Last year, the then Vaessen-Schoemaker made a name change as part of a rebranding. From then on, the 76-year-old company went through life as Vaess. What led to the success – which continues to this day – of this food ingredient business?
In 1946, Hubert Vaessen and his son-in-law Paul Schoemaker founded Vaessen-Schoemaker in Deventer. The company has been technically oriented from the start, leading to the development of many innovative ingredients, processing and preservation methods. And now, 76 years later, the company is still technology-driven.
“We make food for tomorrow possible”, begins Coen van Oorschot, commercial director of Vaess. “We do that with meat, fish, vegetarian products and bakery fillings.” But how do you know what tomorrow’s food will be? “By working a lot with your customers,” says Van Oorschot. “By working closely with our customers’ product developers and marketing departments, we know what’s going on and can anticipate tomorrow’s trends and challenges.”
In recent years, the trend seems to be towards consuming less meat. However, it does not have to be bad news for the meat industry, says Van Oorschot. “The meat industry is one that has developed in its current form for hundreds of years. This has made this industry very robust and knowledgeable. If there is one industry that can bring about the necessary change in our current food market, it is the meat industry.”
Commercial director Coen van Oorschot from Vaess: “We make food for tomorrow possible.”
Tomorrow’s meat factory is a food factory, believes Van Oorschot. “Meat technology is a well-developed technology that can also be used for other production processes in the food chain. Think, for example, of vegetable sausages with alginate casing. We also see that our customers in the meat segment are increasingly moving towards food companies.” Van Oorschot thinks this is a good thing, because you have to keep innovating. And Vaess likes to think together with his customers.
That way of thinking was badly needed during the corona pandemic. Van Oorschot: “Corona was also a shock for us; nobody could have predicted that.” But Vaess recovered quickly, says the commercial director. “We immediately adjusted our research and development program. It was also necessary, because our customers also had to turn their business around. What was previously sold at a counter or in the shop, suddenly had to be brought to the consumer on the back of the scooter.”
Hybrid meat products are the future
Vaess’ catering customers were suddenly faced with new challenges: How do you ensure that the chicken and pig, which are cooked at high temperatures, also remain juicy when they are delivered home? Van Oorschot: “If you don’t adjust your cooking methods, you end up with dry chicken at home, served with soft, soggy fries, which then ends up in the bin. A shame, because not only did people work hard on it, but animals also died for it.” Vaess supplies technology for the right water management. As a result, caterers can ensure that consumers can count on a juicy piece of chicken, even with home delivery.
The fact that Vaess was able to change so quickly is due to the food ingredient company’s working method, says Van Oorschot: “Every three years we publish a new technological toolbox in which we predict future trends. Parts of the new toolbox that had already been developed proved to be suitable during the corona crisis.” Vaess’ latest toolbox is based, among other things, on the concept of ‘breaking chains’. Van Oorschot explains: “The availability of raw materials but also of personnel is difficult these days; in terms of sustainability, there is still a lot to change and prices will probably continue to fluctuate for a while. We are putting our new toolbox so our customers can handle it and run a successful business.”
to be open
“A good recipe must be able to work with the customer, the raw materials must be easily accessible, and the product must ensure repeated purchases by the consumer.”
What is disappointing for Van Oorschot is the acceptance of hybrid meat products, where part of the meat is replaced by vegetables, for example. According to him, it is linked to consumers’ suspicion: “They can see it as an attempt to mislead them: ‘they are secretly trying to put less meat in it’. While hybrid is very much the future: you can make good products very quickly with less meat in it. And generally we eat more than enough meat here, so a little less is fine. It’s also a great way to get your kids to eat enough vegetables, something that remains a challenge for many parents.” According to Van Oorschot, the key is to remain transparent: don’t try to hide that you’re putting less meat in it, but be open about it.
When Van Oorschot is asked about the trends for the coming years, he replies: “What I see a lot in the meat industry are stuffed products. From cordon bleus to products with different layers. But we also see significant growth in intestines. They were always made of natural casing, but more and more companies are switching to alginate casings. It has to do with availability and price, but I also think the technology in alginate sheaths is maturing.”
There is another trend that Van Oorschot sees. “Over the last few months, it’s suddenly turned into something I haven’t seen since the Lehman crisis: pure enjoyment.” But here too, sustainability has been crucial, he says. “For example, the vegan chicken nugget from one of our customers is something that is doing really well at the moment. And it’s actually just snack food. And then I see a lot more sustainable snacks that are very popular.” People want to indulge themselves again, but not in such a way that they have to spend hours in the gym the next day feeling guilty. For Van Oorschot, the vegan chicken nugget also an excellent example of a good product: “A good recipe must be able to work for the customer, the raw materials must be easily available and the product must ensure repeated purchases by the consumer.”