Switzerland's pioneering organic businesses
Biotta is one of Switzerland’s pioneering organic businesses. As long ago as 1957, when there were no organic guidelines, quality marks or certification, Biotta, then still trading as Tägerwilen Vegetable Growers, was already producing carrot juice according to organic principles. In 1961 Dr Hugo Brandenberger took over the juice manufacturing and spent forty years developing organic growing, juice production and the expanding range of vegetable and fruit juices. In 2005 Dr Brandenberger sold the juice factory to Thurella, the drinks manufacturer based in eastern Switzerland, which from 2011 concentrated mainly on the natural Biotta juices. Since then Biotta has bought out the Traktor organic smoothies brand and launched Biotta PUR and Biotta Bio Energy, Biotta Veggies, Biotta Smoo’TEAs, Biotta Essence of Ginger and the Biotta Vital range. Since 2018 Biotta has been part of the ORIOR group. We talked to Clemens Rüttimann, CEO of Biotta:
Mr. Rüttimann, why are organic pionieers still important nowadays?It is crucial that organic as a way of thinking is lived and driven forward, not just used as a marketing instrument. Compared with other countries, Swiss organic production is way ahead. It’s not just about organic as a label, but also about farmers using soils sustainably and about prudent management of all resources for the future.
Your philosophy states that you oppose the mass production of organic goods. What exactly do you mean by that?The word “mass” can be interpreted in different ways. We supply major retailers as well with a selected range of juices, of course, because we want all consumers to have access to high-quality organic products. For example, this selection includes our original product, the unique natural carrot juice, as well as the very popular pomegranate juice. It’s a different situation with very specific juices such as potato juice, which helps to maintain digestive health and is therefore sold in specialist outlets, i.e. pharmacies and chemist’s shops. For us the quality of the juices is paramount; it means that the consumer knows exactly where our juices come from and that they are carefully prepared and produced from 100% freshly harvested vegetables and fruit. As early as January we agree with the growers how many tonnes of vegetables and fruit we need to harvest for juicing in the autumn, and these are then grown especially for us and prepared from fresh. We then extract the pure juice from these vegetables. We don’t use concentrates in our products; that is what makes our products different. People who want quality are right to choose Biotta, because we put the authentic taste and the phytochemicals in the bottle, full of goodness and as natural as possible. Exactly what our slogan says: You won’t fit more nature than this into a bottle.
In recent years you have added Traktor smoothies and Biotta Veggies to the range; unlike the Biotta Classic juices, these are kept in the chiller cabinets. Are you branching out?
Consumer preferences are constantly changing, and we are keen to cater to them. Biotta Classic juices are bottled when hot, so they will keep for two years, even unrefrigerated. This is the tried and tested method that we have used for decades, and we’ll be sticking with it; it’s what Biotta is famous for. This process has also defined Biotta’s image for generations. At the same time, all brands need to reach the young consumers of tomorrow. That’s why, in recent years, we have been looking very closely at the ever faster changing consumer demands and have established that the younger generation prefers fresh juices served chilled. That was our reason for taking over the Traktor Smoothie brand in 2012 and expanding our range.
Biotta Vital Plus contains hemp. what has been the reaction to that from the outside world? People react in different ways to the hemp issue. The first question is then without fail “What sort of hemp is used?”. And before you ask, Biotta Vital Plus doesn’t contain any THC. Vital Plus is an advisory product sold exclusively in pharmacies, which can be used as a preventative for recognised women’s complaints. The reason it contains hemp is only that we discovered in trials that subjects responded better to the formula with hemp than to the one without. This was not a marketing strategy, but was to show that hemp clearly increases the effect of the juice. Hemp and flax were used in the Middle Ages as crude fibre – in the manufacture of bedlinen and rope, and as a remedy. People grew up with it and it was part of everyday life. It was only in the 1970s that the use of hemp became illegal. Besides Vital Plus there are other products in the Vital range on which we are permitted to make a health claim: Vital Immune, Vital Antioxidant and Vital Iron. Pure organic juices with important natural ingredients. The iron in Vital Iron is extracted from curry leaves, for example.
For two years now you have also been producing Smoo’teas, fruit juice with tea. What's the idea behind that?
Smoo’TEA contains significantly less sugar than conventional smoothies, because we mix it with 25-32% tea to reduce the fructose, and thus the calories.
You are also supporting the IG Aronia project, which has revived the aronia berry, or rather, brought it to Switzerland.
The aronia berry actually comes from Siberia and other cultural regions. As the growing conditions in Switzerland are good, it was decided to plant the berries here as well. In 2011 IG Aronia was looking for buyers. We were persuaded by the project at the time and decided to take part. Three or four years ago aronia was marketed hard, but since then things have quietened down again. It hasn’t taken off in Switzerland as yet, probably because the taste takes a bit of getting used to, as well. However, we at Biotta are still supporting the project.
Mr Rüttimann, what motivates you in your day-to-day work as CEO of Biotta?
Looking at health issues and preventive measures on a daily basis has positive effects throughout the company. Whether I am talking to growers, staff or customers, that motivates me every day.
What motivates your 70 or so staff?
We are a boutique company; the human factor plays a crucial role. Every employee can feel comfortable and can be proud of working for such a reputable company as Biotta and producing the best juices day in, day out. That is our motivation.
You are of course inspected and certified by us. are there things about our services that you value?
Your staff are professional and focused. The collaboration is established, and I have no complaints. bio.inspecta is well-placed as the notified body, and we are in regular contact with you. The routine inspections challenge us time and again, but we also know what we have to focus on and what we need to change. That is how we can keep improving. You see, we are busy working with juices every day (laughs), so there is little time left for us to see how others manage things. This view from outside makes the collaboration all the more interesting.