Innovation and expertise
Fonterra Europe’s decision to relocate from Hamburg to Amsterdam was prompted by the urgent need for reorganisation and a strategic reorientation of the company’s European activities. “Under the existing structure, our European organisation didn’t have much of a future,” states Koert Liekelema. In 2010, Liekelema was appointed General Manager of Fonterra Europe and charged with the task of reviewing European operations identifying new growth opportunities. “The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, however, has what it takes,” says Liekelema from his boardroom overlooking the sea of glass buildings in Amsterdam’s business centre, located on the south side of the Dutch capital. “The global dairy industry’s largest players are all located at a stone’s throw from our office. We have direct access to the most innovative knowledge on dairy and dairy ingredients and the best and smartest people in the industry.”
Once the decision had been made to find another location for the company’s European headquarters, a short list of attractive locations was drawn up. The new location had to be well connected and offer affordable office space as well as a diverse international community, a favourable tax climate and a pro-business outlook. The Amsterdam Area equalled or surpassed the other nominated destinations (Paris, London, Madrid and Zürich) in all these areas. The Netherlands’ position as Europe’s leading centre of knowledge and innovation in the dairy sector formed the deciding factor.
All major players in the international dairy industry are represented in the Amsterdam Area or its direct vicinity, and have also concentrated a large portion of their research activities in the Netherlands. “We’re no more than an hour’s driving distance from the world’s most talented minds and best research facilities in the area of food and food technology. That was another key reason to opt for Amsterdam at the end of the day.”
“I was quite worried we wouldn’t be able to find enough talented people in such a short space of time. Still, we managed to pull it off. The New Zealand head office informed us that we’re now the group’s most diverse team and praised our high quality standards.”
Those high standards will prove crucial in the years to come: Liekelema will be asking a great deal of his employees at the new European head office and research centre. “We’ve found our market niche. We’re focusing on the development and application of proteins as a supplement in dairy drinks that provide additional structure or volume. We’re currently concentrating all Fonterra’s research in this specialised field at our own research centre at the Zuidas Amsterdam. We’re moving up the supply chain: having started out as an importer of milk, Fonterra has now developed into an innovative business partner that leads the way on many future dairy product developments. None of this would have been possible if it hadn’t been for our relocation to Amsterdam.”