Supported by Rewilding Europe, the Velebit-based beekeeping company’s moreish products prove a burgeoning hit with Croatian consumers.
A higher profile
At Rewilding Europe we always take great pleasure in seeing the enterprises that we support succeed. One such company is the Croatian small business Guslice & Melnice.
Back in 2009, Sanjin Žarković and his wife Ines started their own apiary with a modest collection of five hives. These were situated next to the family house in the Croatian town of Senj, where the Velebit Mountians meet the Adriatic Sea. Despite several setbacks, the Žarkovićes became enthusiastic and experienced beekeepers, slowly expanding their hive collection and forming a company – Guslice & Melnice – named after two villages where Sanjin’s parents were born.
In 2014, thanks to advice and a €30,000 loan from Rewilding Europe Capital – Rewilding Europe’s rewilding enterprise funding facility – the Žarkovićes were able to further expand and professionalise their venture, buying new hives and equipment. Today the company continues to go from strength to strength.
On September 21 and 22, Guslice & Melnice joined more than 300 other exhibitors at the Buy Croatian Fair, held in the Ban Josip Jelačić and European Squares in the city of Zagreb. With the company continuing to raise its commercial profile, this was one of many events that Sanjin and Ines have attended in the Croatian capital this year. As a member of organisations such as the Croatian Chamber of Economy, Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts and LAG (the Lika Development Agency), Guslice & Melnice will also feature in a winter fair in Zagreb from October 13 to 15.
Guslice & Melnice’s products proved a big hit with those attending the Buy Croatian Fair. With so many other beekeeping companies offering acacia honey, Sanjin Zarkovic believes his company has an advantage over the competition.
“We offer honey from common sage and savory (an aromatic plant of the mint family), as well as meadow honey, so our product range is both different and diverse,” explains the beekeeper. “When customers hear that we are based in the Velebit Nature Park, they are thrilled to find such products.”
Demand continues to grow for Guslice & Melnice’s sweet treats, with healthy sales allowing the company to raise prices a little. This year’s meadow honey is now €9/kg (up from €8/kg last year), savory honey is now €13/kg (up €10/kg last year), while sage honey is now €16/kg.
“Our products had their highest ever prices at this fair,” says Sanjin. “But because of their high quality, they just kept on selling.”
Considering their source and method of manufacture, the superior standard of Guslice & Melnice’s products comes as little surprise. This year the company had a veterinary inspection, which randomly tested for use of antibiotics (which are prohibited in the European Union).
“We received great results and a positive rating,” says Sanjin. “We prefer the ecological approach and only treat our bees with oxalic acid. As we confine ourselves to the Velebit area, our 122 hives are mostly kept in the meadows of Lika and coastal Velebit sage areas at varying elevations.”
A presidential seal of approval
This summer Guslice & Melnice also had a stand in the main square in Senj, to coincide with a stand operated by Rewilding Velebit. The company presented an array of new products, such as honey with almonds, honey with walnuts and honey with figs, and sold out of products such as propolis and pollen.
“Our customers mostly bought a honey with pollen blend that we offer,” says Sanjin. “This is great for the colder weather of Croatia’s autumn and winter.
“Our main idea is to deliver products directly from hive to consumer,” continues the beekeeper. “All the honey we sell is from our own production, so we are sure it is of the highest quality. My best recommendation is that my kids also eat it. The whole family is in involved in the business – my wife, parents, mother and father-in-law, even my kids. Our nine-year-old son already helps with jars, and our seven-year-old daughter helps to collect pollen.”
The profile of Guslice & Melnice has risen so high that the company has even come to the attention of the Croatian president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Following a previous meeting with Sanjin and other small businesses in the town of Gospić, the president visited the company’s stall at the Buy Croatian Fair on September 22 in a show of support for Croatian businesses.
“I asked her if she remembered Guslice & Melnice,” says Sanjin. “She replied that of course she remembered. Then I gave her a jar of honey. I think she was very happy.”
Guslice & Melnice’s success is also good for rewilding. Keeping bees in the Velebit environment aids the pollination of flowering plant species, which in turn supports local biodiversity and complements rewilding efforts such as the introduction of large herbivores. In addition, Guslice & Melnice has pledged 2.5% of its future income toward supporting rewilding activities in the area.
Read more about Rewilding Europe’s work in the Velebit Mountains here.
Read more about Guslice & Melnice here.
Visit the Rewilding Velebit Facebook page here.
Visit the Guslice & Melnice website here (Croatian only).