on the Serbian market. Mr. Hristivoje Milošević proudly emphasizes the fact that Aleva is a family company with his grandchildren Jelena and Vladimir, whom he is very proud of, in a way being part of the company. In the beginning, Aleva only produced ground red pepper seasoning and dehydrated parsnip. Today, this company offers over 160 products and has more than 350 employees. In the crisis years, the company achieved income growth and conducted business without credit indebtedness. This year, Aleva will begin the construction of a new factory, an investment worth EUR 10 million. All of that was a reason to talk to Mr. Hristivoje Milošević, chairman and owner of Aleva, who is so full of positive energy and love that being around him makes everything seem prettier, better and merrier. I have had the great honor and pleasure of meeting this wonderful man, who taught me many useful and enlightening things during several hours of pleasant conversation, both about life and about business. Once again, I would like to thank him!

Mr Hristivoje Milošević, chairman and owner of Aleva speaks

for Profit magazine.

1.Mr. Milošević, where were you born, where did you grow up and receive your education? How did your career develop?

I was born and raised in Kruševac. Upon finishing my studies in Belgrade, I returned to Kruševac and started working for the company Merima, which sponsored me. At Merima, I gained valuable knowledge and experience, first through their sponsorship, then by becoming Production Engineer and finally General Manager, at a time when this company was becoming one of the leading companies in Yugoslavia. After Merima, I started working for Inex Interexport at their registered office in Russia, where I lived with my family for quite a while.

I returned to Serbia in 2003 and in my hometown Kruševac, I opened a modern factory of cereal-based food for infants and young children – Flory.

I started collaborating with Aleva while I was working abroad. Aleva was a good company with great potential, which is why we invested in its shares and became a part of Aleva’s history in 2005. This year, Aleva is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

I am very proud of the fact that Aleva was, and is, an independent domestic company with humble beginnings, which developed into one of the most successful companies in Serbia.

His entrepreneurial achievements in a complex economic and social climate led Hristivoje Milošević, the chairman of Aleva, to win numerous awards and recognitions, among which are the “Best European” award in the entrepreneurship category in 2006, as well as the award of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Vojvodina for significant economic achievements in 2015.

At the ceremonial session of the Municipal Assembly of Novi Kneževac held on June 19, 2015 as a part of the Municipality Day, Mr. Milošević was declared an honorary citizen of Novi Kneževac. He was also presented with the prestigious award Kapetan Miša Anastasijević.

2.This year, you are celebrating Aleva’s 70th anniversary. What were your results like in the beginning of this anniversary year when it comes to production capacities, portfolio and yearly production volume? Are you satisfied with the company’s development over the years?

Aleva is the market leader when it comes to the food industry, a synonym for quality and tradition, and a household staple in Serbia. Our factory puts food on the table for 350 employees and just as many associates. We feel great responsibility towards them, our consumers, and distributors.

From the moment of privatization until today, Aleva has recorded uninterrupted growth of income, increase in production, export, as well as business revenue.

This was fostered by various activities, such as the strengthening of the personnel structure in all sectors and at all levels, boosting the company’s technical and technological base, improving the product range by redesigning the packaging, developing new products, and having a new market approach. We have achieved great collaboration with foreign partners, which laid the foundation for further development of our brand within the demanding foreign markets. We have paid special attention to the integration of numerous domestic associates, especially primary producers of red pepper, parsnip and other vegetables, and thus included over 300 families from the area of Novi Kneževac into the company’s production process.

Aleva’s yearly production volume is 70 – 80 million packaged products.

3. What can be found in the company’s product portfolio at the moment? Are the final products made of local or imported vegetables?

Today, the factory portfolio comprises more than 160 products. It includes a large number of spices, universal and specialized condiments, dehydrated soups, teas, puddings, ice creams, whipping creams, etc. The products are largely made of local vegetables (grown on the sunlit fields of Banat and Bačka), but also of imported ones acquired from our long-standing and certified suppliers. Our mission is to deliver high quality vegetables from our fields in form of top spices, condiments and soups to each dinner table in the countries where we conduct our business.

