The largest producer of fruit juices in Serbia and Montenegro is to expand its operations with the help of a €12.5mn equity injection from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the largest single investor in central and eastern Europe and the CIS.

The EBRD’s stake, the first of its kind within the agribusiness sector in the union, will enable the company to continue its regional expansion through more exports, whilst further strengthening its market position within the fruit juice sector in Serbia and Montenegro. The stake will also enable the company to introduce new fruit-based products.

Hans Christian Jacobsen, the EBRD’s director for agribusiness, says the investment will act as an important signal that privately-owned companies in Serbia and Montenegro with solid management and good corporate governance can attract long-term financing. The investment should also highlight the potential of Serbian companies to foreign investors, adds Jacobsen.

Established in 1996, fresh&Co is the leading company in the Serbian and Montenegro juice market, creating a widely recognisable image and the strong brand, NEXT. Whilst already securing a significant market share in Serbia and Montenegro, the company is expecting to continue to expand, capitalising on the substantial room that still remains for growth in the juice market and introduction of new fruit based products. The company is also a strong supporter of local producers, using their harvest to prepare the products that are consumed extensively within the union and beyond.

Zivojin Djordjevic, president of fresh&Co, says: “With the EBRD’s involvement, fresh & Co has acquired a partner interested in the development of our business in the most efficient way”. “At the same time, we are supporting our local farmers by using their products to produce the highest-quality fruit juices, which is good for them, us, and the economy,” adds Djordevic.

To date the EBRD has signed 179 projects worth €3bn in the agribusiness sector alone throughout central and eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.