This is how it all began…
Thirty years ago four young people came up with an idea of manufacturing chocolate decorations and went on to set up a business to make it happen. The ‘Barbara’ Confectionery Production Company was named after its original partners. It was a time of pioneering efforts – Poland had just regained independence and we witnessed transformation to the system of the free-market economy. Our idea was novel and we set off to a virgin territory in every respect: financing of the project, developing designs, fitting out the factory and – first and foremost – developing a technology based on chocolate processing know how. And none of us – university and polytechnic graduates – had ever worked with chocolate before.
Nevertheless, on 4 April 1991 we officially launched the business. Backed by our youth power, an unfailing belief in success, hard work, discipline and a sense of value of groundwork, we started to gather a small production team and adapt the manufacturing facility acquired from a local co-operative to suit our purposes. Soon our first, really modest, machinery and equipment was installed. Working with chocolate was still a mystery to us, but it was also a tempting challenge. At the time there were no schools educating relevant technology specialists, so we peeked at the first Polish private entrepreneurs who used chocolate as a raw material, such as Edbol or Giano. We got in touch with a long-term process engineer of the renowned chocolate manufacturer Wedel, Ms Stenia Tuszyńska, who was a invaluable source of information for us. We started visiting European chocolate industry fairs, where – armed with a camera and a notebook – we watched chocolatiers operating specialised equipment. Then we bought our first chocolate tempering machines manufactured by the Dutch company JKV. Weeks of learning and working with the demanding material yielded first successes. Our decorations got a beautiful shiny surface and easily came out of the moulds. We also developed our first retail packaging.
The most important task was still to tackle. We had innovative products but we needed the market for them. We had to create it by stimulating the need for using chocolate decorations in households. And we had to find distributors. The Poznań Hotel held an exhibition for food producers and suppliers and we decided to use it to present our products. The exhibitors introduced their offerings to distributors on tables at the hotel restaurant. At that time, a large share of the Polish food market was dominated by such companies and organisations as Polski Handel Spożywczy (PHS), Społem Co-operative and district co-operatives, and those were our first clients.
Once the market was ready for new products, our innovative offerings met with great interest. We were happy to sign first supply contracts. In the 1990s, the product range of Barbara was expanded to include cake icings and glazes, dessert moulds, chocolate sticks, marzipan bars and a wide assortment of chocolate figurines – never found in Polish retail before. Such product expansion required investment in new machinery. We also employed more personnel on the shop floor and in the offices. Barbara became a regular participant in the prestigious POLAGRA Fair.
Today, we are in a totally different place. Yet, looking back with some really fond memories.
In our history, the years 1999–2003 marked the time of dynamic changes. These were brought about by the merger with a Dutch company Luijckx, resultig in foundation of Barbara Luijckx in Inowrocław. Under a new management, we made a vital decision to change the core of our business. Confectionery and food service markets became the new target of our manufacturing and sales activities. We invested in innovative production lines to manufacture chocolate decorations for professionals. We needed to attract specific sectors, so we started pioneering efforts to present our offer through regional product presentations and trade fairs. To that end, we liaised with the best Polish masters of confectionery art. They showed their application techniques and the advantages of using chocolate decorations in the business.
At the same time, we signed agreements with established Polish distributors, such as Ambasador 92, Savpol, Awa, Inter-Fred, Nestor, Jureko, Kuma, Drosol, Techmat, Alba Plus, Korpiek, As Polzap and others, thanks to which our distribution network grew to cover the whole Poland. In collaboration with the distributors, we never ceased to create trends in the Art of Beautiful Decoration. Countless meetings with customers, regularly held all around the country, provided the groundwork for success. Frequent participation in the Polagra and Euro Gastro fairs enabled us to build the increasingly distinguished image of Barbara Luijckx. We started collaboration with the Society of Polish Confectionery Craftsmen (SCKiL RP) and the late Master Confectioner Wojciech Kandulski gave us tremendous support at our induction to the sector.
A distribution agreement with the German company Dreidoppel, signed in 2001, was another milestone in our company history. We have been their exclusive distributor in Poland ever since.
In 2002, we became one of the main sponsors of the World Junior Pastry Championship.
The years 1999–2003 were the time of sustainable development in our trailblazing activity. The pioneering efforts to create the market for chocolate decorations brought appealing prospects…
In the following years, Barbara Luijckx experienced extensive ownership transformations, which positively contributed to the growth of the company, organisation of sales and extension of the product range. As a member of Barry Callebaut Group, we became the main distributor of Callebaut brand and a forerunner in the field of implementing new chocolate working techniques (often little known at the time) in the Polish confectionery sector. It was not easy to persuade confectioners to use chocolate in their daily work, because the market often preferred a competitive material of non-temp chocolate compounds.
However, we decided to change the trend. Our countless regional presentations and chocolate workshops began to bear fruit. Prominent chocolatiers, well-known in Poland and Europe, were invited to the presentations. Soon, the Belgian Callebaut chocolate became popular in the Polish confectionery sector. We kept training professionals in the Art of Beautiful Decoration. Unique pieces of confectionery art were created and elevated the status of Polish pastry shops. Thanks to that in 2006 our company became a sponsor of the national team for the World Pastry Team Championship in Phoenix, USA. In the same year, we organised the Chocolate Show at the Polagra Trade Fair. It was a remarkable event integrating the community and remembering our late friend and master, Wojciech Kandulski.
