Andrzej Marchewka, the founder and the President of PROMAR PPH Sp. z o.o. [Limited Liability Company] is handing over the management of the company to a new President, Marcin Marmajewski, after 34 years. Retirement is a good time to sum up. In an interview with Adam Tubilewicz, deputy editor-in-chief of the Portal Spożywczy, Andrzej Marchewka talks about his life, his passions, the development of PROMAR, the people who have created and are creating the company with him, and his plans for the future.
The way to PROMAR - via Frankfurt, Goteborg and Vienna
Andrzej Marchewka has graduated from the Faculty of Foreign Trade at SGPiS (today's SGH - Warsaw School of Economics) in Warsaw. As he recalls with a smile today, when graduating he had nothing to do with food, although this was soon to change due to, among other things, a student trip and his first gastronomic experience gained on...the waters of the Baltic Sea.
- Thanks to the student organization AIESEC, I went to West Germany, to Frankfurt. There I met a man from Sweden who recommended that I work on ships running between Travemunde in what was then West Germany and Goteborg, Sweden. At the time, the Poles could travel to Sweden without a visa. I decided to take advantage on it. I worked in the ship's kitchen for a whole summer. Amazing memories and a few hundred dollars remained, which years later were quite useful when Promar was founded," he recalls with a smile.
After student internships and summer holiday trips, it was time for his first "serious" work experience. Andrzej Marchewka gained them in foreign trade. 
I started working at the "Universal" Foreign Trade Headquarters, which was located in the center of Warsaw. I saw with my own eyes, for example, the famous Rotunda explosion in 1979. A few years later I went to Ostrana in Vienna for an assignment. When I returned home, I was offered the position of deputy head of the sporting goods department. I turned down the position because my brother emigrated to the US permanently, which doomed my chances for a career in foreign trade," he recalls.
Andrzej Marchewka's first contact with the food industry came in the mid-1980s, after he had already left Universal, going to the representative office of the German company Vemag, co-owned by the late Lutz Ratmann.
At the same time, Andrzej Marchewka tried his hand at growing...champignons.
- The company was called Testa, and I created it with several partners. Growing champignons required a lot of work at the time, but after a few years we became one of the largest exporters in Poland. We shipped them along with various agricultural products to Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, among others. We obtained permission from the Ministry of Foreign Trade to withhold foreign currency and import market goods, i.e. we realized the so-called compensation. This worked for us for a long time until one of the partners, Rainer Wenzlaf, died," recalls Marchewka.
The late 1980s - a time of political and economic thaw - was approaching. The famous Wilczek Act and later the market reforms introduced by Leszek Balcerowicz were a period when many enterprising Poles saw an opportunity for themselves. One of them was Andrzej Marchewka.
- I hold Mr. Leszek Balcerowicz, also strongly associated with the Warsaw School of Economics, in high esteem. However, frequent and unexpected devaluations of the Polish zloty made it difficult for us to purchase the necessary amount of foreign currency. After a few years, Testa collapsed due to Rainer's death. So I was left only with the representation of the Vemag Company. It is worth mentioning that in 1984 my son Mikołaj, and in 1991 my daughter Veronica was born. This was the time when I started thinking about a new business, something that would last. In 1989 I decided to establish a new company with Jan Pietrucha, which was to deal with sales representation also of other manufacturers of machinery and equipment for food processing," he says.
This is how PROMAR was founded. As is not difficult to see, the name of the new company, like many other Polish companies founded in those days, was formed by combining the names of the founders. With a minor correction, because, as Andrzej Marchewka recalls, "Promar" sounded better than "Pimar."
The beginnings of PROMAR COMPANY
Promar's first headquarters was located on Kaniowska Street in Warsaw's Zoliborz district.
- I rented a semi-detached house and I hired Mrs. Genowefa Weiss, whom I knew well from the representative office. She was a German philologist, which was crucial, since the companies that were our partners were mostly just from Germany. From the beginning, we participated in the Polagra trade fair, the largest industry event at the time, with Vemag, Treiff and a whole group of German companies. As a result, we caught the wind in our sails. During the Polagra fair, I rented an entire plantr (about 500 sq. m.) and set up a small complete meat processing plant there (mainly sausage production). I learned the operation myself, and the fact that I was able to demonstrate to customers how to make sausage on such machines proved to be crucial. It was a huge success, people would come with bags full of money - They wanted to have the same thing at their plants right away, and we shall remember that at that time the ration cards for food had just been abolished, after several decades of shortages, society was "hungry" for meat, Mr. Marchewka recalls.
Selling machinery and equipment on a larger scale, however, required an appropriate infrastructure. So that’s why Andrzej Marchewka took over the machinery service department from the Meat Industry Technical Service Facility in Chorzów.
 - I wanted us to be the first in the market to offer a professional service for machinery and equipment. My partner, Mr. Pietrucha, was the head of the Meat Industry Technical Service Plant in Chorzow. From there, I took over director Jerzy Kuwaczka and his team. Jerzy became the pillar of Promar's technical development. What is more important, he convinced his people to do so, because in those days many people were afraid to go to a "private business". In Rybnik, at the meat plant, we rented two halls for the Promar service along with a warehouse for spare parts, and we also sold used machines. Anyone who bought our equipment had a guarantee that it would be serviced and that there would be no problems with it. This was the basis of our success," Mr. Marchewka says.