The competition in Serbia is fierce. All our employees, from top-level managers to production workers, pay great attention to professional development, so that they are able to respond to the consumers’ needs in the best possible way. We employ young experts from different fields in order to bring experience and new trends together. We try to foster creative energy and motivate all employees. That way, we have gained the trust of our consumers and secured ourselves a leading position on the market.

Each year, we process between 7,000t and 10,000t of fresh vegetables.

4. Is Aleva paprika (ground red pepper), still the company’s number 1 product after all these years, or have any new products taken its place?

Aleva is a synonym for ground red pepper seasoning, which will represent our core business forever. From the early 1970s, when we launched our first dehydrated condiments, Aleva has carefully developed the product categories contributing to the company’s income nearly as much as ground red pepper: specialized condiments and family-size soups.

By looking out for new developments and listening to the needs of our consumers, we develop new, creative methods, as well as simple, yet practical top quality products.

The market is changing and growing, and we need to keep up with it while paying attention to the principles of today’s pace of life. One thing we always pay attention to is the maintenance of top quality.

5. How is Aleva currently positioned on the market with its brands? What is your share on the market and are you satisfied with the results achieved?

Aleva is among the leading manufacturers of dehydrated products on the Serbian market. Depending on the category, the competition is smaller or larger, but we can say that Aleva is the leader when it comes to monospices, especially because of Aleva paprika. Additionally, Aleva is the leader in the category of special condiments, which are ideal for every typical Serbian dish; we are among the first three dehydrated soup producers, and with the brand Quik, we have been number one in the instant soup category for years.

Following the healthy lifestyle trend supported by the company itself, we are planning to start our own organic production. We have managed to transform, as well as maintain what’s made us great for all these years – experience, quality, tradition, and new food processing technologies in line with global standards. Our business philosophy puts product quality and safety above all and relates them to domestic raw materials. Sticking to traditional values, Aleva products have become a staple ingredient in Serbian cuisine. Vojvodina offers the best resources for the production of raw materials.

6. Does Aleva own any agricultural land? Do you have an incentive program for agricultural producers who supply you with raw materials? Are you considering organic production?

We own agricultural land, 50ha covered by an irrigation system. We also cooperate with associates who utilize our agro service, seeds, fertilizers. We have all the certificates, and the development of organic products is just an innovative way of continuing the operations of a credible and responsible company such as Aleva.

7. Tell us more about the export activities of Aleva. Which markets are you mainly exporting to and which range of products?

Besides the former Yugoslavian countries, Aleva exports products to the European, American, Australian, and Middle East markets. In the near future, we expect a lot from the export to Russia and Belarus, the markets in which we invested a lot this year and last year in order to place our products on the shelves of large chain stores.

8. What are your export ambitions for the years ahead? What are your long-term, primary, and strategic goals and expectations for the near future?

As for now, we go on with the same continuity – we intensify the cooperation with distributors and gradually consider ideas for new regional achievements. First, it is necessary to explore the market, adjust needs, define goals, and only then to develop a strategy.

9. Today, Aleva employs young talents making the company innovative and worldly. Who are the young talents and are they listening to your advice and experience?

They are my grandchildren Vladimir and Jelena. Both finished their Master’s degree abroad and came back to join the family business.

My daughter, Slavica, leads the company Swiss Nature (production of dietary supplements and functional food under the brands Well, Diet Fit and Stevia line). My son, Radoljub Milošević, leads the company Flory from Kruševac (production of food for infants and young children under the brands Baby King and Baby King Organic, and further, of Organic products for the wider public (porridge, semolina, cocoa, and chocolate cereals), wheat semolina-based products...).

10. Do your grandchildren follow you wherever you go and do you sometimes take their advice?

I am very proud of my grandchildren! Not only do they follow me wherever I go, they mostly contribute to strategic decision making for the company as well. They are involved in most of the development and work of the company. We make decisions together and I take their advice and suggestions. Although I don’t intend to retire yet, I’m sure that the company will remain in safe hands when that day arrives!