Barbara Luijckx took an active part in all trade events in Poland. Every year, we participated in the Polagra, Euro Gastro and the emerging Expo Sweet in Warsaw. We presented our products at all the local exhibitions and fairs, such as Polpiek, Baltpiek, Horeca Kraków and Inter Piek. We took part in regional trade fairs, organised by local distributors, such as the memorable Polmarkus Confectionery Expo, Savpol, Agra Opole and Zamorscy. Thanks to the far and wide ranging activities, we extended and strengthen our professional distribution network nudging the market to use high-quality products.
Once our position was established on the Polish market, we started to reach international customers through participation in such trade events as Modern Bakery Moscow, Europain Paris, ISM Cologne and Sigep Rimini.
In 2003, we took a paramount decision for the future of our growth – to build a state-of-the-art production and storage facility for chocolate decorations. We began developing the project and seeking European Union funding. We acquired the land and moved to the design stage. The construction works commenced in 2006 and just a year later our new head office and manufacturing plant opened. Bright outlooks opened up, too…
The pace of changes was head-spinning. We left the Barry Callebaut Group and – in a bit smaller line-up – decided to keep going forward and disseminate the ideas of modern confectionery art. Equipped with high standards of working, professional product range, top quality and technology, we defined our new goals. One of them was setting up the ‘Inspiration’ Academy of Skills – a professional training centre. We also launched our brand of professional products, Barima Artisanal. It comprised a range of professional Belgian chocolates made with Belgian chocolate, pastes, nut products, fondants, colours and other finishing products.
We opened the door of the Academy for confectioners from all over the country and held theme workshops and training sessions. With a comprehensive range of chocolate decorations, Barima Artisanal raw materials and semi-finished products, and Dreidoppel fruit components, we developed innovative recipes published in our catalogues and brochures. We set up a team of regional sales representatives working with the company distributors and individual customers.
We collaborated with industry media and associations on a regular basis, advertising our products and participating in the life of the industrial community. Our marketing department kept inspiring the market with new ideas and compositions, and endeavoured at setting trends in the confectionery industry, Our creations met with vivid interest.
As a production facility, we continued to acquire new machines and equipment. A costly decision was made to introduce a unique, state-of-the-art line for chocolate decoration products that are strategic for the confectionery business and that used to be imported from abroad. The line was commissioned in 2012. Despite such a leap in the development, we did not stop to look for new, interesting solutions. Soon, we introduced a chocolate printing technology and started the production of multicolour decorations.
Then came the year 2014 and even more turbulent changes. We had to make possibly the most fundamental decision: to be or not to be…
The breakthrough of 2014 revolutionised the principles of operation of our company. As Polish owners, Barbara and Ryszard Borowicz, we took over 100% of the shares in the company. A new chapter in our business history was started – Barbara Luijckx became a family business, now joined by our daughter, Paulina, and her husband Mathieu. They took up the roles of experienced managers in charge of marketing, export and product development. For many years, our other daughter, Kasia, had also been working for the company. She started as a sales representative and now manages industrial accounts and supports export activities in assigned geographic territories.
After 2014, a new organisational structure was introduced, comprising departments to professionally serve specific market sectors. We obtained all the necessary certificates of food safety and warehouse management.
As manufacturing chocolate decorations has always been the core activity of the company, we focused on adding innovation to our offerings. This led to the establishment of a new brand for chocolate decoration products – Barbara Decor. We embarked on an intensive marketing activity to build the image and market visibility. Our Barbara Decor product range was first introduced at the Warsaw Expo Sweet fair trade. Professional catalogues quickly reached the customers. Their kind reception yielded good sales. At the same time, amidst hard work and training sessions at our Academy of Skills, an idea to prepare a guidebook for pastry chefs and confectioners was ripening. Our brand , Barima Artisanal, specialising in professional raw materials and semi-finished products, needed a better presentation. So, we came up with Barima Artisanal CHOC BOOK, which enhanced the prestige of the Academy and properly positioned the promoted brands.
The years 2016–2019 saw increased activity at international trade and expo events. We discovered new markets around the world and presented our products there. We exhibited at IDDBA and Fancy Food in the USA, FHA in Singapore, FoodEx in Iran, GulFood Manufacturing in Dubai, IBA in Germany, Sigep in Italy, IFE in France, PLMA in the Netherlands and Intersicop in Spain. Step by step, we contracted new distributors and our unfailing efforts to reach new areas continue to date.
In the years 2017–2018 we decided to extend our manufacturing and storage capacities. We wanted to take another step to meet market expectations and improve the standard of service for our customers. As a result, we added 3,000 m2 for modern warehouses and production facilities where innovative Art Grillage products are manufactured. We also moved the ‘Inspiration’ Academy of Skills to a new location, where we meet people in our line of business from all over the world during our workshops and training sessions. Professionally-equipped training facilities enable us to share the knowledge and experience in inspiring interiors, full of beauty and positive energy. We wish our Academy of Skills to trigger productive energy in confectionery craftspeople, so that they would use it in everyday work.
The latest developments in the industry and our company provided the basis for a decision to introduce a completely new production line with innovative technology. This will extend our portfolio with chocolate products for industrial customers.
Summing up the 30 years of our work, we feel empowered and ready for new challenges. With our dear Customers the future looks bright and sweet!