Vlad Botca, Konservăria: “Achieving the desired end product proved more difficult than predicted when scaling my grandpa’s recipe”

Oana Vasiliu 27/10/2023 | 12:52

Konservaria is a small family-owned business specializing in the provision of home-cooked, ready-to-eat food that is meticulously preserved in jars, predominantly utilizing the sterilization method. Their primary aim is to make accessible, cost-effective meals to a broad audience. In addition to their traditional offerings, they have expanded their product line to include zacusca this year. Business Review recently engaged in a conversation with Vlad Botca, one of Konservaria’s co-founders, to delve deeper into their operations and expansion.


How many types of zacusca do you have in your offer? 

This is our first year producing zacusca, so we’re starting slowly. We have decided to introduce a single product assortment, the most beloved one – aubergine zacusca. We currently have only one variation, so there’s no available bestseller data available yet. However, we do have plans to offer a bean variety in the future and then we’ll be able to compare the two of them in time.

Why did you chose to make zacusca?

The decision to start producing zacusca was influenced by two primary, equally significant, factors: customer demand and the desire to expand into an additional market category. Both our current and potential clients had been asking us to introduce zacusca, and we made a promise to start this fall. Direct feedback and customer requests are essential to our growth, so we are taking everything into consideration as long as it is feasible.

What volume are we speaking about this year?

It’s difficult to provide an exact figure at this time. We’ve acquired nearly 2 tons of vegetables (peppers, aubergines, and tomatoes) from various small suppliers. In addition to zacusca, we also have plans to produce canned aubergine salad, baked peppers (which may also sold as sauces or spreads), and tomato passata. To manage our production, we processed the raw materials as they arrived, then vacuum-sealed and froze them. This approach was necessary because we lack the industrial capacity to cook such a large quantity at once, unlike our smaller batches of jams, which we produce using fresh fruit. To give you an idea, approximately 550 – 600 grams of vegetables, including onions, are required for a 350 g jar of zacusca, representing the final product. Our initial plan is to produce a minimum of 2000 cans. It’s not a lot for the next 10-11 months until next fall, but we have to test the market first.

Where is your biggest selling point?

Our largest market is our online store, konservaria.ro. Nevertheless, our retail channel is growing, both through brick-and-mortar stores and grocery-delivery resellers. We are planning to further expand the retail channel in the near future.

What types of vegetables have you used in making zacusca this year?

We’ve utilized bell peppers, tomatoes, and aubergines in this year’s production. Our goal is to replicate my grandfather’s recipe (yes, my grandfather’s, not my grandmother’s), which gives you a unique, creamy texture. Achieving this requires extended cooking times, as well as a focus on the quality and quantity of the peppers.

Have you had challenges related to the availability of raw materials or the availability of work force for production?

Fortunately, we encountered no issues related to the availability of raw materials or the workforce required for production. We’re not cooking large batches, so there was no need for additional hands besides our talented ladies who work their magic on all of konservăria’s products.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to making zacusca?

For now, our most significant challenges have been the actual time required to craft a high-quality, handmade zacusca and, frankly, enduring the extreme heat during the raw material preparation process. Additionally, a challenge we faced was meeting the high standard set by my grandpa’s recipe. Achieving the desired end product proved more difficult than predicted when scaling his recipe – it required extensive testing and trial & error. However, I wouldn’t settle for less. Simply placing another common zacusca in the market is not enough; we aim to honor my grandpa’s legacy with a product he would be proud of.

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