Herbia, a grower, packer, and shipper of culinary herbs and vegetables with no chemical fertilisers or insecticides, is planning to increase its assortment and introduce new agricultural products such as asparagus; start the production of vegetable sauces; as well as organize agro and wine tours.
“The company has already started producing grapes in an enclosed area without using chemical means. Accordingly, the produced wine will be free from chemical waste,” said Zurab Janelidze, the Director of Herbia.
Since commencing production in early 2006, Herbia has quickly become one of Georgia’s leading producers of premium-quality, greenhouse-grown culinary herbs and vegetables, and a pioneer in the field of packaged herbs offered to local consumers.
It operates some 5 ha of greenhouses and a modern refrigerated warehouse with five packing lines in Tskaltubo, Georgia.
Herbia provides its customers with a reliable, year-round, local supply of produce grown under the highest standards of food safety and environmental sustainability.
This year Herbia received its second Golden Brand award for the utmost success the company achieved in 2018.
Herbia became the first Global Gap-certified company in Georgia in 2010 and still remains the only company in the country with this certificate.
Q. Last year Herbia launched production of the innovative product ‘Potato Extra’, cleaned carrot, onion and garlic. How successfully have these products established themselves on the market?
A. Herbia constantly tries to expand its assortment.
In 2018 we introduced 10 sorts of products on the market – cleaned, washed and packaged in polypropylene packs. Demand for these products came from the customers and we satisfied their needs. These products helped to double the sales statistics in 2018 compared to 2017.
The customers also had very positive feedback that we received through our social networks and by direct communication as well.
In general, communication with our customers is very important for us as we learn what the needs of the customers are and it helps us to always meet their demands. The principle that the customer is always right will always be a priority for us.
We plan to introduce another 10 new products this year as well.
Q. Herbia also launched a children’s nutrition line last year which included potato, carrot and beet. Have these products also been successful on the market?
A. As you know Herbia products are free from chemical fertilisers or insecticides. So we can say that all Herbia products can be freely used for children’s nutrition. However, the company made one more step forward when it offered cleaned, washed products without any additives, packaged in vacuum packets, which we think is necessary when feeding children.
The company has spent enough time, energy and funds in finding this technology and will expand its range of products for children’s healthy nutrition in the future. Scandinavian countries are advanced in terms of this technology and we learn from their experience.
Q. You mentioned that the company communicates with customers and meets their demands. What role have customers played in establishing Herbia as the company that it is now?
A. The company was founded in 2006 and was oriented at export markets, but in 2014 the company started introducing packaged herbs on the local market as well.
The Georgian market showed great interest in packaged herbs and this encouraged us to create a complete industrial chain, which means being responsible for the whole process from greenhouse to shelves. This was a challenge for us mostly when deciding to offer products with no chemical fertilisers or insecticides. With this offer we attracted the interest of our customers and we decided to offer not only herbs, but also vegetables packaged in the same way. This was actually the first demand we had from customers.
Q. How much has the volume of production increased, and how many tonnes did Herbia produce in 2018?
A. Herbia increased production volume by 100% in 2018 compared to the previous year. We produced 324 tonnes of greens and 670 tonnes of vegetables.
Sales of Herbia also increased by 100% last year.
Q. So far Herbia exports its products to Bulgaria only. Why does the company not export to other countries as well?
A. Yes, it is true that Herbia exports only to Bulgaria. This is because industrial farms, cooperatives, have not yet been created in Georgia where it would be possible to introduce international standards and would make it easier for us to make the European Union market interested in our products; to be able to supply even one European city in a continuous regime. That is why we only manage to supply Bulgaria.
Herbia was established as an export-oriented company. But the main requirement from the international markets is continuous supply of products, which we could not handle. So we refused to export to these countries except for Bulgaria, where we achieved a deal which means that Herbia will export products to Bulgaria in periods when the surplus is high.
Without having a continuous supply it is impossible to enter international markets.
The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) deal signed with the European Union is very important as it gives access to the EU markets, but here the challenge is that the EU requires international standards. Introducing international standards in our farming is not an easy task in terms of intellectual point of view as well as in terms of financial difficulties. However, there are some opportunities in Georgia for farmers to get co-financing to access agricultural equipment. Also, the state has decided to create an agro-hub in Georgia’s Tsklatubo area on 120 ha of land where interested farmers will receive infrastructural well-developed spaces if their produced products meet EU standards.
Q. Congratulations on winning a Golden Brand award. In your opinion, why did the experts and surveyed customers name Herbia their favourite, No1 brand in Georgia?
A. Grown locally and environmentally pure, year round, with unmatched care and commitment to quality – these are the factors that determined our Golden Brand award this year.