While it’s a well-known fact that FrieslandCampina makes mouthwatering cheeses, this over $12 billion company prides themselves on their commitment to farmers and fairness as much as the flavor of their products.
The Dutch company, which recently acquired two US companies, is indeed dominating the dairy market more than ever before, especially with their North American consumer business division being led by Gert Jan Poort, who has been with the company for 15 years. Gert, who moved to the US from the Netherlands in order to become president of this edible empire, explained that “our company is a cooperative, something you don’t see that often. It’s very charming because our stakeholders are not equity companies, but rather, the farmers. We are owned by over 18,000 member dairy farmers mainly in the Netherlands and parts of Germany and Belgium.” With a mild climate and fresh meadows for their Friesian cows, the Netherlands has the perfect conditions for producing high quality cheese.
Gert and his tight knit team work out of the company’s headquarters in Paramus, New Jersey. There is also an office in Miami and salespeople around the country and of course, the world. This cheese centric company, which exports goods from the Netherlands, was established over 140 years ago by several farmers that wanted to bring their milk into one factory rather than separately. According to Gert, they were “looking for synergies and economy of scale at the end of the 19th century (since 1871). Our current organization has evolved by dozens of mergers over time. You can turn milk into butter or cheese and export these products around the world. We were exporting mainly to countries where they didn’t have farms and cows.”
The fast-growing FrieslandCampina is currently active in over 100 countries around the world, some of which they only started exporting to recently. They have been exporting cheese to the US for over 50 years. This region has become a strategic priority for the company as they continue to grow towards the future, and Gert is steering them in the most delicious direction! Gert, 42, loves being a part of FrieslandCampina, which he describes as a family – and that includes the farmers! “It’s fascinating to work for a company that is always developing and where you work for the farmers. I love the purpose of the company, whose motto is nourishing by nature, as we are providing nutritious food for the growing world population, now and for generations to come. This passionate president also explained that over past years, they have invited the biggest retailers in the United States to come to the Netherlands to visit their farms and factories and to see what FrieslandCampina is all about. “What is unique about what we do is that we control the chain from grass to glass, or from farm to fork,” explained Gert. “This is great in terms of transparency because we can control the total quality from beginning to end.”
This cheese company, which is known for their compassionate practices, always strives for sustainability. “This goes from the caring of the cows to the quality in the manufacturing and the packaging of the products until it reaches the stores or our customers,” said Gert. With a more mature food print in the United States, the company is now able to improve sales and continue their steady growth.
If there’s one thing FrieslandCampina is good for, it’s their Gouda! While they are known for importing high-quality products from across the world, including their premium Cheddar from the UK, FrieslandCampina is most famous for their Gouda. After all, this Dutch cheese, which is named after the old city of Gouda in the Netherlands where it comes from, is perfect for a snack as well as entertaining purposes. The company is proud of Gouda’s heritage, especially the fact that they are the biggest producer of this cheese in the world. “A Gouda cheese is always extra special and very much appreciated – I know this from experience when I get invited by the neighbors for the holidays!” exclaimed Gert.
With the holiday season in full force, this is one of the busiest times for FrieslandCampina – after all, their famous cheeses, some of which are matured over a year, are perfect for platters at every type of party! FrieslandCampina’s popular brands include Kroon, one of the oldest Dutch cheese brands in existence. Their Parrano has a nutty flavor combined with the buttery aroma of a fine aged Parmesan, as well as the smooth creamy texture of a young Dutch Gouda. They even have a Parrano Truffle which is made with shaved Italian black truffles. After aging, the earthy flavors and truffle aroma emerge to create a complex flavor. Reimagine your cheese experience with the all-natural Rembrandt Aged Gouda, named after the famous Dutch painter of The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn. This Dutch cheese, which is traditionally ripened for one year, has the sharpness of an aged gouda, balanced with a smooth, firm texture. Why have ordinary cheese when you can enjoy Wyke Smoked Cheddar, which is matured for a minimum of 12 months before being sent to a local, traditional smokehouse where it’s smoked for 16 hours. The oak woodchip is damped with Thatcher’s Heritage Somerset cider, adding to its deep, rounded flavor with a slightly crumbly texture. Made from organic milk from cows, their Organic Kingdom Mature Cheddar will reawaken your cheese senses!
This fanciful cheese company, which you’ll find at the Fancy Food Show in New York and San Francisco, might indeed be known for their high-end holiday products, but different brands are suited for different occasions. While some are good for gifting or serving at holiday parties, others are suited for snacking. They are currently trying to show American consumers that Gouda and mild cheeses are just as tasty and definitely healthier than the processed and artificial cheese alternatives which are so readily found here.