During this dynamic period, two key areas of the company's operations crystallized for Promar's development for many years to come. This is because Promar was the only company in Poland to combine the sale of machinery and equipment with the sale and later production of food additives. However, we will talk about this in a moment.
In the early 1990s, thanks to the courageous decisions of Andrzej Marchewka, Promar was developing in an extremely dynamic way. At that time, the entire Polish economy was also undergoing massive transformations. Private companies were established in place of state-owned meat processing plants, and foreign corporations were entering Poland in order to serve the huge demand of Poles for meat and cold cuts. Promar did not lag behind, and the company's ever-widening operations and growing number of customers quickly forced Andrzej Marchewka to take the next steps.
- From Kaniowska Street we moved to Kazimierzowska Street to the Społem building, where we rented an entire floor. Soon this place as well turned out to be too small, so I bought a property in Łomianki, where we moved from Mokotów district and where we have been until now. I lived the day to day, I made sure that the business was developing, especially the high quality of service, since the competition was growing next to us. There were representative offices of more Western machine manufacturers, but also new Polish manufacturers, soon joined by Promar. We grew together with Polish meat companies like JBB Bałdyga and Tarczyński, but also many smaller and medium-sized craft plants," he added.
It was an intense time for Andrzej Marchewka himself, who, among other things, personally imported natural intestines for cured meats from China, while launching other Promar projects in Poland.
- In Zabrze, we rented premises from a mine that was going bankrupt, where we began producing our own smoking chambers and chemicals for cleaning machines. In the area of food additives, we added cooperation with the German company Giullini, a manufacturer of phosphates and phosphates," he says.
In 1999, Poly-Clip System GmbH, a manufacturer of clips and machines of which Promar was a representative, became Promar's majority shareholder. Thus, Promar gained access to knowledge and technology from all over the world and support for further development.
Promar in the 21st century - via Grodno and Kalisz to Zawiercie
Another milestone for Promar was the lease of the Kalisz plant from Miromar in 2000, where it launched its own production of spices and food additives. 
In 2013-14, Promar launched a major project in Belarus. Andrzej Marchewka recalls it this way:
- At the time, in addition to China, we exported a lot of machinery to the East, mainly to Russia and Belarus. We were offered to build a plant in Grodno with a capacity of several hundred tons, specialized in salami sausage production. It required a lot of effort, but we succeeded. My experience in foreign trade helped. The key was to obtain a line of credit operated by BGK [Bank of National Economy]. Our representative Edmund Mura spent more than six months in Grodno. It was a big challenge for both sides - in total, we sent 150 trucks there from Poland! We put the plant into operation at the end of 2014. It belongs to the Belarusian State, of course, but it is still successfully operating today," he adds.
The Belarussian project today is considered by Marchewka to be one of the most important milestones in Promar's history. Why? The money earnt by the company from this investment Marchewka decided to immediately invest in the company's development. That's why Promar purchased the spice plant in Koziegłowy from the BJ Products company in 2012.
- Kalisz was no longer enough for us. So we bought a plant with years of experience in the market. We couldn't wait for organic growth, learning the technology of spice production, etc. However, it soon became clear that the rapid growth in sales meant that these two plants were not enough for us either," he adds.
This is how Promar appeared in Zawiercie, where the company's headquarters is located today. Why exactly there? The key factor was the short distance - about 25 km - from Koziegłowy, which allowed the company to maintain its personnel composition.
- We bought several hectares of land in Zawiercie and we built our first food additive manufacturing facility. We financed it with money earned from the Belarusian contract. Production started in 2015," he added.
This is how Promar's adventure with Zawiercie began, where today the group's main operations center is located. The plant there was expanded in three stages. As a result, Promar has almost 1.5 hectares of roofed space there today.
In the meantime Promar built a state-of-the-art service center in Czerwionka-Leszczyny, some 90 kilometers away, where, among other things, machine demonstrations are held.
Today, Promar produces not only spices and functional agents, but also alginate casings and food additives.
- Our specialties also include crumbs, seasonings and marinades. We are one of the leading manufacturers of sachets in Poland; among other things, we produce ribbon sachets, which do not need to be added by hand, but can be connected to a machine. We are also an important producer of alginate casings, which we supply to Europe. In addition, we have a range of functional agents called pickling salts and salts for injectors," he adds.
One of the most important events in Promar's recent history was the separation of the company's two key business pillars in 2020. The seasonings and food additives business remained in PROMAR, while machinery sales were transferred to Promatec.
- It's been three years since then, and from today's perspective, I think it was a good move. Each company can focus on strengthening its market position. I handed over management of Promatec to the President, Mr. Pawel Marczakowski, and Promar to new President, Mr. Marcin Marmajewski. I have always tried to make Promar a structure that will have a growth factor implemented," he says.
