Our people

Small steps drive big changes

Juerg Burkhalter, General Manager of Coca-Cola HBC Bulgaria, in an interview for the Brand Voice cover of Forbes Bulgaria 

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Juerg Burkhalter joins Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company Switzerland in 2005 in different commercial roles before taking over the role of Sales Director in 2013. Four years ago, he arrived in Bulgaria, where he took over as the company's General Manager. Before coming to Bulgaria, he was Sales Director at Coca-Cola HBC in Serbia and Montenegro. Burkhalter has a large family with four daughters and holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.


You have been managing CCHBC Bulgaria for four years, during which we have faced unprecedented challenges, but the development of the company has not stopped. How did you manage to maintain the drive with which you are fulfilling the company's goals?

We have achieved a lot in recent years, but what I am most proud of is that our team has become stronger than ever. We have more talented people than ever, and we work in great collaboration. This helps us tackle short-term challenges but also make the right choices for the long term. That way we are better prepared for anything that might happen. We did a great journey and I want to thank all my colleagues for their efforts, passion, and commitment.

I am proud to be the head of the largest soft drinks company in Bulgaria, but any company, no matter how big or recognizable, cannot succeed without its loyal employees and partners. I believe the challenges we have faced in recent years have brought us even closer together as a team. This has helped us to continue to pursue the goals we had set for ourselves, and we have even managed to achieve a significant part of them ahead of schedule.

Our socio-economic results are among the proofs that we are on the right path. The Coca-Cola System invested BGN 131 million in Bulgarian business during the past year and its economic impact here is expressed in value added of BGN 640 million. We generate 1% of the country's tax revenues, contributing BGN 41 million in taxes and indirectly contributing another BGN 237 million, which is equal to 1/2 of the state budget for cultural activities per year or the annual expenditures for the education of about 95 000 students. Every BGN 1 spent on Coca-Cola drinks leads to BGN 0.75 of income for Bulgaria and these are not just some numbers, because apart from the direct contribution, every 1 job in the System maintains 4 external jobs. And what I truly believe is that when the people you work with share the company's mission, vision, and values, success is guaranteed.

What are the achievements you are most proud of in these four years?

There are many more examples, but I am proud of a few main ones. As I mentioned, I am extremely proud of everything we have achieved as a team, despite the challenges. I am also proud of the investment in our plant in Kostinbrod, which since its inception has exceeded 160 million BGN, and its area is over 150 acres. Thanks to the 2019 expansion and investments in infrastructure projects worth more than BGN 40 million, including a new warehouse, a new-generation high-tech line and more, we have built a mega-plant of the future.

We continue to offer the products our consumers love, enrich our 24/7 portfolio with a range of innovations and take well-deserved positions with our established and new premium spirits brands. We have achieved real success with the launch of Costa Coffee and Caffe Vergnano.

Equally inspiring is the fact that we continue to deliver excellent business results and at the same time were recognised as the Best Supply Chain Team for 2021 and in the Top 3 of the Andrew David Group Cup last year. The twentieth presentation of the Cup recognised the business unit making the most of all the growth opportunities during the year. As we navigate these challenging times, I feel satisfaction when I see our drive for continuous development and our people who share our values.       

In the context of sustainable use of resources, there is a lot of talk about a deposit system for beverage packaging. Is such a model applicable in Bulgaria and what needs to happen for such a system to work?

As the country's largest producer of soft drinks, we have a responsibility and an obligation and have set targets to collect and recycle the packaging we produce and present on the market. The circular economy and priority access to collected material is key to achieving the bottle-to-bottle model and protecting the environment, as well as consumers' interest in the best price for our products. The management of the deposit system should therefore be entrusted to a dedicated central non-profit organisation, with the drinks producers leading the way. We have already started discussions on this and will continue to communicate with all interested parties.

Many countries in Europe and around the world use the deposit system to collect and recycle their beverage packaging. It increases the rate of collection of packages by an average of 90%, which is extremely impressive. The industry in Bulgaria is working hard on the topic and this makes me believe that very soon the first steps will be taken to change the law on waste management, the appropriate measures will be adopted, and Bulgaria will join the other countries that have successfully introduced the deposit system.

You can find the entire interview with Juerg Burkhalter in the September issue of Forbes Bulgaria, as well as on the media website.

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