We talk with Małgorzata Cebelińska, Trade Director at SM Mlekpol – the dairy cooperative with Poland’s largest own raw material resources and the producer of finest Polish dairy products.
What are the production facilities of Mlekpol like today?
SM Mlekpol has been operating in the Polish market for more than 40 years. Over this period, it has taken over other cooperatives with diverse production profiles, reinforcing its position in Poland and abroad. Today, the Cooperative makes dairy products at 13 highly specialized and state-of-the-art production plants. The dairy raw material used for production comes from domestic farms located around the plants in the regions of Podlasie, Warmia and Masuria, as well as Kujawy. Each day, the Cooperative processes more than 5.5 million litres of milk into products under brands so familiar to the consumers: Łaciate, Zambrowskie, Białe, Milko, Maślanka Mrągowska, or Rolmlecz.
What results has Mlekpol achieved at home and in exports recently?
Mlekpol, as the dairy cooperative with Poland’s largest own raw material resources, i.e. processing 17% of all milk produced by Polish farms, exports almost 30% of its entire production. Mlekpol products are available in more than 100 countries worldwide, and Łaciate, the most popular Polish milk brand, reaches as many as 6 continents. Despite the difficult and unpredictable situation in the world, the company’s turnover between January and July 2021/2022 has grown significantly.
Which foreign markets are the most strategic for Mlekpol and why?
The most strategic directions for Mlekpol are European countries, such as the Baltic states, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Italy, and Germany. This is due to their European Union membership, guaranteeing freedom of trade, and the capability of using road transport to ensure short delivery times. Moreover, we focus on countries with insufficient dairy production of their own, which need to import various dairy products. These include China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Israel, Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, India, Iraq, Moldova, or Serbia. The range of products exported in these directions is very wide, starting from those intended for the B2B market, such as skimmed milk, whole milk and powdered whey products (including WPC 85), to the ones aimed at distributors and retail customers. These include cheeses, butter, UHT milk and cream, yoghurt, etc. The Cooperative’s export capabilities are large enough to respond to the demands of new customers in other markets of the world.
What are the hazards and opportunities for export today?
There was the corona virus pandemic that has proven food to be a strategic issue for every well-functioning state. Interrupted supply chains and other problems we had been experiencing then caused state governments to take action via local importers towards greater diversification of suppliers, including suppliers of dairy products. Mlekpol, a well-known and reputable manufacturer, is still gaining new customers on new markets. Unquestionably, export activities are threatened by the current geopolitical events, adversely affecting the continuity of cooperation and the supply of goods between individual countries. Another problem is posed by economic issues, such as inflation and the related growth of prices of raw materials and key production materials. They cause higher business financing costs and a decrease in the customers’ purchasing capabilities. Purchases made by importers are thus more cautious, and the stocks they build last for a shorter time.
What are the consumer requirements worldwide and how does Mlekpol respond to them? Is it easy to match the expectations of consumers from different countries?
Participation in fairs in different countries and different continents allows us to meet consumers and distributors from many countries and to learn their particular needs and inclinations. Consequently, Mlekpol implements many dedicated projects taking into account such special preferences. Moreover, the Cooperative has created international brands, such as Milcasa or Happy Barn, already familiar to consumers in different countries worldwide. Due to the deep-sea transport and distribution capabilities of importers, Mlekpol primarily focuses on products with long shelf lives. High specialization of production and modern technologies implemented in production plants create greater flexibility and possibilities for the implementation of dairy production dedicated to customer needs. With our experience and cooperation with a specially established Institute of Dairy Industry Innovation based in Mrągowo, Mlekpol is open to every cooperation and eager to take new challenges.