Cream of the crop
After recently unveiling a new ice cream base, Olympia NV looks set to experience further success as a leading dairy company
Based in Herfelingen, Belgium, Olympia is a leading provider of custom-made quality dairy products for industrial buyers, professional users and consumers. It offers a wide range of fresh, pasteurised and long-life (UHT) creams and milks in various packaging types, and it is also the largest producer of fresh rice fillings in the Benelux region. Its dessert range also includes various custards and Crème Anglaise products, whilst it also offers ice cream bases to its professional customers.
The company’s beginnings can be traced back as far as 1900, when it operated as a small dairy facility, run by a group of local farmers. It was eventually taken over in 1946 by the grandfather of the current owners – brothers Marc and Luc Van Impe, who serve as its managing directors today. During the 1960s and 1970s, Olympia made several acquisitions of smaller companies in the local area, which provided it with the platform for growth that has made it so successful today.
Renowned for its UHT creams, the company has been able to build up a large network of professional clients throughout the whole of Europe, as Luc explains: “Our UHT range includes sugared cream, vanilla cream and cooking cream – the latter of which is used in all kinds of sauces and so is in high demand in the professional market. We export these products throughout the continent, and have customers across France, Italy, Portugal and Greece.”
Olympia is always looking to innovate its product portfolio, having recently unveiled a new ice cream base at the Gastronord fair in Stockholm, Sweden. Luc elaborates on the benefits of the new product: “This is a base that can be used in both soft ice and in scoops, which we have been developing for several years now. It is an ideal alternative for customers that produce ice cream using batch rising systems, as it delivers the same results in less time and at a significantly reduced cost. Because this ice cream base does not need to be pasteurised, the customer will be able to produce the ice cream within just 20 minutes, rather than the two hours it would normally take.”
The next stage in bringing this product to the market will be to contact wholesalers, and Luc is pleased with the feedback that has already been received: “The first impressions from the customers that have bought this base so far have been very positive indeed. This has provided us with an excellent incentive to continue developing the product, and our plan is to work very hard on researching and developing new ways of innovating it further in the coming years.”
Another recent development within Olympia is its investment into a new bag-in-box packaging line. This will add greater flexibility to the company’s production capabilities, according to Luc: “With the new technology at our disposal, we are able to fill between five and 1000 kilos. Previously, our maximum capacity for UHT products was five litres, and so it has significantly improved our offerings.”
This flexibility is an important aspect of Olympia’s philosophy, and is evident throughout all its offerings. Luc reveals: “We are able to give our clients exactly what they want, unlike many of the larger dairy companies. If our customers want a special recipe then we can make batches of cream starting at 6000 kilos, tailor made to their demands. All these ingredients are carefully sourced from local Belgian farmers as well, in order to ensure that flexibility is provided without any compromise on quality.”
These high levels of quality are continually maintained through extensive testing and certification measures being taken. Luc highlights: “We are not only ISO certified but also BRC certified, which is very important in UHT and desserts. Because these are supplied to the retail market, this sort of accreditation is extremely important to us. That is why we endeavour to maintain a very strict policy with all of our incoming ingredients as well, and this is all very carefully monitored and controlled.”
Another of Olympia’s strengths stems is that it is part of a larger company, the Pajot Dairy Group. It is therefore able to draw upon the technical expertise of its mother company and its many subsidiaries – one of which is Olympia Italia, in Italy. Luc highlights how his company benefits from such an affiliation: “Through Olympia Italia, we have been developing our business in the Italian market from an office in Verona. Having such a presence in the markets that we operate in ensures that we can work with our customers there directly, which is a massive advantage.”
Olympia NV remains a successful company despite the recent financial crisis – although it has not been completely immune. Luc talks about how his company was affected: “In 2007 and 2008 the situation was getting challenging. There was a distinct lack of milk on the market and so prices skyrocketed. We definitely struggled and, with new European policies, we don’t expect things to get any easier – there will certainly be periods of volatile milk prices for years to come. Thecrisis taught us, however, that we needed to adapt our structure in preparation. We did this and now we ensure that we only purchase the milk we need rather than the milk we expect to use – this way we can avoid any chances of oversupply.”
With a positive attitude, Luc remains hopeful that an exciting future lies ahead for his company, as he concludes: “Our strategy will be to continue looking at new markets and export opportunities, in regions like Scandinavia and possibly even the UK. By building upon what we already have, I fully expect Olympia to remain a key player in the UHT and pudding industry both here in Belgium and across Europe as a whole.”