Jizera Mountains baker establishes German offshoot in Zittau and aims to conquer Berlin

Jiří Koláček founded a bakery near Liberec in 2015 and now also supplies eastern Saxony as far as Dresden. Now the rest of Germany is his goal.

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Isergebirgsbäcker Jiří Kolácek zeigt in seiner Zittauer Zweigstelle seine meistgekauften Produkte.
Jizera Mountain baker Jiří Kolácek shows off his best-selling products at his Zittau branch. © Rafael Sampedro/

From Petra Laurin

Jizera Mountain baker Jiří Koláček loves the German market. His sales are growing significantly faster there than at home. "The Saxon customer knows exactly what he wants," says the Czech.

Three times a week, early in the morning, his delivery truck shuttles fresh pastries and bread across the border to stores between Zittau and Dresden. "Eight of the buyers are large market halls of Rewe and Edeka," says Koláček. In the Czech Republic, he feels differently. "Because of the crisis and inflation, everyone calculates with every purchase in our country." The crisis is slowing down his business growth in his home country.

According to the statistics office, Czechs spent 4.2 percent less on food in July than a year earlier. "Nevertheless, our sales are growing here, too, but only by around 0.5 percent per month," says Koláček, who bakes his rolls in Janov nad Nisou (Johannesberg on the Neisse River; east of Liberec and north of Jablonec). "In Saxony, our growth is about 20 percent." Meanwhile, he already sells one-fifth of his production in Germany. Customers on the other side of the Neisse River account for an increasingly large share of his annual sales of around 30 million crowns, the equivalent of 1.2 million euros.

Quality tested in Germany

The Czech entrepreneur, who trained horses as a farmer and worked in an art studio before setting up the bakery in 2015 and initially making it known throughout the Czech Republic, knows that Germans value quality. "This is completely in line with our philosophy," said the craftsman. And can prove it: Three of his breads he to the annual bread test in summer in the Zittau salt house submitted. "Rye bread with tomatoes and rye bread with carrots in organic quality achieved the highest marks of 'very good', and the pure rye bread also scored 'good'," says André Wünsch, Koláček's German sales representative.

The products of the Jizera Mountains Bakery were also served at the meeting of the Chief Director of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Martin Smolek, with the Prime Minister of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, at the beginning of May.© State Chancellery

Sustainability, which is becoming increasingly important in Germany, is also a big issue in the family bakery. "No flour, no sugar, nothing is thrown away," emphasizes daughter Michaela, who is responsible in the family business for the pastry shop and for the Hrnec (pot) bistro in Jablonec (Gablonz), which opened two years ago. "We try to process everything. I hate food waste."

Now Koláček and his 20 or so employees are accelerating their efforts to enter the German market. His family business has established a German limited liability company with headquarters in Zittau, in the building of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce near the train station. The chamber accompanied the bakery on its way to the German market from the very beginning. In the meantime there are also a German version of the company website. Koláček is only still waiting for the German tax number. "It's an almost never-ending story," he says. "It was two years of hard work and also cost a lot of money."

His next goal is to sell his goods in Germany outside Saxony as well. He is currently negotiating with an online provider to open up Berlin and Munich for himself. "We have already received many inquiries from there," says the baker.

So far, however, he still sells the most in Germany in eastern Saxony. For example, the bakery also supplies bread made from bananas to Zittau, Olbersdorf, Oppach and Radeberg. In addition, he says, sweets are very popular with Germans - especially cakes with cottage cheese and poppy seeds or crackers.

When Koláček started eight years ago, three people worked in the bakery in a former carpet spinning mill in the Jizera Mountains. Today, there are around 20 employees. The baker is desperately seeking at least five more. But as on the German side, the search for skilled workers has also become difficult in the Czech Republic. No one wants to get up at night to knead dough anymore, says the Czech.

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