The Dutch ingredients major has long followed a strategy of JV expansion with partnerships in Russia, Turkey and elsewhere across the globe. Most recently, it struck a 50:50 JV deal in India with its long-term agent Fine Organics to deepen traction in the market.
Roelof Krist, CEO of Zeelandia who will retire next month, and successor Michiel de Ruiter, both said this was a strategy that worked and would be kept.
“We strongly believe in local entrepreneurship. You also need to know the country,” Krist told BakeryandSnacks.com.
De Ruiter added: “Zeelandia is quite a big company, but if you look at it on a per country basis we’re looking at sometimes sizeable, sometimes smaller. I think the intention is not to build a huge central staff; the issue is more about finding entrepreneurs who are willing to invest. That gives us the guarantee of growth with minimum management.”
Every market is unique
Zeelandia’s business is currently split 50-50 between Europe and rest-of-world, but growth is fastest outside of Europe, Krist said.
Keeping up with these advances, he said, relied heavily on local partnerships.
“Pastry and bakery is very local, so we need local strong organizations via JVs… What we try to see is what is common and then we can exchange knowledge from one region to another,” he said.
Zeelandia’s majority JV in Cape Town, for example, had proven successful over the past two years, he said. Headquarters were opened in the city in February, last year.
Business culture hurdles?
Asked if working with JVs outside Europe was tough due to business and cultural differences, Krist said: “It’s also inside Europe you have this challenge. We started in Russia a few years ago, and there’s a cultural difference there. But, I’ve done this job for many years now and I like being active in other cultures… Of course there are surprises sometimes – working in China, for example, has proven the most difficult for me.”
De Ruiter said Zeelandia would continue to assess JV expansion opportunities in markets like Mexico, Peru and Africa but would also not rule out acquisitions.