11. What is your perspective on the development of the Serbian food industry in the near future? Do you believe that family businesses are the future of our country?

Multinational companies are indispensable, they change, grow increasingly, and team up. Today, 25% of the world’s agriculture is controlled by the 300 largest companies, but in contrast to family companies, they don’t have that speed and flexibility, that familial approach. We certainly can’t keep up with large companies in the segments in which they are better than us. Sometimes, they tell us: “It’s sad, you see, only Aleva is left of the large Serbian food companies, and you will be bought as well”. But we tell them not to be worried. Aleva will always be there, as a symbol of quality domestic cuisine and production.

12. Do you rely on tradition in the development of new products or do you use the experience of international companies?

We combine our experience and the experience of international partners – that is how we get the best results. This should be the natural and primary business approach in the operations of every serious company. This is how business is done on almost every market of the world and Aleva sees it as a completely normal process of exchange of ideas and experience. An open-minded, customer-oriented approach is imperative on today’s harsh global market and we implement it in our company as well.

Aleva addresses the modern and the traditional family at the same time. We strive to maintain the traditional values that make us unique, but also to adjust our work system to the modern pace of life. We used our rich experience to create an innovative product range.

13. Does Aleva have plans for larger investments, capacity extension and new hires in the near future?

At the moment, our priorities are capacity extension and production improvement. We are working on it intensely and I’m sure that results will soon be visible. We recognize profit as being essential for the creation of growth capital, prosperity, business challenges, and satisfaction at work. Healthy and organic food is an international trend, increasingly present here as well and, under the brand Flory, we are already offering organic products intended for infants and young children, which are made of domestic and imported organic raw materials.

Aleva plans the construction of new factory facilities and the improvement of production, transport, storage, and the information system, as well as waste material management in the near future.

For the project realization, a multi-million investment is budgeted, and the new Aleva factory will, upon realization, be among the most modern ones from this sector on the Balkans.

14. Are the products you place on the Serbian and foreign markets identical, or are they adjusted to the consumers’ needs? How do you get information about what the consumers want?

In any case, there are differences in the consumer behaviors and our development teams track and analyze them very carefully.

The recipes for the region are identical. For the Russian market, for example, we needed to adjust the recipes and the assortment to the taste of their average consumer. The Russian cuisine is completely different from ours: they rarely use red pepper and have just started learning to redden their food. This was, from a certain perspective, also a challenging opportunity for us – to advance from the role of the leader on the Serbian market to standing out as a producer of a unique Serbian taste in Russia as well. Furthermore, chicken is the dominant meat and ice cream is consumed during the whole year.

Besides research, an ever more important source of data is the direct and online communication with consumers – promotions at the point of sale, social networks. That way, we have received a lot of useful comments and ideas, which we seriously consider.

15. How do you get the idea of placing new products (relates to all markets)?

Our development teams constantly work on business enhancement and the tracking of international trends. Thanks to this policy, we succeeded in concentrating on products with a balanced ratio of salt, good fats and functional additives. Furthermore, Aleva constantly develops new recipes without flavor enhancers and artificial flavors and colors in line with the observations regarding trends in consumer nutrition and needs, as well as the cooperation with foreign partner companies.

16. Last but not least, tell us what you have prepared for the celebration of your anniversary – for consumers, as well as for employees and the local community?

We are planning a celebration for employees and business partners and, of course, special sales campaigns at the point of sale for our consumers – promo and gift packages. First of all, we want to draw the attention of our consumers to the number of years of our existence and business success – thus, we use a logo with the highlighted foundation year on all materials. Furthermore, we launched a website dedicated to our 70th anniversary with the aim of telling the consumers and business partners our story through key events, which are important not only for us as a factory, but which also influenced the development of the industry in our country (in the sense of work organization and automatization, purchase of specific machines, beginning of sweet spice pepper growing, development of dehydrated products on the basis of original recipes, etc.).