Anuga Frozen Food: The meeting place for the international frozen food industry
Many are called, but few are chosen. This year two more extraordinary leaders of the international frozen food industry - Kees Meijer, co-chairman of Lamb Weston/Meijer, and Jan Pickenpack, former managing director of Pickenpack Tiefkühlgesellschaft - are winners of Quick Frozen Food International (QFFI) magazine's Golden Ice Crystal Lifetime Achievement Award.
The sector traditionally gathers on the Monday during Anuga for the Frozen Food get-together, where the Golden Ice Crystal Award 2011 will be presented. This evening for the international frozen food sector, initiated by Koelnmesse, the German Institute for Frozen Products (dti), LEBENSMITTEL PRAXIS and Quick Frozen Foods International, is the leading communication platform for producers, dealers, caterers, bulk consumers and logistics professionals. After a panel discussion addressing the "energy hog myth", the highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the Golden Ice Crystal Award for pioneering work in product range development and/or the marketing of frozen food products. (Monday, 10th October 2011, 6:00 p.m., Congress Centre East, Offenbachsaal, simultaneous German/English translation).
"Each award winner, in his own way, has made significant contributions that have greatly moved the frozen food business forward," said John M. Saulnier, chief editor and publisher of QFFI. "We are pleased to honor them for their lasting service to the industry and for providing leadership which advanced the sector during crucial years of development."
Kees Meijer and Jan Pickenpack join an elite roster of past winners, which numbers only 18 persons. Among the frozen food industry luminaries having received the award, which was inaugurated in 1997, are the late Harrison McCain of McCain Foods, Karl Düsterberg of apetito AG, Dirk Ahlers of Frosta, Edward Haspeslagh of Ardovries, Rheinhold Stöver of Agrarfrost, Gerrit de Bruijne of Farm Frites, Per-Oskar Persson of Frigoscandia, and the late Volkmar Frenzel of Frenzel Tiefkühlkost.
Kees Meijer, who has been active in the potato business all of his adult life, is co-chairman of Lamb Weston/Meijer and chief executive officer of Meijer Beheer BV of Kruiningen, Holland. He also serves as president of the Brussels-based European Potato Processors Organization (EUPPA).
Mr. Meijer was key in the evolution of frozen potato product innovator Lamb Weston's business in Europe, which took a great leap forward when his family's company teamed up with American diversified food products giant ConAgra Foods (parent company of Lamb Weston) in 1994 to create Lamb Weston/Meijer. The 50/50 joint venture between Meijer Frozen Foods BV and Lamb Weston ranks as the second largest producer of frozen potato products in Europe, processing approximately 1.2 million tons of raw material every year.
The Meijer Group has deep roots in the potato field that date back to 1920. Its activities range from research and development in tuber varieties to trading in seed and table potatoes. In January of 1985 Meijer Frozen Foods BV began producing branded frozen potato products as well as private labels in a newly-built plant capable of processing seven tons per hour. Less than two years later annual output and sales were topping 50,000 tons of a wide assortment of products ranging from french fries and potato croquettes to dollar chips and more.
Demand continued to grow, and in 1989 a second frozen potato processing line was built, boosting capacity to 175,000 tons. By then exports were booming in markets well beyond Europe, as buyers in the Middle East and other regions were increasingly receptive to Meijer products.
ConAgra Foods certainly made the right move when it entered into what has proved to be a very successful partnership with Meijer Frozen Foods. The wise strategy of combining internal growth with expansion through acquisitions has turned Lamb Weston/Meijer into the frozen potato products powerhouse in Europe that it is today, with capacity to produce more than 600,000 tons of finished products from plants in Holland, the UK and Austria. Revenues topped EUR 400 million in 2010, a year in which employment was provided for approximately 1,000 people.
Sometimes success comes from new product development, and sometimes from driving further development of existing ranges, and the Lamb Weston/Meijer combination has proved to be successful on both fronts. From Wedges, Twisters and CrissCuts to coated and spiced fries, to sweet potato fries and potato-based appetizers, it has creatively set the fast pace for value-added potato product innovation in Europe and beyond.
Jan Pickenpack, former managing director of the Lüneberg, Germany-based company that bears his surname, comes from a long line of fish and seafood industrialists. The multi-generational, family-owned firm began operations as a trawler fishing company in Altona (now part of Hamburg) during 1906. In 1956 it formally became Pickenpack Tiefkühlgesellschaft, and in 1975 a modern production facility for frozen fish was built in Lüneberg, about 45 kilometers southeast of Hamburg.
A decade later Pickenpack relocated its headquarters at the factory in Lüneberg. At the same time, the days of the German deep-sea fishing industry were coming to an end due to implementation of the Law of the Sea's 200-mile exclusive fishing zones.
"A country with no coasts has no chance today to succeed in the fishing business because of political considerations,'' stated Jan Pickenpack in 1986. "Rather than become involved in a state-subsidized trawler association, as an independent private company we decided to get out of that business.''
Mr. Pickenpack wasted no time in charting a new course and further embracing opportunities in the growing value-added segment of the frozen fish market, saving more than 500 jobs in the process. He never looked back, but instead invested in modernizing fish processing lines, as well as factory freezing operations and cold storage facilities, and ramping up marketing and sales efforts for an expanding line of private label fishery products ranging from naturally-shaped Alaska-Seelachs Fillets and Gourmet Fillets to ready-made dishes featuring pollock portions in sauce. The company's growing customer base included the leading retail supermarket chains of Europe and beyond, as well as major foodservice operators and industrial clients.
Through the managing director's guidance and leadership, with the able assistance of his brother Thies, the company grew steadily, to the point where turnover reached EUR 117.6 million on sales of over 40,000 tons in 1998. That year products produced by Pickenpack claimed 20% of the frozen fish market in Germany, and exports represented 35% of sales. This was quite an accomplishment, considering the tough competition at the time.
Pickenpack Tiefkühlgesellschaft was sold to the Gild Buy-Out Fund in 1999, and in 2003 the company was merged with Cuxhaven-based Hussmann & Hahn. Since then the assets have changed hands a few more times, going to the Reykjavik-based Iceland Group and most recently to Hong Kong-headquartered Pacific Andes and a consortium of investors.
Anuga will take place from Saturday, 8th October, to Wednesday, 12th October 2011.