Healthy nutrition leads to healthy lifestyle: Interview with Iskra Vetadzokoska-Mucunska, general manager of Vitalia

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Healthy nutrition leads to healthy lifestyle: Interview with Iskra Vetadzokoska-Mucunska, general manager of Vitalia

She is the best advertisement for the family-owned company Vitalia, a leader in Macedonia in terms of healthy eating and innovations that bring us closer to the world. Iskra Vetadjokoska-Mucunska, 48, is an attractive, vivacious, kind, talkative and hospitable person, a pleasure to be a guest at events across Skopje, a businesswoman who lives here brand values.

How much Macedonia is joining the trend of healthy, not fast-food, how educated and dedicated we are to lifestyle habits, and why business is more a positive influence on the world than profit-making, Mucunska reveals in an interview with = “–“> “Zenski Magazin” .

1. Have you been told that with your looks and culture of behavior and living you are the best advertisement for your family company Vitalia?
Thanks for the nice words, the statement is correct. And this is due to the fact that I live with the values of the brand with great passion. At the same time, I convey my personal values to the company and the team. Vitalia is part of me. It is a productive symbiosis that works flawlessly.
On the other hand, I would stress that since launching Vitalia as a family company, our mission has been to create as many healthy and delicious products as possible for everyone, while respecting the uniqueness of each person. Believe me, it is indescribable the pleasure of helping the population improve their health and form healthy habits. Hence, I would say that the best and most valued advertisement for Vitalia are all satisfied customers, with whom we build trust and a healthier future.

2.What is healthy diet?
When we think of healthy foods, the first thing that comes to our mind is images of fruits, grains, vegetables and seeds, but in reality, healthy eating is a lifestyle embroiled in everyday habits of consuming foods that provide energy without further overloading the body. . Let’s not forget that health comes through the mouth, and eating properly can be a cure. That’s why Vitalia has been actively investing in changing consumer nutrition habits for the past 25 years, first in the domestic market and then beyond, by understanding the principles of healthy eating. This process is certainly complemented by the determination to create quality healthy products that meet the nutritional needs, but at the same time retain the natural taste, aroma and texture.

3. In an earlier interview you said that you follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization. What exactly does that mean?
The World Health Organization pays close attention to the eradication of malnutrition, including obesity, overweight and malnutrition. As a result of numerous scientific research papers, projects and initiatives a healthy and sustainable diet pattern has been defined for the global population. Vitalia, in every aspect of its operations, from new product development, through in-house trainings, to educational lectures, applies the guidelines for healthy eating set out in those publications. Specifically, reducing salt, sugar, saturated fat, as well as meeting the daily needs for protein, vitamins, minerals, recommendations we have already implemented in the new products we launched in 2019 – RAW bars, no sugar added cookies, protein balls .. .

4. How is your nutrition? What is your lifestyle and the secret to your look?
We live in a fast and dynamic time and it is really a challenge to follow healthy habits, especially when it comes to maintaining a balance between work, private life and health. My choices are always healthy products. The advantage of running a company like Vitalia is in knowing the truth about food, their essence, giving me clear answers to the questions of what and why. And I implement the answers I know into the products we develop. This way consumers know that when choosing a Vitalia product, they are surely choosing the best one for them. Muesli and cereal products, which are the core of our company, are an important part of my daily meals. And Vitalia Collagen has been regularly on my list of daily supplements and novelty to keep my appearance fresh. Namely, our new collagen product line, which is an innovation not only in our country but also globally, has received recognition for innovation at the SIAL Shanghai International Food Fair.

5. How much does Macedonia, according to your research, follow the world trend of eating healthy, not fast food?
The Macedonian consumer perceives healthy food as a trend that is increasingly entering the daily routine. He wants food that is readily available, convenient, that creates a sense of ease, and of course, that he enjoys without a guilty conscience. Healthy food is often perceived as a form of self-care, as a prevention of diseases. An additional impetus for following the trend is innovation in production and variety of flavors. According to our research, the main barriers to a permanent transition to a healthy diet is the lack of a long-term habit but also a lack of education and commitment. Breaking down these barriers are key criteria in developing our brand strategy; from the positive perception of healthy nutrition, the availability of Vitalia products at every location in the country, to the innovation in product formulation that will keep consumers from consuming fast, and long-term, unhealthy foods.

6. Do the ignorance, or the price, of the organic products which Macedonia has in abundance and in the world are the most expensive, are considered to be a trend, not a healthy habit in every family?
Organic production started in the 1960s and today is more than a trend. Today it is a lifestyle that supports the model of healthy and sustainable consumption, allowing the availability of products grown under strictly controlled conditions. I would say that many factors influence the purchase of organic products, but unfortunately our economic status is decisive. Vitalia 15 years ago launched the first organic products on the domestic market, and already in 2020 we are bringing them back into focus, driven by the trend and need. Our customers can expect an organic line of Vitalia products, with an affordable price that will enable them to make an easier decision in purchasing and orientation towards healthy choices.

7. According to what parameters does Vitalia choose the products intended for consumers?
Consumers are our inspiration for innovation. A key criterion in development is functionality, how our product will improve the life of our consumer, what will make him happier. We get answers by market research, first the world trends, and then the specifically for the Macedonian consumer. And from here we begin to define the product type – a protein product, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian, implementing the latest world trends in nutrition. Other parameters include defining the target group, age, occasion for consumption and lifestyle. Full-team discussion followed by detailed brainstorming sessions to define recipe, texture, shape and taste is the most productive tool we practice. After sensory analysis with expert and consumer panels, design and communication strategy are developed.

