Marcel van der Vliet about DAO
Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you end up in this industry?
My name is Marcel van der Vliet, born and raised in Friesland in a family of dairy farmers and cattle traders, active in dairy commodity and ingredients trading since 2007. I studied ‘International Political Economy’ and after a few years of working I went to South-Africa to work at a rural school project. My roots, my study and this experience in Southern Africa formed an ideal preparation for a job as dairy trader / export manager on the African continent, selling Dutch, EU, South-American and NZ origin milk powders to re-packers, distributors and food processing companies across Africa. Later I broadened my horizon by developing new business in functional dairy ingredients for food applications, on both EU and international markets. After a brief period as trading manager in the EU chocolate industry, I joined the VanDrie Group in 2016, where I am part of the sales and procurement team, responsible for our food and feed grade business. We are one of Europe’s larger milk and whey ingredient processors, buyers and traders, both in food grade applications and for animal nutrition purposes – mainly calf milk replacers for veal production and for rearing young calves. We produce in different EU approved dairy establishments and export our dairy ingredients and young animal nutrition solutions to all corners of the world.
What challenges and opportunities do you foresee in the next 5 years for the dairy industry in general?
I see great opportunities for the global dairy sector and dairy industry in general, as long as we can keep the right balance between the different interests of the actors along the supply chain and stay focused on the wants and needs of dairy consumers in all parts of the world. As the global population is forecast to keep growing steadily, the demand for nutritious whole food like dairy will grow. Don’t forget that milk consists of all essential building blocks of human nutrition: water, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. The dairy industry is capable to process and valorize milk into a large variety of valuable ingredients for both direct, fresh, local and regional consumption and, due to a very efficient and effective trading sector, dairy products and ingredients can flow from surplus regions and countries to (mainly fast growing metropolitan) areas of shortage. Constant innovation and improvements along the chain are necessary to keep matching supply with demand . Along the way we have a collective responsibility to protect, defend and promote the long term sustainability of the sector.
What does the digital transformation mean for van Drie and how is the company adapting to this new stage?
Within the VanDrie Group digitalization is core business, already for many years. Although our Group is primarily known for our management of an integrated veal production chain, which leans heavily on our in-company developed “Safety Guard” quality and traceability management system, our dairy ingredient processing and trading companies are run on SAP, the famous enterprise resource planning system that enables us to manage our risk, positions, stocks and contracts in an efficient and reliable way. As VanDrie Ingredients team we are the linking pin between our food and feed grade activities and although still a lot of old-school trading is done on a daily basis, by phoning around and negotiating with producers, traders and brokers, we have been one of the early users and supporters of DAO.eu, which has meanwhile developed into a full-fledged and very functional, realtime B2B market place. We use it actively, although not weekly yet, at first mainly for price discovery and meanwhile more and more for filling in actual needs and for selling off some excess product in case we want to change our position.
What opportunities do you see for van Drie in using the DAO.EU marketplace?
As long as you keep enrolling more and more suppliers, producers and traders on the platform, maybe even from outside the EU, we will do more business on the platform. The functionality of both the site and the app are really getting up to standard and very user friendly. As the phone is almost always at arms’ length, you make it very easy and tempting to place a bid or offer. We are intending to grow our dairy ingredient (production and export) business considerably over the next years and we like to do that with a lean and mean type of organization, so a digital marketplace like DAO.EU will help us to accelerate I expect.
What is necessary to create (double-digit) growth in online dairy trading?
Well, I guess that you first will need to get more cross-European producers of dairy commodities and ingredients on board, enlarge the product portfolio with products like fat-filled powder, lactose, whey permeate, whey protein concentrates and isolates. Secondly, you will need to get buyers registered from outside the EU, Africa, the Middle-East and Asia. Start with the African contintent. The young entrepreneurs over there love digitalization and they are enjoying a massive technology leap. They will embrace the platform. A few compliance and financial risk management challenges will await you, but the market is there and it’s growing fast. Eventually you can grow the platform into a global dairy trading marketplace. Merge with that other bi-weekly actively used dairy trading platform eventually? You will do great, we’re confident.