Bio Company in Berlin continues to grow
by Karin Heinze (comments: 0)
Bio Company´s flagship store in Berlin-Kleinmachnow. Photo © Karin Heinze
The Berlin organic supermarket chain and market leader of the region Berlin-Brandenburg Bio Company increased its turnover 2015 by 17.5% to €134m. The chain is planning to increase its network of stores in 2016 to over 50 and to expand its network of regional partner firms.
The regional concept of the market leader among organic supermarkets in the Berlin-Brandenburg region has proved to be very successful. The evidence is the company’s disproportionate growth, that is almost double the average for the industry in 2014 (9.4 %). Since the beginning, the chain has built on close cooperation with regional partners and sources its goods preferably from Berlin-Brandenburg and the neighbouring federal states.
Regional marketing: shorter transport routes reduce the emission of CO2
Also, small and medium-size businesses are being continually supported. There are two reasons: shorter transport routes maintain the quality of fresh food and reduce the emission of CO2, and the policy strengthens the position of regional producers. Last year, Bio Company became a founding member of the BioBoden Genossenschaft. This cooperative’s aim is to secure and make available a larger area of land for organic agriculture. The intention is to give young farmers a better chance and to promote small businesses and small farms in the region:“We most emphatically reject large-scale industrial production that can now be seen in the EU organic sector,” says managing director Georg Kaiser.
Meat, ham and sausages from the own manufacturing site. Photo © Karin Heinze
Animal welfare instead of factory farming
With its own Biomanufaktur Havelland (meat processing firm), Bio Company ensures that the animals come from regional farms, with free-range husbandry and a high level of animal welfare. “We’re totally against factory farming,”Georg Kaiser explains. “We regard it as a question of respect for animals and sustainable environmental protection, including for soils. Our customers quite rightly expect products of high quality. But for us, it’s not only about high quality food but also our responsibility for the structure of the region and creating value.” Kaiser emphasises the point: “We want small and family businesses in the region to have a future too.” When Bio Company called for donations in support of the referendum in Brandenburg against factory farming, the amount donated by its customers doubled to roughly €10.000.
Turnover of €7.5m Biomanufaktur Havelland grows by 36%.
The company’s own Biomanufaktur Havelland also increased its turnover significantly. The biggest organic meat processor in the Berlin/Brandenburg region registered turnover of €7.5m in 2015 compared with €5.5m in 2014 – a rise of 36%. Re-investment was the major priority. Since it was taken over in 2013 when it had become insolvent the business has spent a good million euros on a number of investments to secure its future. Thus in 2015 a refrigeration unit was ready for operation, a beech wood smoke chamber was added and an automated packaging facility was introduced. At the end of 2015, a photovoltaic array was installed. Thanks to a mix of renewable energy sources production at Biomanufaktur Havelland is now completely CO2‐neutral. In 2016, they are expanding the heat recovery from the refrigeration unit that is used for hot water. So even with rising demand, production continues to be completely CO2-neutral.
Georg Kaiser managing director of Bio Company. Photo © Karin Heinze
Influencing policy: fair prices, more land for young organic farmers
“As trade partners, we can exercise a certain influence through our purchasing policy. But the demand for organic food in Berlin continues to be higher than the supply from the Brandenburg region,” Kaiser explains. “This is where we challenge the policy-makers in particular for giving preferential support to the big conventional farms and thus encouraging capital-intensive speculation. The result can be the destruction of village communities and their way of life,” he warns. “Moreover, more young farmers have to be given a chance. Today, by farming sustainably, organic farmers are already integrating the costs for the environment and the following generations. The organic food economy ought to be promoted much more powerfully by politicians,” Kaiser maintains. “This is also the way to create fair prices for our food products.”
Bio Company fruit & vegetable department. Photo © Karin Heinze
Over 50 stores in 2016 – important employer in the region
In February 2016 Bio Company opened its 46th store, and by the end of 2016 it plans to have over 50 outlets. Bio Company has now become an important employer in the region. In January 2016 it employed 1,390 people, including 120 trainees. The company does a lot for its trainees: as well as completing a practical on an organic farm, highly committed trainees are encouraged in a special way: they can take part in an EU exchange programme and benefit from hands-on experience in organic stores in London and a language course. “This kind of qualification is very welcome in a city like Berlin, with its international public. That’s why we like to support this initiative,” says the head of training Karen Koch. This helps to explain why the company offers a high number of its trainees a job when their training comes to an end: in the examination period in 2015/2016 85% were kept on.
About Bio Company
The firm was founded in 1999. It advocates organic farming. In a national survey by “Rank a Brand” on the subject of the ecological sustainability of supermarkets Bio Company has always been in the lead since 2013.