We want to supply our customers with quality products, with as little negative impact as possible. That is why we are looking in a targeted way at how we can improve our chain and our products. We listen to demands and requirements from the market and society. Working ethically and treating humans and animals with respect is an absolute requirement for us in everything we do. We are entering into new partnerships and setting a new course. We are taking up a new position, for example, in the food market with regard to the production and trade in raw dairy materials. We are always looking for new markets where we can be of added value with our products and can contribute to the demand for safe and nutritious animal proteins. In order to achieve this, we are making active connections with existing and potential customers and consumers. We are entering into dialogue with local stakeholders so we know which themes are important on a local level and can optimally fulfil customer wishes. Our companies operate in a dynamic global market. Global economic and geopolitical developments are leading to more difficult sales and sometimes to the closing of markets. By entering into new markets, we are simultaneously spreading the risks across our sales channels.
Our operating result
The consequences of COVID-19 have had an impact on the results of the VanDrie Group. Increasing direct and indirect costs and reduced sales have affected the financial strength of the organisation. In addition, various large investments have taken place, such as renovations at various locations and completion of the Drieveld innovation centre. The financial figures for 2020 will be published by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce at the end of 2021. For that reason, this information is not included in this report.
In 2020, the VanDrie Group completely took over the animal feed company Brons from Voorthuizen. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) issued approval for that. Brons from Voorthuizen produces high quality compound feeds for beef cattle, pigs and poultry. Brons, with a turnover of 45 million euros, is a stable factor in the Dutch compound feeds market. The takeover means that the long history of the family business that started in 1929 will continue. All jobs at Brons will be maintained, as well as the company name and premises. The Brons family will also remain actively involved in the company’s activities.
In December 2020, the takeover of the Dutch activities of A.J. van Dam Beheer b.v. was announced. A.J. van Dam Beheer b.v. is active in various disciplines within the veal sector. Its activities include the trade in calves and keeping calves on contract. The company was started by the Van Dam family in 1979. The family-run company now has a turnover of 120 million euros and has 14 employees. Following our takeover of its activities in the Netherlands, the employment will be maintained. The activities of A.J. van Dam Beheer b.v. outside the Netherlands will be continued unabated and independently by the company. We are waiting for approval from the ACM.
In February 2020, the business location of VanDrie Belgium in Hasselt was closed. This was because there was no development space at that location; the local authority did not issue an extension of the environmental permit. A social plan was drawn up for employees and, where possible, they have been accommodated at other VanDrie organisations. In 2019, Animal Rights lodged a complaint with civil proceedings before a Belgian investigating judge due to alleged animal welfare violations. In 2020, the investigation into the stated charges began, despite the fact that VanDrie Belgium was set to close. This investigation had not yet been completed at the time of publication of this report (June 2021).
A step forward in the value chain with the monetising of whey
As food producer, we are always looking for ways to create added value by producing of safe and nutritious animal proteins. From day one, the creation of value from residual waste flows has been an important part of this. We include those ideas in the positioning of our company.
Serum Italia, a subsidiary of the VanDrie Group in Italy, produces whey protein concentrates (WPC) and other whey derivatives for sports foods and ingredients for dairy products and food manufacturers. Bert van den Burg, commercial manager at Serum Italia, talks about the value of whey, a residual waste flow from cheese production.
“Northern Italy is known for its luxury cheeses like Grana padano or Parmigiano Reggiano. These are valuable products in the economic sense of the word, because as a result of producing them, the Italian cheese makers achieve high valorisation of the milk. For a long time, less attention was paid because of that to the value of a residual waste flow, the liquid whey. In Italy, this was mainly used to feed the pigs. A missed opportunity, as the whey contains valuable components. By drying it, you can concentrate it into a product that consists of a minimum of 80% proteins.
In 2018, the VanDrie Group decided to capitalise on this opportunity with the takeover of Serum Italy. In order to manufacture products for human consumption, stricter requirements apply, in fields such as hygiene, safety and quality, for example. This also meant we needed to change our way of thinking, because we were faced with a different market: our future customers were producers of dairy and sports food. They have different needs to those of livestock feed manufacturers.”
Its only when you properly understand the needs of the customer, as well as your own product, that you can take the next step in the value chain.
