Harmonica won four awards at the competition “Favorite brands”

We are glad to share that Harmonica won a number of awards at the annual competition “Favorite brands”, which measures the consumer sentiment towards Bulgarian products and services!

30 000 consumers voted for their favorites among 390 brands.

Harmonica was awarded a best brand by consumers in the categories BIO PRODUCTS and SUPER FOODS. We took the third place in the categories INNOVATIVE BRANDS, NUTS, CHIPS & STICKS and SUGAR PRODUCTS – BISCUITS & WAFERS.

We are so honored, as this acknowledgment confirmed that consumers value our products and support our mission to provide high-quality organic food.

Thank you!


The ceremony took place on 12 July at the Hilton Hotel in Sofia.

More info: http://www.mylovemarks.eu/

Maggie Maleeva: the taste is one of the many benefits of organic foods (interview)

This interview was published in the first issue of “Piccadilly” and was provided by them.

Maggie Maleeva, the famous former tennis player and one of the co-founders of Harmonica reveals the benefits of organic food. She gives her children only organic products and believes that food should be associated with joy, not with fear.


Mrs. Maleeva, what makes a professional tennis player decide to turn her efforts towards the green sector and the production of organic foods? How was the idea of Harmonica born?

When I played professional tennis, it was extremely important for me to stay in shape, so that I could perform my best at all times. Nutrition has always been an important element of me, being healthy and having the necessary energy. The contemporary food industry and today’s intensive agriculture offer a great variety of foods, but they are in fact merely imitations of the real nourishing food, which we need in order to stay healthy and be well. I started reading a lot and taking interest in the methods of food production. What I found was that there are a lot of farmers and growers who try to change things for the better. When I came back to live in Bulgaria this was one of the thing I really missed. At that time shops offered only imitations, good food had been replaced. This is how the idea of Harmonica was born, from the desire to provide for us clean and real food. Now things are completely different. There are plenty of people who do this, as well as a lot of shops who support them.


If you had to  persuade someone to buy organic products, could you list five advantages they have over conventional food?

Organic farming protects the soil and biodiversity. Intensive farming, on the other hand, depletes the ability of the soil to produce food and destroys the ecosystems. Is this the legacy we want to leave to our children? Is this how we care for Bulgaria by destroying the fertility of its nature? When you buy food you make a choice which system to support. I choose the one that takes care of the soil, water, biodiversity, health, and fertility. Here are your five!


What do you think makes Harmonica supperior to the competition?

I don’t think that we can talk about competition at this point, but rather of people who share the same views. Our goal with Harmonica was to give an example that it is possible to make real, even organic food in Bulgaria. Everyone, who decides to follow this path, is our ally, with whom we share a common cause. This is why we are grateful to everyone, who supports and works for sustainable agriculture, the protection of the wealth of Bulgarian nature, and the nourishing, healthy food. I am happy that, thanks to Harmonica we are an example for this change.


Do you think that there is already a greater demand for organic products? Do Bulgarians pay enough attention to what they eat?

Yes. More and more people are starting to pay attention to their food. There are more shops, growers, farms who believe in it. There is plenty of information in Bulgarian, so that everyone who is interested, can learn more.


What is the profile of the organic products consumer in our country?

Mainly, people who consume organic products are educated, curious and interested in the world around them. Some people come to organic foods because of a health problem, or because of their children, while others come in the search of real taste. For many people the higher price of organic food still remains a serious obstacle.


What advise would you give to parents, to what should they pay attention when preparing food for their children?

Use more plants, less processed food, more seasonal and fresh products, and the most important one: give them example by eating healthy. Your example is the best lesson for them, it is what they will remember. And do not overdo talking about food. Let food be something associated with joy, and not fear.


What are your children eating and hоw do you keep them away from junk food?

I always try to have a great variety of foods, a lot of vegetables and fruits. Of course, everything in our home is organic. I try to create joy out of the food, and not fear, as it often happens nowadays. This is why I try not to forbid things when we go out. I think that the parents’ actions are a much stronger and more important example to children, than the things we say to them.


Which food reminds you of childhood?

I was a poor eater as a child, but I can vividly remember the cheese, coated in breadcrumbs, which my father used to make when we stayed home alone with him, while my mother and my sisters were traveling for tournaments.


What is your favorite dish and do you like cooking?

I enjoy well-prepared food, especially when I know where it comes from. One of the great pleasures when I used to travel a lot during my professional tennis career were the good restaurants in different cities around the world. At home both of us cook, my husband and I, but with the kids it’s not very easy to make something that everybody will like.


What do you deprive yourself of, something you like, but is not healthy?

There is nothing I deprive myself of. The best taste comes when the food is cultivated and prepared with care for every detail, from clean farming to processing. Taste is the first victim of intensive farming and industrial production of food, and that is another great advantage of organic foods.

What does it mean to be “certified organic”

Up until 100 years ago, the foods we now call “organically certified”, which many consumers see as something special and indeed a luxury, were the only foods the whole of humanity lived on.

With industrialisation, however, came the use of of chemical fertilisers to speed up plant growth, synthetic insecticides to limit disease and pests, herbicides to eliminate weeds, hormone to promote growth in animals and antibiotics to prevent infections.  All of which is  today known as “conventional” agriculture as opposed to the organic one.

Organic farming uses organic fertilisers to enrich the soil, pesticides derived from natural sources or traps to attract harmful insects, it relies on mechanical weeding. Organic foods also completely exclude and genetically modified organisms (GMO). So there is really nothing really special about them, they have just been grown the natural way.

