Rotterdam Food Cluster is expanding to the ZHE (South Holland islands). What does the food sector in that region look like and what is happening in the field of innovation? We present three innovative businesses in a series of portraits. This time around, we spoke with Armand van de Putte and René Bal of Bioriginal Europe/Asia BV in Den Bommel. A company that supplies oils, powders and blends with a high concentration of valuable substances to the human nutrition sector and the pharmaceutical industry.
From seed sellers to specialist
Bioriginal originates from VSP, which was established in 1993. This used to be a seed company with five employees, based in the Nieuwe Tonge. It focussed on trading in evening primrose, borage and blackcurrant seed. During one of the many trade fairs at which they were represented, they met Bioriginal Food & Science Corp., a Canadian company that was also trading in seeds at the time. This meeting finally resulted in the takeover of VSP, a new name (Bioriginal Europe/Asia B.V.), a new place of business, and a new specialisation. Today, the company employs around twenty-five people and a number of consultants. Bioriginal still works with seeds. These are converted to oil and cake (which is then ground to powder) with a very high concentration of valuable substances, for processing in sports nutrition products and food supplements, among other things. Fish oil is another important product. This is supplied to businesses producing baby foods, medicines and animal nutrition products. Armand: “We left the bulk business, as we wanted to add much more value in order to sell a high-quality niche product with a good margin. We are unable to compete price-wise; however, businesses turn to us for our service and added value.”
Innovations in trends and customer requirements
Bioriginal innovates and develops in various ways. They have their own R&D department, where new products are devised and trends are anticipated. But they also develop products in cooperation with customers. René: “We ask our twenty-five best customers specific questions on how they want to develop further and what they want us to produce for them. We try to meet these requirements to the best of our abilities. In most cases, we supply a semi-finished product to enable the customer to develop specific products, but we sometimes also supply finished products.” Sweetened oils are an example of such a technical innovation. Armand: “When we were children, we used to be fed a spoonful of cod liver oil to improve our resistance to illness. It tasted awful! By applying new techniques, we can produce fish oil that does not taste like fish at all, but nice and sweet instead. This allows children to ingest the healthy omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) in fish oil that have a positive impact in terms of cognitive development.”
The power of local partners
There is a growing need for Bioriginal customers to know the origin of the product. .They prefer ingredients originating from Europe. René: “If you process fish in, for example, baby foods, customers want to know where the fish was caught.” Customers often regard ingredients from China or other parts of the world with considerable suspicion. because of the lack of grip and monitoring there. In addition to transparency with regard to the origin, local ingredients are also preferred for reasons of innovation. Armand: “Certain seeds or crops contain nutritional values that can be isolated using the right techniques. This process requires close contact with the supplier. That is rather difficult if the supplier comes from China, India or Eastern Europe, but it can be done with suppliers growing their crops close to home. We’re very interested in finding local partners for the joint production of high-quality raw materials. These companies need to have a substantial volume, however, as we are producing for the international market.
"We ask our twenty-five best customers specific questions on how they want to develop further and what they want us to produce for them. We try to meet these requirements to the best of our abilities. In most cases, we supply a semi-finished product to enable the customer to develop specific products, but we sometimes also supply finished products."Bioriginal Europe/Asia BV
Specific professional knowledge needed
One of the major challenges for Bioriginal is finding the right people with specific professional knowledge about the products with which they work. Armand: “We’re an international business, but our employees are mainly from this region. Though we’ve had some very positive experiences with a number of specialists from abroad, keeping them here is often difficult.” For future innovation, Bioriginal especially needs young people who can help them take R&D to the next level. “We prefer working with young people or start-ups with specific knowledge in the areas of nutrition, biotechnology and the markets for which we develop our products.”