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Swisslion-Takovo: Growing Together

Made up of companies with decades of experience, Swisslion-Takovo’s products are tastier and more popular than ever. The Serbian company produce delicious foods and snacks for children and adults, from luxurious chocolate treats to healthy drinks. We took a closer look at this scrummy company to see how they’ve been putting a smile on South-East Europe’s faces since they opened, almost a dozen factories ago.

In the valleys of Trebinje, Bosnia, golden light seems to flow slowly over the slopes, like a light treacle or a fine misting of sugar over a sleepy-looking town. Rolling hills of green, dotted with picturesque, toy-town trees and buildings, make the area look destined for a biscuit tin picture. The white stone and warm terracotta-coloured rooftops of the town are bright, warm and welcoming in the sunlight; this calm, quiet city is one of the many idyllic homes of Swisslion-Takovo’s chocolate and confectionary factories. Founded in 1997, the company was originally known for. Over the years, they have gradually expanded their product range, branching out from biscuits to include sweets, ice cream and even baby foods. Starting out in Serbia, the company now also has facilities in Macedonia, Croatia and, of course, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their single factory has become eleven, with ten built in Serbia and one in Macedonia, and their employee now total the thousands.

Swisslion-Takovo’s Trebinje factory, whilst an industrial facility by nature, mimics the colours of the town with its white walls and warm reds. The facility, which cost the company over €20 million in total, has an appearance that evokes the excitable, childish joys stirred by what’s inside: chocolate, biscuits, even ice cream. It is a clean, welcoming factory fit for a whimsical industry.

This look and feel is shared by all of the company’s locations. The sheer number of locations explains not only the confectioner’s vast output, but also their broad range of products. Their two main factories are located in Vršac, North-Eastern Serbia, and Gornji Milanovac, Central Serbia. The North-Eastern factory is dedicated to confectionary production, including biscuits, chocolate bars, wafers, sweets and Turkish Delight, whilst the central facility manufactures food products such as pasta, soups and fruit juices. Overall, the company’s best-known products are their Eurocrem (chocolate spread), Eurodessert (chocolates) and Viljamovka (pear brandy) and even Juvitana (baby food).

Each factory is fully automated, producing the company’s beloved products on the most high-end and up-to-date machines. The company describe themselves as “an empire in the field of quality and healthy food production”, claiming that “the application of modern technology and advanced knowledge, as well as continuous training processes, set high standards of business, living and working in Swisslion-Takovo.” Their fully automated line creates biscuits in a manner that will have the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory opening credits playing in your mind, or perhaps Edward Scissorhands’ cookie machine. The facilities each house numerous machines, with every one as fun to watch in action as the rest. White and red labels whizz past like ribbons on spools, vast sheets of biscuit squares run under pouring chocolate, and confectionaries of all kinds zoom around the room in various stages of their separate dances. It’s enough to make your mouth water for the goodies being produced, and your inner child to clap is excitement at the mechanical circus in motion.

Whilst production is automated by top-end machines, personnel oversee the entire process. Dressed in sanitary white, they monitor, package and transport the treats, as well as making sure that quality standards never slip. Don’t let the production line fool you – every product in these factories is made with love!

Of course, Swisslion don’t just produce confectionaries – they own many facilities, creating everything from healthy drinks to baby foods. Perhaps the most glee-inducing of these is their ice-cream factory. Swisslion-Takovo’s ice cream factory was added to their arsenal in 2011 and quickly became a major part of their operations. It’s hard to say, ‘ice cream factory’ without a swell of childish excitement, and this factory has plenty on the production slate to be excited about: promising “perfection of flavour, high quality and natural ingredients”, Swisslion claim that their ice cream will “delight you once more with its richness”, with high-levels of cocoa butter in their chocolate flavourings and carefully selected natural fruits for many of their other 54 total flavours. Combining these natural ingredients with modern methods, the factory’s totally automated production line is able to produce 30 million litres of ice cream a year – try to imagine that much ice cream without grinning.

Like any sizable and successful company, Swisslion-Takovo’s origin story isn’t simple. The Swisslion Group traces its origins from the Takovo company, founded in 1962 in Gornji Milanovac, whilst Swisslion itself was founded in 1991. Takovo was state-owned during the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and was one of the country’s biggest industrial companies. Swisslion and Takovo merged in 2004 under name Swisslion-Takovo, following Swisslion’s acquisition of Takovo through a public tender. Whilst Swisslion’s focus has always been on the sweet side of things, Takovo brought their savoury foods and healthy drinks into the mix. Is this double-threat wasn’t enough, the company also incorporated Juvitana, producers of children’s food, and Sisak, a Croatian biscuit factory involved in the production of the Euro Jaffa biscuit brand, secured in part to expand the company’s hold on their Croatian market.

As one unit with many parts, Swisslion-Takovo was the brain-child of Rodoljub Drašković, whose clear vision and contagious energy fuelled the merger and inspired the resulting company with this message – “Business can be done here, done well, and new values can be created.” The mission included the desire to become the most powerful player in South-East Europe’s food industry, as well as playing a significant role in Serbia’s overall economic development. As well as these lofty aims, they aim to price competitively, distribute promptly, and offer a wider and mouth-watering assortment of treats to choose from.

Swisslion and Takovo’s now symbiotic relationship is perhaps best illustrated with their most iconic product; Eurocrem, the brand’s popular hazelnut and vanilla flavoured sweet milk chocolate spread. Half white, half brown, the two products are sold together in one tub as a yin-yang of flavours. Often marketed with the image of a slice of toast, half covered in one spread and half in the other, the product’s most recent slogan is “We grow together”. It is a perfect metaphor for Swisslion-Takovo’s journey together – two elements, one sweet, one savoury, but together, something that is unarguably delicious. We couldn’t imagine one without the other.