Entrepreneurial stories

"Plants are our heroes"

Royal Cosun is a modern, future-oriented cooperative, founded in the Netherlands and active worldwide. We work with thousands of growers, members of the cooperative as well as suppliers. The head office is located on Breda’s Van de Reijtstraat. I speak with Hans Meeuwis. He has been CEO of Royal Cosun for almost 2 years now. Hans: "I find the cooperative a great model, it could also be the model of the future. Cosun is a company owned by 8,400 arable farmers. The beauty of the model is that it has long-term vision. The company has existed for 125 years. You can’t say that about every company."

Hans Meeuwis CEO, Royal Cosun

Video: Hans Meeuw...

Video: Hans Meeuwis talks about Royal Cosun

In this video, Hans Meeuwis, CEO of Royal Cosun, talks about his company, the bond with the city of Breda and international entrepreneurship.

You say that the cooperative could be the business model of the future. Can you explain that?

I worked at DSM, which is a publicly traded company. And I worked at Friesland Campina and now at Cosun. Friesland Campina and Cosun are both cooperatives. The owners, the arable farmers, are the members in this case. They have a vested interest in ensuring that Cosun’s revenue model is guaranteed in the future. Therefore, the company want to invest in futureproofing. We now have 33,000 cooperatives in the Netherlands. This is 30% more than in 2016. So clearly the popularity is increasing, which is a nice development.

What does Cosun do?

Here in the Netherlands, people know us from the Aviko french fries or Van Gilze syrup or powdered sugar for the pancakes. But we are, and do, much more than that. Our fruit preparations go in smoothies, for example, and our healthy fibers are used in muesli bars or infant food.

Everything we do is based on plants. We recently developed our new strategy: Unlock 25. That stands for unlocking all the beauty and healthy things that plants have to offer us. Here we respond to major social developments. For instance, protein transition; the switch from animal to vegetable proteins. Or replacing fossil ingredients for more plant-based, and therefore less environmentally harmful, ingredients.

Can you elaborate?

If you look at a sugar beet, you will see the presence of cellulose in the pulp of the sugar beet. These cellulose fibers can be used in detergents and in shampoos to replace microplastics polyacrylate and detrimental to the environment. If you replace this with cellulose, you have a biodegradable, plant-based ingredient in your bath foam.

What is Cosun's connection with Breda?

Cosun’s sugar factory once stood here. We stopped production in that factory in 2005. Cosun now has the two ultra-energy-efficient factories located elsewhere in the Netherlands. We really do have roots in Breda and that is also one of the reasons and why our head office is located here. By the way, I can still remember, as a youth, cycling under the clouds of the sugar factory while I delivered newspapers in Breda.  

So you also have a personal connection to Breda?

I was born and raised in a working-class neighborhood in Breda Noord. I come from a family with three children, a brother, and a sister. I lived here until I went to college at eighteen and eventually ended up in different cities. I returned to Breda in 2004. I have a great connection with this city.

What kind of people do you need at Cosun?

We want to grow as a company, so we need top talent. Often when I talk to new candidates, they are very enthusiastic about our ambitions and activities. However, first we do need to inform them about them.

Increased visibility is important for us. We want more people to know about what Cosun does, the contributions we intend to make for the world and the people we work with. As I walk through this lovely city, I’d like to know that the residents here know that the head office of Cosun, a leading company in the agrifood sector, is located here in beautiful Breda.

"We've always stayed in Breda, apparently we feel at home here"

Lieve Declercq Managing Director, SPIE Netherlands


Roy Heijdra Marketing Manager, U-Boat Worx

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