8. Which product is the most requested in Macedonia, which products are already tradition and which are innovation?
The interest in Vitalia products is growing every year especially among young population whose awareness of healthy eating is increasing daily. Cereal flakes and muesli are the most popular choice for consumers when they want a practical nutritious breakfast and cereal bars, crackers and cookies are a healthy snack or dessert that offer sweetness without guilty conscience. We see our self as a company that offers a product for every individual, and we bring innovation to everything we do. As the only one on the market I would single out our protein balls. We are also the first company in the region to start incorporating pea protein into its products, a trend that has been present in global markets for several years. We invest in technology and innovation, our raw bars are formulated according to the Clean Label principle, with minimal heat treatment, with only natural ingredients and soft consistency. We always strive to keep up with the trends in world markets, and innovation and quality are priorities in our brand strategy.

9. What do you invest most in?
On a personal level, the free time left between being a manager and being a parent is investing in upgrading myself through professional literature. As Vitalia, we strive to perfect the market for healthy food, give back to the community by participating in donations and charity events, as well as being among the first companies in Macedonia with a high environmental rating and sustainable consumption system.

10. How to raise awareness of healthy eating at home, in institutions, in schools? A world-class chef like Jamie Oliver has found it difficult to impose a healthy menu on schools in England, even in the United States!
Creating a knowledge-based society is an extremely difficult task that we have been actively investing in since the very beginning of Vitalia. For the past 10 years, an A for Healthy Food Project has been working hard to educate children in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. Our team of nutritionists and technologists enthusiastically share the principles of healthy eating and how to create healthy eating habits. We especially focus on pupils and adolescents, based on the fact that healthy habits are acquired from a young age.

11. What are your long-term plans in Vitalia? How many markets are you in?
Vitalia’s mission is to build healthy generations with healthy food. We spread this mission not only in Macedonia but also globally, among the consumers in the 55 countries we export today. In addition to product innovation and consumer education, we will also focus on actively investing in the community, caring for the environment and meeting sustainable development goals globally.

12. Is it harder to get to the top, or stay?
The road to the top is filled with Scylla and Charybdis, rises and falls… A driving force is the motivation and passion to succeed, to create something new, unique and deeper in meaning for each member of the new millennium. A difficult and exhausting journey, but full of excitement, because every success is special. On the other hand, the challenge to remain a leader is to constantly maintain and fulfill the initial vision, take risks but also keep up with the trends, the dynamics of everyday life and the changes in the world. Here I will quote a saying – “The leader is always the most vulnerable because everyone wants to be like him” …

13. As a woman, what is your advantage in this field of business where besides the high quality of products, you also need negotiation skills, total customer service and building trust with business partners?
Diversity is essential in a company and contributes to greater creativity. Men and women have different predispositions that shape their approach to business. Challenging each other and thinking Out of the Box principle promotes the innovation that pushes the company forward.
What would stand out as the advantage of being a woman is emotional intelligence, which I think is naturally more developed. Women are also good listeners, an aspect that is extremely important in negotiating and building trust with co-workers.
Perhaps the greatest advantage would be empathy. The business world is increasingly moving away from aggression and focusing on empathy and emotion. Companies that adopt these principles are far more successful in giving greater focus to their employees and the community in which we live. I believe that by nature women are more sensitive sex. Although we know how to be strict and determined when needed, we guide our hearts. For us, business is a personal thing and when business is on a personal level, we stand out from the crowd. For us, business is more than making a profit, it is about making a positive impact on the world, and today that is exactly what consumers want.

14. Do you bring work home, or do you mix it with privacy?
Vitalia is a family creation created with love and I always carry it in my heart. She is part of me and my family. I want to involve all members in overcoming the challenges of the company, each to the extent possible. So when developing a new product, I often consult with them, gain insights into their views and perceptions, and work together to provide the best solution and response. The advantage is that in my immediate family there are all generations, from 5 to 50. However, my 4 children are the best constructive critic but also the inspiration to succeed.

15. What do you remember about 2019, and what did you wish for in the New 2020?
The past 2019 has been marked by an active investment in the community, especially in the area of food donation, for which we have been recognized as the largest food donor in Macedonia by Ajde Makedonija. We have also launched the collagen line, which is unique in the Macedonian market, for which we received the prestigious SIAL Innovation Award. We are also proud of starting a partnership with Starbucks Serbia which is a great recognition for us as a company and a confirmation of the quality of our products. We exported our first exports to Barbados and Jamaica, and partnered with Walmart’s worldwide supermarket chain. Looking to the future, 2020 is a new cycle, with our main focus being on joining world movements for sustainable development and the fight against climate change. Our goals include transitioning to environmentally friendly packaging, replacing plastic to paper bags as well as creating an electric car park.

16. Do you cherish the tradition of giving?
Giving is the greatest source of happiness for both the sender and the recipient. We feel that happiness every year when we traditionally give away New Year’s gifts to children helped by the Red Cross and SOS Children’s Village. This year we also rejoiced the autistic children of single mothers but also the children of the Infectious Diseases Clinic in Skopje. In addition, we also support young athletes by donating funds to their home clubs to improve training conditions. We also regularly support student initiatives by providing healthy meals for their seminars, conferences and trainings.

17. What makes you happy?
Happy people around me make me happy, at work and at home. It makes me happy to have the kindness and the positive energy, the unity and the belief in creating a better tomorrow.
It makes me happy to spend time with my closest, with my children who are my life energy. I am happy with satisfied Vitalia customers, who feel the company as a trusted friend and partner.
I am happy to have a team of positive, inspirational and creative people with whom I share the same values and who I can wholeheartedly rely on. Together with them, we realize Vitalia’s mission and move towards a healthier and happier future.

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