With their newly expanded North American headquarters, FrieslandCampina is taking the dairy industry to delicious new heights! When it comes to products made from milk, this company is the master – aside from cheese, they also specialize in products that are used in formulas and drinks. Their FrieslandCampina Ingredients business and products include hydrolysates, creamers and pharmaceutical ingredients, while their FrieslandCampina Foodservice brands are used in bakeries, restaurants and catering.
Gert, who now lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey with his wife and two children, has learned about many cultures after having traveled extensively over the last few years and leading a team of people from Mexico to Brazil, but he is loving living in the Northeast. “New Jersey is fantastic. The people are nice and the nature is so beautiful and diverse. You have the shore but then also the forest. I go into the city for a run in Central Park or to have a picnic, and Sunday brunch with friends in New York is the best. New York is the most fantastic city in the world. This summer we went to Massachusetts and all over Cape Cod but I really have to explore the Hamptons next!”
Royal FrieslandCampina has been in existence since 1871, and just like a real family, once you become a member, you can stay a member, but you can’t become a new one. That’s because at FrieslandCampina, being a part of the cooperative is passed on from generation to generation. Gert even visits members of his ‘extended family’ when he’s in the Netherlands and regularly calls to check in with many of them. “We want to give them the income that they deserve. We are responsible for delivering the butter on their bread, so we want to give them a little bit extra for working 24/7. We’re very proud that we export our products to the other side of the world, including to the American consumer, and they are very happy with that.” They might be part of a multi-billion-dollar company and currently integrating three companies into one, but while they remain ambitious in their endeavors, their team in New Jersey has also become like a family.
Their director of marketing, Debbie Seife, is taking her FrieslandCampina cheese wheels for a spin and turning them towards the future. Let’s just say that Debbie is also passionate about the brands – and their packaging! “New packaging is coming early next year,” explained Debbie. “We’re developing new concepts and getting more innovative. The names won’t change but some of the designs on some of the products will have a bit more of an updated look and feel to them. For the brand A Dutch Masterpiece we wanted to tell the story slightly differently and tie the artists in a bit more.”
From their Kroon brand red wax Gouda to specialty varieties, Debbie’s specialty is ensuring that even their most artisanal cheeses remain approachable. Their award-winning Rembrandt, an aged gouda, is now sure to be remembered as much for its new modern and easy-to-read label as it is for its flavor and texture. “Our traditional wheels, wedges and chunks of specialty cheese are approachable, but then we elevate them in different ways,” explained Debbie. “Our Parrano cheese has nuttiness of the parmesan with the creamy characteristic of the gouda. Our farmstead Melkbus Gouda with truffles is a real crowd pleaser as well.”
FrieslandCampina has a lot of fun things coming up for the new year, including a new website that is set to launch as well as consumer promotions, including the chance to win a wine and cheese paint party at your local paint studio. Whatever they do, they try to tie everything back to the art, as well as the masterful creation of a piece of cheese. “The Dutch Masterpiece brand which Rembrandt is part of is a whole line of aged cheeses all with numerous awards.”
“We really have brands which are for different usage occasions, including more casual cracker cuts and sliced cheeses under the Frico brand. We take everything to heart here, from nutrition to how we treat our famers. It’s in every aspect of everything we do. In our Paramus offices we have sales, marketing, customer service, supply chain and finance departments. Together we are building a company as the importer and manufacturer which has been great!”
This Jersey girl, who is currently focused on in-store digital aspects, is also busy educating consumers here in the US about the quality of their product, as well as the fact that FrieslandCampina doesn’t just want to be known as a fancy brand! “We’re going through some label updates and introducing our specialty cheeses in a more approachable way. Fairway, Shoprite, Kings and Bottle King to name a few have them in this area, and the Southeast Publix, Bi-Lo and Winn Dixie supermarket chains are carrying some of our brands. Deli sections are really starting to expand with these specialty products as consumers are looking to expand their palates. The traditional cheese board is also starting to look a lot different with all types of accompaniments.”
They also work with partners who share their philosophy on sustainability, including a family from the UK, Wyke Farms, that has been producing cheese for over 150 years and is completely green, from solar panels to electric cars. “They make a couple different aged cheddars as well as a smoked one. We also have an imported Cheddar that is organic, the first USDA organic cheddar to come in from the UK. It’s already won lots of accolades and awards.”
From delicious Dutch Gouda to Parrano with truffles, FrieslandCampina is taking their tasty goods worldwide! Don’t be surprised if you see some of their Gouda at your next holiday party!