Big Interview

Chr. Hansen CEO: “It is more evolution than revolution – we don’t need revolution”

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Asia pacific, Japan, Asia

De Jong wants to increase investment in longer term strategic R&D projects, including producing carmine through fermentation
De Jong wants to increase investment in longer term strategic R&D projects, including producing carmine through fermentation
Chr. Hansen CEO Cees de Jong talks with FoodNavigator about his vision for corporate evolution, with a definite emphasis on emerging markets – without neglecting the company’s European roots.

It is six months since de Jong took the helm at Chr. Hansen, and he has recently outlined a new strategy for the company, involving improved innovation, investing more in research and development projects, and expanding in Asia Pacific, among other developments.

De Jong said: “We want to continue to do what our predecessors have done well. It is more evolution than revolution; we don’t need revolution in Chr. Hansen.”

He aims to improve the company’s presence and performance in the Asia Pacific region in particular, on the back of the large growth potential there. The APMEA region (Asia Pacific Middle East and Africa) currently accounts for 17% of the company’s revenue.

“I want us to become better in Asia Pacific,”​ he said. “A very significant amount of growth is going to come out of Asia, specifically China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and possibly later in India.”

Global innovation

However, while there may be big growth potential in Asia, Europe still accounts for 44% of revenue, and investment in innovation will happen globally. One of de Jong’s key strategies is to increase spending on research to 7% of sales revenue, up from 6% this year, and with a greater focus on longer term strategic projects.

“When I look throughout Europe, I think what is important to note is that we outgrow our market, especially in cultures and enzymes. That is all to do with us bringing these new innovations to market,”​ said de Jong.

“…When I look to emerging markets though, I expect to see significant growth, and it is to do with this growing middle class. We need to make sure that we produce the products that they want.

“In Denmark, some product developers have said they like yoghurt that tastes a bit like fish in China. I don’t really care. If that’s what they want, we need to provide it.”

What’s on the R&D agenda?

The company is already working on developing a carmine colour through fermentation, thereby taking cochineal insects out of the carmine supply chain completely. De Jong estimates that Chr. Hansen could be providing carmine from fermentation within five to ten years.

The company is also researching the use of waste streams from ingredient production for entirely new ingredients, with “a sustainability angle as well as a corporate angle”, while also looking at megatrends like obesity to drive the development of new ingredients for sugar and fat reduction.

“These are not the type of innovations you make on a Friday afternoon,”​ said de Jong.

And what’s next for probiotics?

“We are definitely not giving up on Europe, but what we do not want to do is very large clinical trials that are just focused on an EFSA approval,”​ he said. “…We are only just beginning to understanding what all the bacteria in the human body are capable of doing. We are just at the beginning of our understanding of a new generation of probiotics.”

However, the company will continue to focus on Asia Pacific and Latin America for its probiotic ingredients for the time being, de Jong said.

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