The can-do spirit of punk, combined with an attitude of never saying no to customers, has propelled De Jong Packaging into position as one of Europe’s leading produce packaging suppliers
The fresh produce industry is not widely known for encouraging a punk attitude among its associates, but the story of how Henk De Jong moved from growing salads and sprouts, to one of Holland’s leading suppliers of packaging, has elements of that DIY disposition.
In 1996 De Jong was a member of a grower’s cooperative, but was approached by a number of supermarkets to supply them directly. When he took up the offer, the cooperative responded by refusing to send him fresh produce boxes.
Rather than see this as a problem, De Jong saw an opportunity, and started up his own box production line. It eventually took over his farming business after he was hit with orders from growers across the Netherlands.
Now the business has set its sights on the UK, and while many other enterprises might be put off by the uncertainties of Brexit, once again De Jong Packaging is not deterred by a few bumps in the road.
“All of fresh produce in Western Europe offers enormous and consistent opportunities, but currently [our] focus [is] on expanding our position in the United Kingdom,” confirms sales and marketing director Arie Barendregt.
“Obviously, the economic turmoil and weak pound currency following the Brexit referendum does not help us, but we are persistent about growing in the UK. We would like to introduce more sustainable, and cost-saving fresh-produce packaging that is already in use in mainland Europe, so we clearly have work to do over there.”
Sustainability is a key concept for the firm, which sees it not just as a way to save costs, but also playing its part in conserving wildlife. All of the waste paper and ink from the factory in De Lier, South Holland, is recycled.
The offices use solar power, making them climate-neutral work spaces
“We have 16.500 m2 of solar panels on our roof, which results in a climate-neutral office building,” adds Barendregt.
“In addition, we use corrugated paper with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, which means we do not use paper that is connected to forests where the orangutans are [being] wiped out.
“Finally, in 2016 we have introduced new types of fluting which hitherto were not used in the Dutch market, and this has resulted in a reduction of easily 5% in overall paper tonnage, reducing the environmental footprint of the diesel trucks transporting this paper all over Europe.”
No such word as no
This proactive mindset extends to its relationships with customers. De Jong states that its guiding principle is “There is no such word as no”, and Barendregt says the company will always look for the right solution for its clients.
In order to offer customers the best price, it buys paper on the open market rather than being tied to a single supplier, which means it can buy when the price is keenest. It has its own stock warehouse, so there are no issues with being caught in short supply. Ove the years it has also built partnerships with many paper suppliers, that gives them confidence the market will always be ready to supply them.
“We buy 100,000 tonnes of paper a year, and this volume is quite interesting for most paper suppliers,” says Barendregt. “However, we only do business with companies we can trust, meaning that we have established long-standing relationships with these companies. We have experience of how they act and behave when [the] supply of paper is unstable in the market.”
Spending to accumulate
By providing customers with cost savings, the company itself has built a business that is in the enviable position of investing some €35million its facilities, significantly expanding its capacity for orders.
“As a result of [the investment] we now have two state-of-the-art corrugators as well as 12 box-making and tray-making machines,” says Barendregt. “We are geared up for growth with a huge production capacity, and we strive to maintain our cost-leadership position as well as our service-leadership position in the fresh produce packaging market.
“In the egg-transport packaging market in Germany we have just begun to introduce the very packaging that is already in use in the general fresh produce packaging market, further reducing the tonnage of, and increasing the strength, of the packaging.”
De Jong knows from its past experience as a fresh produce grower how important packaging is in the supply chain, and it uses this knowledge to help respond to the needs of its customers. As growers break into new markets, and form new relationships with retailers, it’s good to know that they have a team with such a dedicated approach to service.