Amidst the crowds of visitors to the Stainless Steel World exhibition last November I spotted a gentleman methodically working through a list of materials suppliers he wanted to visit. It emerged that Mr. Milosevic had travelled from his Serbian fabricating facility to find suppliers of AISI 304 stainless to be made into honey processing equipment. I was intrigued to learn about this unexpected destination for stainless steels…
“My name is Nenad Milosevic and I am the owner and General Manager of the MINELI Company, whose production program is beekeeping equipment,” he began proudly. “Our company started as a very small family business 25 years ago. We needed equipment for our own beekeeping hobby, so we started by making it ourselves. Soon other beekeepers wanted to use the same equipment for themselves. And that is how the story began! Today we are a small company with 25 employees and very modern production technology. My main roles within the company are to organize equipment production, make contact with (new) customers, identify new market opportunities, and to find suppliers of stainless steel.”
Perhaps surprisingly, honey is a highly aggressive media to work with and as such stainless steel is essential for all equipment which comes into direct contact with this sticky liquid.
“Honey is very corrosive because it is composed of more than 20 different types of acid,” explains Mr. Milosevic. “We exclusively use grade AISI 304; this type of stainless steel is used in the food industry because of its superior acid and base resistance. It also has a good tensile strength and is very suitable for deformation by forming. All plate, bars and tubes on our products must be made from this type of stainless steel.”
“We use AISI 304 stainless steel in a range of surface finishes, although most are bright annealed (BA) which has a mirror-like polish. Certification is provided directly to our customers to prove that we have sourced the material directly from the stainless producers or from recognized service centres. In the past, we tried using different grades of stainless steel, but we very quickly reverted back to AISI 304 which performs very well for this application. We are very satisfied with this grade; we have never had any problems or complaints from our customers. We are confident it’s the best material for our production.”
At their production facility near Kragujevac in central Serbia, MINELI produces over forty different types of honey extractors, honey tanks, wax melting machines, and many other items of equipment essential to the professional beekeeper.
“Our products are exported and sold throughout the European Union, Russia, Africa, and in the Middle East. We are always looking to expand into new markets. Key to achieving this is producing high-quality equipment and maintaining a competitive selling price.”
In last few years, the availability of stainless steel has improved as the number of stainless steel service centres has grown in Serbia, continues Mr. Milosevic. “This is good for us because we can get more offers with better prices from different suppliers. Twenty years ago, it could be quite difficult to find reliable suppliers but today the situation is much better.”
Although MINELI are not unique in producing this kind of honey processing equipment it is a very specialized field. “There are just a few companies producing beekeeping equipment. We respect our competitors and often have good cooperation between other companies who are in the same business.”
Despite the success of his business, Mr. Milosevic has encountered some problems along the way. “Our main problem has been the volatile price of stainless steels. Our company uses about 100 tons of stainless steel per year and during that period the price is very unstable.
There is constant change, usually with prices rising, and that directly increases the cost of production. By contrast, our selling price remains the same with very little change over the years. As a result, we sometimes see our profits disappear in materials costs…we only cover the cost of production. Like all business, it`s not always easy. Even though we are in the honey sector, business is not always sweet!”
– The average pH of honey is 3.9
– Honey contains around 20 acids
– These acids are an important component of the flavour and aroma.
– The low pH of honey inhibits the presence & growth of microorganisms