What does the law say

Regulation (ЕC) No 834/2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products is the document that sets out what is required for a product to be labelled organic. On the country level organic agriculture is governed by  the Law for the implementation of the common organisation of agricultural markets in the EU and Ordinance No 1/07.02.2013 for the implementation of regulations on the organic production, labelling and control of plants, animals and aquaculture products, plant, animal and aquaculture products (published in the State Gazette, issue 16/2013).

Who monitors organic production, processing, labelling and trade, making sure it’s done according to the rules?

Control is carried out by organisations known as certification bodies. Those are local or foreign commercial entities, licensed by the the Ministry of Agriculture to perform their monitoring activities.

There are currently 16 organisations operating on such a license in Bulgaria: Balkan Biocert, Q Certification, Ceres, Lacon, Kiwa BCS Eco-garantie, Control Union Certifications, Bio Hellas, Ecogruppo Italia, Bioagricert Italia Bulgaria, SGS Bulgaria, Bulgarkontrola, Austria Bio Garantie, Агенция за биологична сертификация, Cosmocert, Makom Certification, and Agro Organic Control.

Each of these control bodies has its own code number, which must appear on the label of every certified organic product. Control over organic production, processing, labelling and trade is based on a contract between the operator (farmer, processor or trader) and the relevant control body.

What are the steps a new operator must take to access the certification system?

The first thing for a new operator to do is get in touch with their chosen control body and enquire about organic certification. They will then be sent a documents pack, which they should read carefully, fill out the forms and send them to the control organisation. The organisation will then verify the documents and offer the operator a contract and price quote. Next the operator needs to make the payment for the initial inspection. A date will then be set for the inspection and an inspector will be appointed by the certification body. If the inspection concludes that the producer’s farm or production unit meets the requirements of organic production, they are then put on the list as controlled operators. However, that does not mean their agricultural produce can immediately marketed as organic. Unlike processed goods, which can be produced straight after obtaining a certiciate, for agicultural production a transitional period is required. In that two or three year period you would need to adhere to all the rules of organic farming but would still not be entitled to label your produce as organic.

Subsequent monitoring

Each farm or manufacturing unit included in the control network is subject to a minimum of one full on-the-spot inspection per year. The number of inspections is determined on the basis of a risk assessment by the inspector in charge. On-the-spot checks will take place around so-called critical periods, i.e. times when deviation from legal requirements would be most likely. The Inspector goes through data records, logs and clearance papers, check performance against legal requirements, visit all production sites and storage facilities, monitoring all stages of the work. The inspector then prepares a report that will be signed by both the control body and the operator.

Inspectors can also collect samples and test them for banned substances (in case of doubt or as part of the routine annual control plan). The final report is examined and signed by the operator of the facilities. It is then assessed by the control body and if necessary, additional recommendations are given to ensure all legal requirements regulating organic production are strictly observed.

Greater safety

Apart from all the well-known benefits of organic production to both people and the environment, it also comes with much stricter quality control and higher food safety standards. At the smallest shade of doubt as to the origins of a given raw material or products they are immediately withdrawn from the market and destroyed or sold as conventional. The various entities in the control chain communicate with one another extremely effectively and reliably to promote the consumer’s trust in organic products.


The Ministry of Agriculture and Food maintains a database with information about all farms, processing facilities and traders holding valid organic certificates.  The register can be found on the Ministry’s website, at www.bioregister.mzh.government.bg. It contains comprehensive information about the legal framework, control bodies and certified organic production operators. That is also one of the most reliable way for consumers to check if a given product on the market is authentically organic. Operators who have not entered their data on the register are subject to substantial penalties, which makes it a reliable source of up-to-date information.

Organic labelling

Regulation (ЕC) No 834/2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products provide detailed rules for organic products’ labelling. Those rules are to be followed strictly by all operators included in the control network. In 2013, the so-called green leaf logo was introduced to mark all organically certified products and foods. It must also contain the code for the product’s country of production, the certification body’s code, as well as the origin of the agricultural product or its ingredients – does it come from inside or outside the EU or contain ingredients from both inside and outside, which is often the case with multiple-component products.

Biological, ecological, organic or something else?

The terms biological (or bio), ecological (or eco) and organic all carry the same meaning. Each member state has the right to choose which of the three to use for products subject to the EU regulations. For examples the term biologocal is used in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, etc., ecplogical is used in Hungary, Spain, Finland, Sweden, etc., and organic in Ireland and the UK. Therefore the Bulgarian Law for the implementation of the common organisation of agricultural markets in the EU initially contained a clause saying that any product being marketed as bio, eco or organic was required to be certified organic. Industry organisations pf organic producers and traders were monitoring the market and reporting to the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency, making sure any violations would be penalised. However, in 2013 that text was removed from the Bulgarian law for unknown reasons, leaving industry organisations and control bodies unable to take action if anyone decided to label their product eco or organic, without being certified and without facing any consequences for misleading the consumers. Therefore, currently the most reliable way to recognise a authentic organic product is the green leaf logo and the codes underneath it, which can be verified. Other misleading descriptions that are becoming increasingly wide-spread are the epithets ‘homemade’ and ‘natural’. If a product is really ‘homemade’, that means it was produced at home and you are allowed to enjoy it in the family or with friends but not sell it for profit. Whereas ‘natural’ is nothing but the opposite of ‘synthetic’ and conveys  very little meaningful information to the consumer.

The cost of certification

„Everything I grow is organic but it’s not certified because that’s very expensive“, is a statement you will hear very often from farmers. Do not believe it. Organic products do not cost more because of the money that goes for certification, which in most is less per year than the average Bulgarian monthly salary. The real reason for the higher prices is the lower yields that come with organic production methods.


All illustrations are from the European Commission website’s image bank and are available for public use.