Case study - Mellifera JSC


Mellifera JSC is a Bulgarian SME founded in 2016. Since then, it has been rapidly growing thanks to its focus on innovation and sustainability. The company’s catalogue consists of honey-based products, skillfully blended with a variety of other superfoods and plant extracts.

Biljana Lowndes-Nikolova, the founder, graduated as a food technologist and further specialized in sports nutrition. Leveraging this expertise, the company placed its focus on functional foods. Thus, after the pandemic, Mellifera marketed MelliGEL, now heralded as its flagship product. This bioenergy gel, designed for athletes, is acknowledged as a healthier substitute for energy drinks. 
The company’s mission is to restore faith in the superpower of clean and sustainable food. 

Mellifera’s growth garnered attention from investors, culminating in a successful Initial Public Offering (IPO) in December 2022. 


Why Japan? 

“Japan is for the long-distance runners in business”

While it was clear from the start that the Japanese market would be quite hard to approach, Mellifera believed that it was the right country for its products. Entering the Japanese market took time and perseverance. In 2019, the Bulgarian-based company had an exhibition stand at FOODEX Japan, the largest food fair in Asia. Although some contacts were made, they did not lead to any business partnerships. 

Challenges and difficulties 

“I think the biggest challenge for Western businesses is that we know what we want to achieve and what we want to say, but we hardly listen”. 

What was lacking was a better understanding of Japanese business etiquette. It might be argued that Mellifera approached Japan in a “Western way”, by being direct and demanding results fast.

EU-Japan Centre support 

In 2022, Mellifera was selected as one of the participants in the Get Ready for Japan Training, a scheme promoted by the EU-Japan Centre that offers EU managers the unique opportunity to experience and understand both the cultural and economic elements that define and explain Japanese business etiquette. Due to the pandemic, the training was held online. 

Get Ready for Japan had a tangible effect on Mellifera’s business strategy, prompting a reassessment of the approach used when dealing with Japanese counterparts.  

In 2023 Mellifera took part in Sportec, Japan’s largest sports and wellness industry exhibition. This time, Mellifera managed to reach active negotiations. Samples of the products were sent and around 80% of contacted companies replied, which is a strong response. Since October, Mellifera has managed to complete three exports, a remarkable success.

Any advice to companies that want to break into the Japanese market?

My advice is to not be intimidated by Japan. It is not impossible to enter this market. You have to be patient and not give up; it takes time, but it is worth it.”

Text based on an interview with Mrs. Biljana Lowndes-Nikolova, Founder and CEO, Mellifera JSC,, participant to GRFJ 2022. Published on March 2024.

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