Stevia in multivitamin drinks

Glockengold from Saxony-Anhalt develops innovative new products and supplies juice to 20 countries.

Several times a week, lots of fruit juice is tasted at Glockengold Fruchtsaft AG – in numerous creations. At these sessions, Chairman Chris Dabbert and some employees sit in the consultation room and taste their way through their own products. There are plenty of them to try out: after all, at Glockengold, in Laucha an der Unstrut in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, 40 different products are poured into beverage cartons: fruit juices and juice drinks, but also ice teas, soft drinks and even mineral water. Around 30 million litres a year leave this company in Saxony-Anhalt. The drinks packaging with the bell logo, from the old bell-foundry town of Laucha, go to more than 20 countries, including even China and Israel.

Conversely, some of the raw materials for manufacturing the fruit juice come from all over the world: banana purée from Ecuador, for example, orange juice concentrate from Brazil, apricot purée from Spain and apple juice concentrate from Poland. The fruit juice manufacturers draw the water from their own mineral spring, however. Local apples are also used.

The tastings in the “Glockengold” consultation room are important, because, after all, one cannot test the flavour of a juice with laboratory equipment, as Chris Dabbert says. This also requires some experience on the part of the employees. “The tasting is not only for quality control, however, we also develop new products.” This is important, he says, because in order to have continued success on the competitive food retail market, one has to be innovative, reacting to current developments constantly.

For example, the trend in the foodstuffs industry is increasingly towards “clean label” foods. What does that mean? “If the label on it says juice, then there is juice in it and not something else”, summarises Chris Dabbert. For him, this includes refraining voluntarily from the use of particular colourings and sweeteners. Glockengold is keen on experimenting in this regard. “We were the first manufacturers to successfully use Stevia, i.e. ‘sweetleaf’, as a natural sweetener in our juice drinks instead of sugar”, says Chris Dabbert. The Glockengold multivitamin juice drink sweetened with this herb is unique, he says.

In general, the health aspect and naturalness of the products with the bell symbol is to play an ever greater role for the foodstuffs. With the Wellness and Balance lines with stevia sweetening, the company is already offering products which take into account the aspect of consumer health. “Balance” pear-peach-mango with soya and “Wellness” apple-grape-papaya plus ginseng are particularly popular. “I don’t know of any other manufacturer that has something like that in their range”, says Chris Dabbert.

The 40-year-old Managing Director of Glockengold Fruchtsaft AG founded the company in 2009. The family company with its predecessors in Laucha is admittedly a great deal older. Because the Dabbert name has already been connected with beverage manufacturing in Laucha for five generations. This tradition started in 1888, when the great-great-grandfather of Chris Dabbert took over a beer shop in Laucha an der Unstrut and sold beer from various breweries as well as mineral water from his own production. Later, self-made lemonade was also added to the range. When the company was nationalised, the story of “Bierverlags und Mineralwasserfabrik Dabbert” ended for a while. Founded in 1904, the present production site has its origins in a Thuringian preserve factory. During the DDR period, this traded under the name “VEB OGiS Laucha”. Every child in the DDR knew the business, because in addition to fruit and vegetable preserves, deep-frozen and baby food, “Früchte-C” was also produced in Laucha, the children’s fruit juice in the East, a very popular, scarce article, manufactured in the combination banana and carrot among others.

This new start was risky, because nobody was interested in baby food from the East any more. Despite this, the father of Chris Dabbert, Christian Dabbert, with two co-partners, bought the company from the “Treuhand” trust in the framework of a management buyout. He was most recently the company’s Technical Director. The idea that led to success was to sell fruit juice in soft cartons, which were still relatively new at that time. A high-performing fruit juice manufacturer was built up in Saxony-Anhalt under the name Glockengold Fruchtsaft GmbH. Four filling plants now stand in Glockengold’s factory halls. A machine needs around 10 hours to pour, for example, 80,000 litres of banana juice into the soft cartons. On the company grounds, there are 70 tanks, which hold around four million litres.

This company from Saxony-Anhalt now not only supplies its cartons to chain stores, especially in Eastern Germany. No, more than half of the sales now take place abroad. In Sweden, for example, where one now encounters the logo with the bell from Laucha in virtually every supermarket. The turnover amounts to around 16 million euros a year. Glockengold employs 60 people.

It used to be more, but there was a new start in 2009. Due to overdue payments, Glockengold had to go into administration. Since the new beginning as Glockengold Fruchtsaft AG, the company has been growing steadily again, slowly but sustainably. “We have gained many new customers. We are now very deliberately focusing more on our own brand and less on contract manufacturing for the chain stores”, says the Glockengold Chairman.

Supplying high quality does not just go without saying, it is a precondition, says Dabbert. In addition to this, the fruit juice producer from Saxony-Anhalt is continuing to pursue a policy of high flexibility in production, with swift channels within the family business and with its great variety of range. “We have to stay innovative. For example, the field of vegetable juices is to be further extended”, announces Chris Dabbert. Currently, around a million litres of tomato juice are packaged in Laucha annually. Alternatives to the drinks carton are also being examined, says the Chairman. Because although the soft packaging is the most environmentally efficient packaging of all for juices, according to a study of the VDF (Association of the German Fruit Juice Industry), the trade increasingly prefers PET bottles. The company will also have this development in mind, to continue to develop successfully at its site in Saxony-Anhalt.

Text/photo: Michael Falgowski