INTERVIEW Matičnjak: Not enough effort is invested in educating citizens regarding health care in Croatia

Our aim is to make the biggest possible number of people aware of the importance the inclusion of natural preparations and dietary supplements in everyday life.

The importance of a healthy diet has never been more emphasized than nowadays. As the food choice becomes bigger, we have to know what we are eating, how to balance meals, how to differentiate right ingredients from wrong ones and where to get all of this information. 

The Plitvice Times interviewed the new partner – Matičnjak, whose products can be found in the webshop.

We have talked to the company director Mario Bakarčić so keep reading to learn about their work and dedication. 

Who decided to start production and what did the beginning look like?

The founder of the Matičnjak brand is phytotherapist and apitherapist Mr. Ivo Bačlija, who started collecting medicinal herbs and seeds with his father. Through early education, he gained knowledge of the production of essential and cold-pressed oils and started the agricultural trade “Matičnjak“.

He is best known to the public as a producer and promoter of cold-pressed oils such as black cumin oil and camelina sativa. In Croatia, he is a pioneer in the production of hemp oil. From a wide range of these oils and various medicinal herbs, he designed some macerates. The most famous is the so-called Macerate 14 – sweet wormwood in black cumin oil. It is a synergy of cold-pressed Egyptian black cumin oil and sweet wormwood herb, whose active healing principles are best activated, preserved and easily used in this way.

Recognizing the potential of these unique products, I joined Matičnjak’s story in 2013. and since then we have been expanding our horizons, sales channels, designing new products… Also, we are educating consumers which is extremely important but demanding. This is done to recognize the difference in quality and freshness in many similar products.

Why Matičnjak? What makes matičnjak special?

Our brand name is often equated with a well-known plant. However, the name comes from the community of bees that bear the same name.

Our phytotherapist Ivo has his own hives and is aware of the importance of quality treatment of bees. At the same time, that is what the current team makes a brand – togetherness. We are a team of lovers of nature and what it offers us, and we work hard every day on the maintenance of the insects that are important for survival.

In the multitude of brands that promote and sell healthy food, Matičnjak decided to make a difference: to produce products that are fresh, healthy, local and minimally processed, without additives, stabilizers and added flavors. Matičnjak products are completely natural packages of original, active and nutritious ingredients from seeds and plants, preserved from over-processing and aggressive methods.

What criteria did you take into account when forming the product?

The primary goal is to provide the consumer with a completely natural and unprocessed product, obtained by pure mechanical impact, without any chemical processes.

Our oils are cold-pressed. Functional honeys are obtained by grinding medicinal herbs and mixing them with honey from Žumberak mountains. Macerates are obtained by immersing medicinal herbs in cold-pressed oils where they remain for up to 40 days to create stronger synergy by extracting medicinal properties of herbs with oil.

Also, we try to procure as many raw materials as possible from long-term partners from Croatia to encourage mutual work and cooperation.

How to get education about ingredients and production?

We are currently working on upgrading our blog which will be re-launched during the spring and linked to all of our products on the webshop. Here we have covered and will cover many interesting topics and current events in the field of phytotherapy. On our YT channel Matičnjak TV, we have numerous educations about the purpose of products and the benefits of their use.

How do you assess eating habits in Croatia?

Croatia’s food picture is not the best. There is a large number of obese people and a high mortality rate from cardiovascular disease and cancer, which are particularly associated with an unbalanced diet. Croats eat much fewer fruits, vegetables and fish compared to Western EU countries due to poor information, mentality and lifestyle.

It has been determined that we consume larger amounts of carbohydrates than the recommended amount. The share should be 30%, and in our country, women consume 53% and men 49%. Consumption of proteins and fats is higher. The most common choice of proteins is pork. The most common choice of fats is animal and vegetable oils. Only 4.6% of Croatian citizens are vegetarians or vegans.

Do you offer education where individuals can find out which dietary supplements they need?

In Croatia, not enough effort is invested in educating and informing citizens regarding health care, so we must take responsibility and control over our own health. Step by step, little by little, it is essential to adopt healthy eating habits and live a healthy, productive life, not an alternative.

We recognized the need of consumers so we bring them closer to the purpose of our products, and move away from the curative approach. The aim is to make the biggest possible number of people aware of the importance of prevention, ie the inclusion of natural preparations and dietary supplements in everyday life. For this reason, we have joined various social networks to answer consumer questions faster. Last year we opened our own YT channel where you can view the advice of our phytotherapist and get many answers.

We also organize educational workshops for masters who sell our products in pharmacies and herbal pharmacies, where our phytotherapist is available for all questions and exchange of knowledge in the field of phytotherapy for easier transfer of information to the end customer.

How has the Corona pandemic affected your business?

For Matičnjak, the past period in the pandemic was extremely successful, which is to some extent the result of the problem of the corona, and consequently the awareness and recognition of domestic products.

However, this would not have been possible if Matičnjak had not been on a good business path by then. We have dedicated 2019 to the development of new production lines. Therefore, at the beginning of 2020, we signed an agreement for the award of EU grants for innovation in S3 area. With these funds, we have provided new, innovative technology for development.

During both lockdowns, we recorded sales growth. Our customers, like the preparation of stocks of basic foods, also prepared stocks of our products. This shows the importance and role of our dietary supplements and food products in their daily lives. The increase in interest from a wider audience has been largely shown after the increase in demand for wormwood as a natural solution in defence against the virus – which has recently been definitively scientifically proven.

How do you see Matičnjak in the future?

Natural extraction is essential for the active properties of plant extracts and products. It is important to use less or ideally no synthetic substances to maintain the high performance and functional properties of plant extracts and products. Organic extracts are a key trend for the health and food industries.

Matičnjak plans to become a regional producer of organic extracts. Changing perceptions of health, population aging and the threat of antimicrobial resistance and viral diseases are increasing the need for plant extracts, and this is where we have found our niche.

Powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols and OPC (aging and chronic diseases) or artemisinin and thymoquinone (strong antimicrobial and antiviral action) are the basis of innovative preparations of our brand. Also, those are extracts that we will offer in the market of industrial pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic production. In addition, we are finalizing our innovative natural-based cosmetic line that you will be able to read about soon.

Check out the Matičnjak offer: 

Honey With CBD Extract, 250g

Macerate Oil 14 (Sweet Wormwood, Black Cumin)

Quince Spread, 270g