What does Fonterra do?
"Fonterra is an international dairy corporation with an annual turnover of 15 billion euro and a head office in New Zealand. Its shareholders are the farmers who supply raw milk - mainly large scale cattle farms with an average of 500 cows per farm. Within Europe, our commercial focus is on business-to-business: basic ingredients for the food industry, but also high value products like proteins for baby nutrition and for the medical industry."
Your HQ is far away.
"Yes, but I quite like the distance between our office in Amsterdam and the international headquarters in New Zealand. It provides the European management with a high degree of freedom to build our new business in a way that we deem most successful and sustainable. Once a year, I fly to the gorgeous country of New Zealand to meet our Board of Directors European management European management and seek alignment with other colleagues. And with the 12 hours time difference, it sometimes works best if I leave the office a bit earlier. This way I can pick up my daughter from day care and once I’ve put here to bed, I have time for some calls with my colleagues who’ve just enjoyed their morning coffee."
What is your assignment?
"Increasing our market share in Europe, mainly by initiating joint ventures. This means closing the deals, but also follow-up on them and ensuring production facilities are built. I’m currently working with my team on realizing a new ingredients factory in Heerenveen, one of the largest dairy factories in the Netherlands. This includes operational issues as well as problem solving. For example, we recently commissioned a new production facility in the UK, which turned out to contain a higher level of bacteria than acceptable for baby nutrition. These bacteria are - and should be - present in every milk product, but as the margins were incorrect a large batch had to be sold as cattle feed instead. That was a costly error, but these things happen."
Dairy is a volatile market.
"Absolutely. Market prices fluctuated significantly between 2008 and 2012. This requires solid commercial management. That’s why we have started to work with futures and other derivatives, something which is completely new for dairy but common for grains and oil. Another initiative is an online auction, where Fonterra and other producers can sell their products. This could very well prove to be the new global standard in forming price levels for dairy, so it’s exciting stuff!"
Fonterra is co-operatively owned.
"All of our shareholders are New Zealand farmers with an operational interest in our company. This makes our corporate strategy long-term focused and relatively risk-averse. With every decision I take with regard to an acquisition or investment, there’s the farmers interest that dominates my intentions. What do they need? This also means that a substantial part of my time is dedicated to stakeholder management and gathering support for my plans. Something I really like - it’s so different from the way I used to manage clients when I was a consultant!"
How do you feel about your exit?
"I’m only 29, yet I’ve been holding a position that’s much more senior that I imagined I would be able to get when I was preparing my exit. I’m having a great deal of exposure in Sales, which is essential for growing into general management. Thats my goal, preferably in an emerging market. What strikes me is that many of my former colleagues stick with consulting for 8 to 10 years and then expect that they will easily exit into a general management role. But I can now see how different the reality is. It takes a few years to adjust to a different way of working and thinking."
2015 – present
Director Sourcing & Supply Chain, Fonterra
2014 – 2015
Director Sourcing & Export, Fonterra
2013 – 2014
Head of Sourcing (Europe), Fonterra
2012 – 2013
Business Manager, Fonterra
2010 – 2012
Performance Insights Manager, Fonterra
2006 – 2010
Strategy Consultant, Bain & Company