Martin Wallner and Tomáš Huber’s business rollercoaster continues. Last fall, they watched as the war in Ukraine and the fear of inflation cooled the willingness of customers to buy premium food and their Mixitu order values slowly but surely decreased. And they were preparing scenarios in case the adverse situation didn’t just disappear. But now everything seems more optimistic. “Since April, we’ve been growing again, year-on-year by roughly forty percent across all channels and markets,” Martin Wallner reports. He and his partner are now mainly dealing with how to operate effectively in the new, larger headquarters, where after only a few months they are reaching the maximum of existing capacities.
The manufacturer of muesli and other healthy snacks, Mixit, is a well-established brand in the Czech Republic, and the development of recent years only proves this. Like many others, he also grew enormously during covid, but he maintained himself at the new level despite the subsequent economic cooling. In terms of numbers, it looks like this – in fiscal year 2020, its sales jumped to almost half a billion, a year later Mixit sold more than 600 million worth of goods, and last year Wallner and Huber made 630 million. At the same time, the consolidated EBITDA profit fell below 50 million crowns for the first time in three years, thanks to the significant acquisition costs and other expenses associated with the new premises. In the current fiscal period, EBITDA should reach 100 million.
“Given the market situation and the fact that some of our teammates in and out of the industry were not doing very well, we tried very hard to be in at least some growth. And thanks to enormous efforts, it was possible” says Martin Wallner. “In the spring, the situation started to improve quite fundamentally and we felt that people were willing to spend again. And even more than we expected” he adds that the new conditions were of course opposed in the company.
And so, while a year ago they preferred to buy raw materials several months in advance and invent more affordable versions of their products for customers, now they buy later, according to a precisely calculated schedule. They speed up the turnover in the warehouse and invent new products, which they support appropriately with marketing. The result should be a year-on-year growth of thirty to forty percent, which the company has been registering since April.
The owners of Mixit in front of their new headquarters
Last year, Wallner and Huber described for CzechCrunch how they learned to keep scenarios of various possible developments in a drawer during covid, to reach for the one that will be useful at the moment, and not to rely on anything. And it still works for them. Over the past year, the company has kept roughly the same number of people working for it – that is, around 140 – and now it intends to get busy. He has to, he has a new and rather big commitment.
People tell us that we finally have nice offices
Everything is already taking place in the new headquarters, where Mixit moved at the beginning of the year. However, Huber and Wallner have been discussing its purchase since the summer of 2021, and as they both say, by acquiring their own main headquarters, they made a real mess of themselves.
The former printing house of valuables in Prague’s Michli was replaced by the premises of the former Ford car service on Černokostelecké. The site includes several halls, office spaces, multi-storey buildings for production and a showroom for the upcoming corporate store. But also a parking lot, staff accommodation, a considerable piece of greenery and an area for further construction.
Huber and Wallner took out a loan for it in the “middle hundreds of millions” and are gradually renovating it for the next tens. Earlier, they also acquired a smaller area near Průmyslova, which they use for their own needs only partially and rent out the larger part of it, but they have another office available there.
“It’s a commitment that’s not exactly small, so it’s clear that we have to move on,” states Wallner laconically, saying that it would be ideal for the company to grow by another thirty percent next year and reach a turnover of one billion within three years. However, he adds, much more cheerfully, that for the first time he and his colleagues are being praised for their visits to nice offices. “The Michelská ones charmed few people with their retro character and industrial socialist architecture, the building simply started to deteriorate,” he shrugs his shoulders.
Expansion into new markets, namely Germany and Austria, which are to join the existing Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania next year, will also help with growth. Preparations for the language version of the e-shops are already underway, as well as, from the point of view of the company’s operation, much more fundamental adjustments to the warehouse space and the product dispatch process. In the new, three times larger headquarters, they are already hitting their limits again. “We service everything from the Czech Republic and simply cannot enter new markets until we have sufficient warehouse space,” explains Huber.
Therefore, the company does not have ready-made products lined up in its halls, which its people put in individual packages, and instead introduces a system where the products are completed only when a specific customer orders them. This does not mean that they will start mixing at that moment (unless they are personalized mixes), but that the ready-made product will go into the appropriate and language-localized packaging only when it is clear where it will go.
Tomáš Huber at one of the mixing machines
Wallner and Huber promise that this will save space and increase the turnover of goods, which will be sent to different places at the same time from the same lot. At the same time, customers should receive products made from fresher ingredients and they will also have a longer shelf life. The new picking system works for the lower dozens of products so far, the goal is of course to get to the highest possible number.
Fewer tubes and a store without a saleswoman
The fact that Mixit plans to depart from what is typical for it in the eyes of many people is also related to saving space – but also ecology and price – for some products. Namely from its tubes – large reinforced tubes – in which it packs a significant part of its assortment. They will replace them with easily recyclable packaging, which should make storage spaces and nature easier.
“We are led to this by problems with storing a wide range of tubes, and people write to us that they simply have nowhere to put them anymore and that they are harder to recycle.” says Huber. And he explains that the typical packaging will not completely disappear, but will rather be moved to special and collector’s editions, and the regular ones will be able to be packaged in paper multi-walled prisms. They can be easily recycled, and at the same time take up much less space in the warehouse when disassembled.
In addition, those who want to have their favorite muesli, porridge or nut spread as soon as possible and do not want to wait for delivery from the e-shop or look for a specific product in stores, should eventually get the opportunity to go to the planned company store. It is to be created on the ground floor of the new building on Černokostelecká and, in addition to serving as a showcase for everything Mixit does, it is also supposed to be interesting in that there should not be any salespeople in it. It should be completely autonomous and therefore always available.
“The company that implements it for us said that we are pioneers with this, but it is such a pleasant need from our side. We want a store where we can show our assortment. At the same time, we are in a specific place, where the customer will appreciate the possibility to park at any time,” smiles Huber.
“And when we practice it here and catch all the flies, maybe we’ll open something in the center as well,” Wallner thinks. But he quickly adds that something like that is not on the agenda yet. The tasks that Mixit has to handle now are clearly defined.