By entering the food market, the VanDrie Group has taken a step forward with Serum Italia in the value chain. The bar is higher for us now, but as a result of that, the value being obtained from whey is higher too. We process about 60,000 tonnes of liquid whey every year. I see enough opportunities to add more value there. For example, there are even more potential customers in the foodstuffs industry and many whey products are used for medical food, children’s food and baby food, As whey protein is very similar to breast milk in terms of amino acid composition. The VanDrie Group will continue investing in the processing of liquid whey into powdery products with broad application in the food industry. For example, we are not only looking for ways to create value, but we are simultaneously combating the waste of valuable nutritional raw materials.
COVID-19 has meant that food fairs, which the VanDrie Group normally takes part in, were cancelled. We were also not able to receive customers at our companies. Direct contact with our customers is essential to properly serve customer wishes. For that reason, the VanDrie Group was the first meat producer in the world to develop and publish a 3D cuts book in November 2020. By means of augmented reality technology (AR), customer specifications can easily be made clear remotely based on the images. In this way, customers all over the world can view various meat cuts from different perspectives.
Development, knowledge and innovation
The VanDrie Group wants to be a key player in a sustainable livestock farming sector that provides valuable nutritional food products and in which animal welfare and earning capacity within the chain are guaranteed. In view of the challenges facing the veal sector now and in the future, innovations to improve the chain are essential. That is why the VanDrie Group opened the Drieveld research centre in the village of Uddel in the province of Gelderland in 2020. The new research centre is going to help the Research and Development (R&D) department of the VanDrie Group in order to accelerate development in the chain. On the one hand by conducting practice-oriented research, and on the other hand by sharing knowledge and innovations with chain partners and stakeholders.
Drieveld has a stall with 1,064 places for calves, divided over five sections and a large viewing room that offers visitors the opportunity to observe everything. Two sections have been specially equipped for research on breeding calves (calves suitable for dairy farming) and three sections for calves destined for the veal sector. In this way, we aim to build a bridge between the dairy farm and calf husbandry. You can read more here.
We are involved with various research projects directly or via our industry organisations (such as the Dutch Veal Industry Association (SBK)) or the Dutch Feed Industry Association (Nederlandse Vereniging Diervoederindustrie, Nevedi). In 2020, three public-private partnerships were started.
Reduction of emissions and improvement of stall climate by tackling the source in calf stalls.
In the quest for new stall systems in livestock farming, the reduction of emissions is the main focus. This is also of major importance to the veal sector. At the same time, the veal sector wants to prevent a one-sided focus on reducing emissions from leading to undesirable shifts to other themes, such as deteriorating animal health or animal welfare. That requires a more holistic approach. That is why the SBK has started a special research project which should make it clear with technical designs what the impact of these will be on stall climate, animal health (reduction in antibiotics) and animal welfare. The VanDrie Group is involved in this via the SBK. The duration is four years.
Better stall, better manure, better yield
Everything within this research project revolves around manure flows from new stall systems. Livestock farmers are urgently seeking new stall solutions that will reduce emissions of ammonia, methane and nitrous oxide. An important cause of these emissions is the combination of manure and urine. That is why research is being conducted into separating these two components. This also provides other manure products (e.g. in terms of their composition and their possible application in agriculture). The research is looking at how arable farming, which is an end-user of manure, can better utilise these products. Examples include precision fertilisation and as a replacement for artificial fertiliser. The VanDrie Group is involved in this via the SBK. The duration is four years.
Klimaatmonitor Nederlandse Agroproductie (Climate Monitor Dutch Agroproduction)
At this moment, the effect of Dutch agroproduction chains on our climate cannot easily be linked to Dutch climate policy. This is due to the difference in the orientation of the international chain approach that the business community applies and the national sectoral approach of the government. In the national approach (also referred to as the schoorsteenbenadering or ‘chimney approach’), the effects of the efforts of agrosectors, which take place other than on the farm as the primary unit and beyond the national borders, are not taken into account. The business community does take these into account, however, by basing itself on a Life Cycle Assessment of its processes and products. The aim of this public-private partnership is to improve the monitoring of the Dutch Agro & Food production on the basis of the chain approach and the national registration (schoorsteenbenadering), and to align them more effectively. The VanDrie Group is involved via Nevedi. The duration is four years.