[This is the third and final in a series of interviews with industry leaders who operate in non-hemp-specific sectors but who have incorporated hemp into their businesses.]
A veteran executive and business owner, Onno Jongkind, Founder & Managing Director at Germany’s OPW Ingredients GmbH, has 20 years experience in the natural oils, fats and seeds processing sector. OPW produces flours and proteins, and a wide range of vegetable and nut-based oils for the food and cosmetics industries.
HempToday: Your business has grown quickly since you started in 2007. Tell us a bit about that journey.
Onno Jongkind: Originally we were established as a trading company. In the first years we grew very fast mainly on large volume commodity products. Initially the company was called Oil Protein Whey, but now we’ve moved out of whey and milk powder products, and out of trading and into production of specialty seeds and nuts because we recognized there was a big market for specialty oils and fats, including proteins.
HT: What kind of products are in OPW’s portfolio?
OJ: We use milling and extruding technology to develop high-quality food supplements, specialty oils and proteins. We were a first mover in 2010 and 2011 when we started to develop with our own milling for presscake into high-quality protein compounds. This year we’re seeing a lot of interest in plant-based foodstuffs.
HT: And what does your market look like now?
OJ: With vegan and vegetarian trends becoming more mainstream, we’ve been growing phenomenally on the plant-based protein side. With a radius of about 450 kilometers from our operations, we have a reach of 130 to 140 million inhabitants on the Dutch-German border. Our business is mostly in the Benelux and Nordic countries. We see Central Europe developing now but our main customers are in the German-speaking markets.
HT: What do those customers expect?
OJ: Quality first and foremost. The requirements of our customers have always been high. We’ve learned a lot about quality, and it cost us substantial investment to gain that knowledge, but it’s been worth it. We’re continually advancing on the quality side. That, of course, is the key to success in proteins.
HT: How does hemp fit into OPW’s portfolio?
OJ: We see hemp as indicative of the movement away from things like soybeans and genetically modified food sources. We’re looking at hemp flours and protein along with a number of flours and protein meal that are in the limelight. We’re also producing flour from almond, golden flax and golden linseed. With hemp we’re working with Hempro Int. (GmbH & Co. KG) based on their being at the forefront of hemp cultivation, processing, vertical integration, and their focus on quality. We see hemp growing as a source of one of the protein flours of the future.
HT: What else does that future hold?
OJ: There’s growing demand for the high protein products, with customers moving away from low-protein ingredients into 50-70% protein, particularly on the B2B side, where it can be used as a food component. And we’re combining various proteins. Within our toolbox we have low-protein flours which can be scaled up specifically for blends and mixtures. These are important blends as replacements for meat and for vegan products, where hemp is considered one of the products of the future.