Promar's dynamic growth has not gone unnoticed in the Polish agri-food industry, which is growing year by year. Many other companies supplying food additives or machinery have appeared on the market. Andrzej Marchewka says it bluntly: This is normal.
- Competition makes you slim, but it also stimulates the brain and thinking! It is also good, especially for the end user, who must have a choice. It also makes us grow, because we have to run forward. Those who don't move forward are going backwards. It makes us want to be better, make better products, look for opportunities for development. An example is our cooperation with professors from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, thanks to which we launched the production of alginate casings. Previously, we were a representative of a manufacturer from France. Today we are among the leading producers, we have a large share of the Polish market and we export to many EU countries," he points out.
The President of Promar has also always tried to integrate the industry community, such as on the sports level. This, of course, is well known in the industry, and organized since 2003 PROMAR OPEN National Tennis Tournaments.
- I made my living from the industry, but I also tried to give back to the industry. I have always supported and been a member of industry organizations like the Association of Butchers and Cured Meat Workers of Poland and the Polish Meat Association.
Andrzej Marchewka about Promar employees
The construction of Promar was for Andrzej Marchewka, in addition to developing production capacity or expanding the customer base, also an experience in team management - Nearly 300 people work in the PROMAR and Promatec companies today.
- From the very first years, it occurred that employees left and established their own companies, which is a natural thing. Once someone gained work experience at Promar they had no trouble with job offers. My goal has always been that my employees, regardless of level, simply wanted to work here. Of course, I also had to make difficult decisions and there were partings too, but I think I have a very good relationship with my current team. When developing the company, I tried to make sure that employees could grow in the company, that they were satisfied. Today when I ask at job interviews why you want to come to us, the answer often comes: because there is a good atmosphere here. This is the greatest reward for me. I'm happy that we make a good team," he added.
Faith plays an extremely important role in Andrzej Marchewka's life.
- I am a man of faith, although I went through different turns in my relationship with God. My return to faith was influenced by one event, which I still remember very well. It was in 2002 during a mountain expedition to the Cordillera with the famous Himalayan mountaineer the late Maciej Berbeka. We were there for three weeks in a group of 16 people. Among other things, we lived in a hostel located at 4900 meters above sea level, built by an Italian order. For two days we practically did not get up from our beds due to altitude sickness. Right next to the hostel building there was a 5-meter cross made of light wood. At one point I decided to separate from the rest of the group and lay down on a table in the unheated canteen. That's when I experienced something of an epiphany. It was an extremely profound experience dating back to memories from early childhood. It was something that changed my life," he says.
Andrzej Marchewka experienced a second encounter with God many years later through an unexpected message from Nowogródek, the hometown of Adam Mickiewicz.
- One day I received a message from a local priest who wanted to complete the construction of the first Catholic church in the area for 80 years. When I went there it turned out that the German foundation had only built the skeleton of the building in its shell. I don't know why, but I decided to build this church. We succeeded and in 2019 the consecration of the church took place, which is still in operation today and serves about 150 believers from that area. In addition to this, we managed to restore a chapel from the late 17th century, which was consecrated in October 2023. It was my reunion with God," he recalls.
For Andrzej Marchewka, mountains have always been a respite from everyday worries and a place to "recharge the batteries." The list of the President’s mountain achievements is impressive and includes ascents of Kilimanjaro (5895 m), Grossglockner (3798 m) or reaching base camp on Kalla Pattar near Mount Everest (5600 m) together with Jarosław Krzyżanowski, owner of the large poultry company KPS Foods.
Among other things, it is the mountains that Andrew Marchewka's plans for the coming months and years are also connected with. The number one goal remains the famous Gran Paradiso (more than 4000 m) in the Italian Alps, which the President failed to achieve many years ago due to weather conditions (snowstorm and hail in the middle of summer!).
First of all, however, Andrew Marchewka is preparing to...learn English.
- As a namesday gift for St. Andrew's Day, I am going to Malta for a special English course. I mastered German while still studying at SGH, while I learned English on my own. I use it freely, I got along without any problems, for example, in China, but it is the so-called communicative level. Since after seventy one needs to take care of new challenges, I decided to brush up on my English first. The worst thing is to do nothing. I would also like to take up farming. My father was a farmer and I have a lot of affection for it. I would also like to devote more time to my children and grandchildren. I also have a lot of books to read, which I have only read piecemeal for lack of time," he concluded.
PROMAR in new hands
Today, Andrzej Marchewka leaves PROMAR in the hands of his successor.
- I promised myself that before the age of 72 I would hand over the management of the company. It has never been my ambition to "stick” myself to the chairman's seat, I want to give successors opportunities to act. I am leaving the company satisfied, reconciled with myself. I would like to have the strength to continue to grow mentally and physically. I would also like my children to have no trouble with what I intend to leave them," he adds.
- I'm glad that starting from scratch in 1989 I managed to build something big that gives jobs to almost 300 people in our country. What I am most proud of is that all the money the company made stays in Poland. Plants, industry, innovation - all this builds the strength of our country. Whenever I come to Zawiercie or Czerwionka and look at our plants - I feel pride. This is something that gives great satisfaction," he concludes.
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