Hungary's healthfood king takes his sugarfree, low carb company public

Hungary's healthfood king takes his sugarfree, low carb company public
Text size Aa Aa

You may not have heard of Norbert Schobert, but you may be about to. This once tubby ex-policeman has in a few short years, with a combination of astute business sense and carpet-bomb advertising, built Hungary’s number one healthfood business, and now he is taking it public, and expanding into Europe.

It is a really American dream rags-to-riches story, but Schobert says he wants to fight obesity, a worldwide epidemic that Hungary has not escaped.

“We grew from nothing to a company with stores in 3 countries now. Every year we can double this, without help. So I thought that this company should not develop with or depend on loans or federal help because we have a real success in creating this market success and I believe that this is a good opportunity for investors to get involved in this business and grow,” says Schobert.

Helping him float the company on the Budapest stock exchange was a celebrity who understands the importance of a sugar-free, low carb diet. Former tennis star Andre Agassi has signed for three years to promote the brand, Update 1, which uses Hungarian produce which is locally processed.

“Where we go from here I think will be a reflection of this springboard, we’ll see. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in it. And I’m sure they wouldn’t want me here for a moment, but I need to be patient and make sure we do it the right way,” said Agassi.

Stores are about to open in Vienna and next up will be London, Romania, and Serbia.

Hungary has already taken action to fight obesity, which afflicts nearly a fifth of the population. A 2011 law imposed extra taxes on foods with high levels of sugar, salt, and caffeine which have already raised more than 140 million euros.

“According to OECD statistics from its member states the number of overweight people tripled in the past 30 years. If the trend continues two out of three will be overweight by 2020. Therefore for companies offering dietary or healthy food the market is constantly growing,” says euronews’ Beatrix Asboth.