Issue September / October 2006
All in the name
Lamb Weston/Meijer has recently experienced a major acquisition, as Marcel Huijsmans reveals
The year 1985 brought about the formation of Meijer Frozen Foods by Mr C Meijer, who had been involved in the potato business since 1920. Lamb Weston Inc., an independent operating company of ConAgra Inc., entered an amalgamation with Meijer in 1994 to exploit the everexpanding European market and the joint venture has, ever since, opened up new markets, introduced new value-added speciality products to the trade and is today the fastest growing potato company in the EU and the Middle East. At the beginning of 2000, Lamb Weston/Meijer (LWM) acquired Vriezo, a producer and marketer of processed potato products based in the Northern part of Holland followed by the acquisition of Fridor (from Danisco Foods) one year later. The total production capacity enables LWM to supply a wide product range to customers within the catering market, QSR, pub/restaurant and cost sector throughout continental Europe, the UK, the Middle East and South/Central America.
The 10th of May 2006 marked yet another significant milestone in the company’s history with the acquisition of Garden Isle Ltd, the UK’s second largest frozen potato processor based in Wisbech. This is an important step for LWM to further strengthen its market position for frozen French fries and potato specialities in Europe and in the UK, where it has served customer for many years. “Besides needing this extra capacity, the acquisition has offered us several advantages: we get access to the UK variety of British potatoes like King Edwards and Maris Piper, in addition to the potatoes from the continent. And because some of our customers are demanding a UK potato variety explicitly means that we are now able to satisfy that need,” comments Marcel Huijsmans, LWM’s marketing manager. “Another advantage of having a production facility in the UK is that we now can even better service our customers.”
He continues: “The client portfolio of Garden Isle was a perfect supplement to our own client base and we now have increased our share of retail customers. Moreover, it has also brought onboard some very typical UK products including roast potatoes and parsnips, which was something we didn’t have in the product range and we’re seriously looking into expanding these regional specialities. Our ultimate plan for this site is to bring it up to the high Lamb Weston/Meijer quality standards.”
With product quality, customer service and innovation as key pillars, New Product Development has always been important to the success of LWM and its customers. This focus on NPD was highly rewarded in Horecava 2006 in Amsterdam when its potato mash range, Mama’s Mash, was nominated for the Horeca/Catering Industry Innovation Award. Marcel adds: “The award is based on a combination of convenience – we produce small packs of 12.5g, making it easy to portion and serve – and the healthy aspect – three per cent fat and only 0.35 level of sodium. And more importantly, Mama Mash is also known for its authentic homemade taste. Even though we’re very pleased and proud of the award, the satisfaction of our customer is pivotal and means more to us.”
Looking to the future, Marcel concludes: “We are always looking for opportunities to expand our business and we see a lot of potential for LWM to further grow into new markets and new market segments. I can confidently say that the future is looking very bright for us and there is definitely room to grow for at least the next ten years.”