A Family Business That Inspires. Or A Story About Goji Bery Vinegar
Тhe village of Dolno Belotintsi, 6 km from Montana, is already on the world culinary map. In the village of about 500 inhabitants, the world’s only gobies vinegar is produced. Small Himalayan fruits, also known as “red diamonds,” are like bombs loaded with a huge amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and people’s health. Unique vinegar from the healing fruit was developed by Lydia and Ivaylo Zarkovi — owners of a small factory for natural vinegar in Dolno Belotintsi. The spouses are also the owners, workers, suppliers and sales agents of the mini-company. But they already have six kinds of bioproducts, they’re loading hundreds of stores and winning prestigious prizes with their production. At first, it all started from a mountain of unsold apples.
“In Northwest Bulgaria, we came by chance. I am from Sofia and Lydia from Satovcha. We decided to start a farm business, but we did not have land and we were looking for advertisements in the press. That’s how we got to this end, “says Ivaylo Zarkov. The family bought 100 acres of land near Dolno Belotintsi and planted an apple garden. After six years of work, care, and nearly half a million leva investments the fruit of a good harvest. But then it turned out that there was no one to buy it.
In 2010 the market was flooded with Polish and Macedonian apples. They offered yellow pennies to ours. And everything has collapsed, “recalled her husbands. But despite the collapse of their undertaking, the thought of raising their hands and giving up did not even go through the mind.
“We started thinking what to do with so many apples. We already had the bitter experience of an overpriced market, and we decided to turn to something that is missing in our country. We traveled around shops, scrolled the web and came up with the idea of turning the fruit into a natural apple vinegar — without chemicals and preservatives. Something real and useful to people, “Lydia says. The first quantities of the acidic aromatic liquid the family produced by hand at home. The result, however, turned out to be pretty good and Zarkovi took over the processing of the remaining unsold apples. They bought the presses and tanks, crushed the fruit, drained their juice and let it ferment. And then without pasteurizing it, he turned it into an aromatic vinegar.
Their first sales made over the Internet. From their merchandise, they bought connoisseurs of good and quality food. And she liked it, even called for more. Unpasteurized apple vinegar is organic, it does not contain additional fermenting accelerators, but has many fiber, potassium, and essential nutrients. It has not only excellent culinary qualities but also healing properties, Lydia explains.
The interest in the production produced by unwillingness encouraged the jerk of young producers and they rolled up their sleeves to develop the new business. They sold the untaxed orchard garden, bought a building in Dolno Belotintsi and converted it into a small factory for natural vinegar. Everything in the enterprise they do themselves — from buying fruits, through processing, to placement, advertising, and cleaning the premises. The only thing they have sought for is the technology. They contacted Professors Elena and Stoicho Karoli — national luminaries in the production and processing of organic products, and they devoted them to the secrets of turning fruit into aromatic vinegar.
“Unfortunately, most people in our country believe that they know and can do everything and treat the experts with disregard. And each activity has its own specificity. Without knowing her, you are doomed either to failure or to mediocrity, “says Ivailo. After the scientific consultations, the Montana factory significantly increased the quality of its production, but also the quantity and range of production. In the second year of Belotintsi, the market took 2 tons of vinegar, then three, and last year 5 tons of fragrant liquid was collected in the tanks. After the apples, Zarkovi focused on the processing of rare fruits and herbs useful for human health — aroma, raspberry, rosehip and elderberry. Raw materials are purchased only by certified manufacturers with all the necessary documents. Numerous administrative requirements, however, eat a lot of their time and nerves.
But they are firmly convinced that they can not afford to circumvent them, even though the market is flooded with products without licenses. However, Lidia and Ivailo keep everything in their production in order and be among the best in the industry. Again because of the bureaucratic obstacles, the two did not use for their business a piece from loans or European projects. They are investing in their pockets, but they do not compromise with equipment and products. To have their own raw materials, they have recently planted 5 acres of the apple orchard and 100 hives in it. So the bees pollinate the trees and receive honey, bee pollen and clay tincture, which they register as food supplements.
“We both work for 10–12 hours, but the soul of our business is Lydia, she is looking for and experimenting with recipes, finding customers, and maintaining our website,” says Ivaylo. This is why all the products of the family factory are named “Lidia”. Last year Zarkovi made their big blow — they produced the world’s first berry vinegar. Small red fruits contain an enormous amount of vitamin C, five other vitamins, an impressive set of minerals, amino acids and a bunch of other beneficial ingredients. According to eastern sages, Gogi Beri is a source of youth and longevity, experts say. However, the shelf life of exotic fruits is quite short, and in the dried part of the properties, they are lost. The production of natural vinegar from them allows the product to be used for a long time and with the maximum health benefit, Lydia explains. At the Plovdiv Fair last autumn, Zarkov’s vinegar was awarded the first prize for innovation in competition with 56 products developed by 36 companies and research institutes. The original development has received the recognition of the Association of Chefs.
Now the Zarkovi family plans to expand their production because the orders for their natural vinegar are falling. They also appointed their first worker to bottle the produce. The factory is now loading stores all over Bulgaria, sending shipments to England and Turkey. And they recently received a request for the possibility of selling vinegar from Gobi Berry even in China.
“Well, we have no such capacity!” Lydia and Ivailo laugh. And they add that they already dream only for a little respite and more time for children — 14-year-old Maria and 8-year-old Boris. So far, their annual vacation has been a few days away, but they do not get away from computers and business.
“We are happy not only that we have succeeded, but also that we have shown that entertaining and industrious people live in the northwest. We do something that no one else in the world produces. I believe there are many such people and they can change things for the better, says Lydia Zarkova.