Inspired by nature

Founded in 1977 as ‘Oerlemans Diepvries Centrale BV’ by Dutch entrepreneur Mr. Oerlemans, the Oerlemans Foods Group (Oerlemans) has today grown to employ circa 700 members of staff across the four production facilities and central offices. The company has developed a strong presence inside both Northern and Eastern Europe from its current headquarters in Venlo within the Netherlands. In addition to its manufacturing facilities located in the Netherlands and Poland, Oerlemans also manages regional offices within the UK and Poland as well as a further office in Moscow. Throughout its history Oerlemans has grown to export to customers within the retail and foodservice markets across 50 countries globally and continues to deliver a market driven and innovative service.

“Mr. Oerlemans was a visionary who clearly saw the potential and value of the fresh frozen market and as such Oerlemans was one of the first companies to focus in the area of fresh frozen food sourcing and production. Building the Oerlemans company from 1977 onwards means that the business has built up a great history of experience in the production of fresh frozen vegetables, fruit and potato products,” explains CEO, Andre Hendriks. “Oerlemans has the control of the full value chain from field to fork and works together with its loyal famers based in the Netherlands and Poland to ensure the best raw materials to process according to the highest quality standards. Nowadays the Oerlemans Foods Group is delivering a full product portfolio, focused on private label excellence. By bringing inspiring fresh frozen solutions to the market to help our customers to grow the category.”

Oerlemans was previously featured in FoodChain magazine during June 2015, when Andre discussed the importance of innovation across the food industry as well as a growing appreciation of the freshness of frozen foods. Where previously frozen products may have been undervalued,today consumers & customers are increasingly aware of the benefits of the fresh-frozen sector. Most vegetable products arrive at the Oerlemans production facilities within only four hours of harvest, meaning that they are incredibly fresh having been harvested at their peak and immediately frozen on arrival. This means that the resulting products that are manufactured by Oerlemans retain high levels of freshness as well as their important vitamins, fibres and minerals.

The growing demand for fresh and healthier foods has generated new trends and opportunities across the food and beverage industry that has helped to generate increased business for Oerlemans and its clients. “What you typically see throughout the market is the fresh frozen category is of increasing importance to retailers and food service customers. This is linked to the growth of fresh frozen concepts such as fruit smoothies and meals for example, in line with the growing trend for the consumer who are more and more looking for healthy, easy to prepare and tasty food offerings.

“There are new innovative food solutions entering into the market that are targeted towards those consumer needs and are selling very well generally. The awareness of consumers regarding fruit and vegetable intake has had a positive impact on the fresh food market and with this development more retailers are linking the fresh market with the fresh frozen goods,” Andre elaborates. “Next to the increasing health awareness, I see that the fresh frozen market is of increasing interest to the consumer because of the benefits it has in terms of convenience and the simplicity of preparation and storage of frozen fresh foods. Another element that I see will benefit the fresh frozen market is the growing public awareness of food waste, which is eliminated by fresh frozen food because consumers are able to use these products only when they really need them. As a result of above positive indicators, we have seen increased attention from consumers, and with this from our customers, and as a result producers & customers will be interested in developing further interesting solutions that are in line with these trends. These are all really positive developments for the future of our business and the market in general.”

Further to the growing demand for healthy food options, there is an increasing expectation for food safety and transparency in food production. To meet the challenges of both greater demand in potato and vegetable products as well as for high quality manufacturing processes, Oerlemans has continued to invest in its facilities by doubling the size of its potato factory in Broekhuizenvorst while relocating its vegetable production to Oerlemans’ dedicated vegetable production facility in Waalwijk. As well as allowing the company to increase its manufacturing capacity, the on-going investment of Oerlemans into its facilities has helped the business to obtain high levels of certification in food safety. During September 2015 for example, the company underwent an unannounced BRC International Standards (BRC) and an International Food Standard (IFS) audit, with Oerlemans again earning a high level of certification. “The demand for food safety is growing as consumers and authorities increasingly expect that the food we eat should offer the highest levels of quality and security. At Oerlemans we are constantly investing in and ensuring the adequate availability from field to fork, the nutritional adequacy, and the safety of the food supply which has become increasingly complex and requires substantial and continuous focus. We are proud to have earned over the last years a high certification in both IFS and BRC,” Andre says.

“We are making significant investments in innovating and delivering the best in fresh frozen fruit, vegetables and potatoes. This will allow us to meet the rising demand but also produce more efficiently with an even better outcome, while meeting the evolving expectations of our customer base. We have invested for example in a new packaging line in Waalwijk and recently installed a state-of-the-art fryer for our potatoes in Broekhuizenvorst together with a new filtering system,” he continues. “We have decided that our mission is ‘To be the best private label supplier of fresh frozen vegetable, fruit and potato solutions in Europe.’ This is quite a statement, as it means that we really have to be much better than the market on some essential competencies. I see that this has to be achieved mostly through really good customer service and innovative capacity to make a difference as a medium-sized enterprise like Oerlemans.”

The company’s strategy to operate as the leading fresh frozen provider through Europe is supported by the Oerlemans Foodlab, which enables the company to network directly with suppliers and customers to develop market-leading products in line with current consumer trends. “Our Foodlab is the centre of innovation and inspiration, we believe in agile and flexible development together with our main customers who are looking for category growth initiatives,” Andre concludes. “Innovation in Oerlemans is enabled by our unique capability to proactively support the concept development needs of our strategic customers with the aim to drive category growth as well differentiation by bringing fresh frozen inspiration to the shopper community of our customers. This means that we invite our main customers on a regular basis in our Foodlab to come together to codevelop unique and innovative solutions. We as an industry have so much to offer in bringing excitement into the fresh frozen category and the consumers are ready for it!”