PART ONE: GERMANY
A Whole New World
By Tom Wray, Associate Editor
Meat-industry suppliers who have made a name for themselves in Germany stoke the fires of success in the large U.S. market.
The United States is one of the largest food exporters in the world, including meat products. However, the machinery used to produce those finished products doesn’t always come from homegrown ideas. European innovation, particularly that born in Germany, has brought plenty of technical advancement and ingenuity to American shores.
Along with being a major exporter, the U.S. is also the world’s largest marketplace, a fact that attracts the best and the brightest to bring the best possible products and processes. German companies lead that charge, — particularly in the meat-processing industry — earning excellent international reputations for their products. Those companies have established a strong presence in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had a few hurdles.
First, there is a large difference in scale. Germany has approximately 82 million people packed into a country not quite as large as the state of Montana. The United States, on the other hand, has more than 300 million people spread across an area two and a half times the size of the European Union.
Second, cultural differences pose challenges. The vast majority of Germany’s population is German, even with the immigration into the country. There is an underlying shared culture and, for the most part, a single common language. Culture and ethnicity in the U.S. are as varied as the geography and include contributions from every part of the planet (including Germany, for that matter). Even the language in the U.S. changes with accents of English and the use of foreign languages.
Finally, there are basic differences in day-to-day life that do create issues for companies looking to make the jump across the pond. Germany uses the metric system, whereas the U.S. uses standard measurements; even the power supply is different, with the U.S. often using 110-volt systems and Europe using 220-volt systems.
That doesn’t stop the ambitious from trying, and many have succeeded. German companies such as Bayer, BASF, Volkswagen, BMW and DaimlerChrysler have long been household names in the U.S. and also are known for their pioneering product and process development within their respective industries.
Machinery and exports are the drivers of the German economy. The United States is one of Germany’s largest trade partners, running a close second to France and well ahead other European countries.
Good reputations for building and innovation extend to members of the German meat-processing industry. Several companies got their starts in Germany and made the jump to the U.S., and more than one of them has pointed out the fact that the U.S. remains the world’s largest market for meat. These companies have learned that it can take large amounts of money and patience to break into that large market, but the rewards are worth it.
As the world economy becomes ever more integrated, these companies will be well-placed to take advantage of the facilities and networks they’ve established in this country, while also a bit of what they learned about how U.S. businesses work.
“Germany’s specialization in this picture is definitely its engineering, while American strength lies more in general business,” says one German executive working in the U.S. “Those companies that can combine well-engineered solutions with the acumen of the American business culture will have huge successes over here.”
What follows are profiles of several companies who have mastered those methods and found success in the U.S. market providing German-born engineering and innovation.
Baader Food Processing Machinery
Baader Food Processing Machinery got its start in the United States in 1980 with the establishment of Baader North America Corp., says Betty Stine, business planning manager for the company.
“In 1997, our parent [company] also acquired Johnson Food Equipment (now Baader-Johnson), which has been in existence in the poultry industry since 1946,” she continues.
“In our poultry business, we were proud to introduce our 886 InspeXtor which has color vision and X-ray for poultry processing,” Stine says.
She sees the company’s strengths as “our ability to service our customers from a human standpoint and from a technical/spare parts standpoint.” She believes the future possibilities for other German companies are good, especially if they can adapt to the cultural differences between Europe and the U.S.
As for Baader’s future goals: “To continue to provide processing solutions to our customers that include products that are truly the lowest lifecycle costs to our customers in the marketplace.”
Bizerba GmbH & Co.
Bizerba USA has a heritage going back more than 140 years, thanks to the legacy of its parent company in Balingen, Germany.
The company has been in the U.S. since 1983, with offices currently in Piscataway, N.J. It has a full line of equipment for labeling, slicing and weighing. According to Bizerba USA’s Web site, the company works to maintain a level of quality and to add value to the machines they build. Some of the areas it focuses on include maintenance, engineering, safety and workflow. Equipment is supplied from the start of the processing line all the way to the retail counter, with products made specifically for each segment.
CSB-System International, Inc.
CSB-System International, Inc. is a relative newcomer to the American market, incorporating here in 1998 and starting work in January 1999. President and CEO (and head coach North America) Patrick Pilz says there were some challenges at first working in the U.S.
“We sell, essentially, ‘best business practices’ when it comes to computer technology and the meat industry,” he explains. “Europe operates in entirely different infrastructure: Wages and building costs are much higher, which is a change in the cost structure, but also education. You find much better educated people inside the plants.”
He says this means that European companies focus more on error prevention while American companies tend to invest more in fixing existing problems. Vendors that work in both areas need to learn and adapt to the environments. The company uses that experience and expertise in computer technology and the meat business.
“We can provide access to technology for the people in this industry and help them to learn and understand what this can do to impact their bottom line,” Pilz states.
CSB-System works with German colleagues often. “We do work well together with Bizerba and Espera, both leaders in the case-ready labeling field,” he says.
Espera started in 1924 as a weight scale manufacturer, according to its Web site. Since then the company has continued to grow and expand to include labeling, sorting, packing and creating the software to do all of it.
Espera’s mission, as its Web site states, is to keep its technological lead going without losing sight of the people they serve. “Consistent consideration of customers’ needs influences the company’s culture at all levels, from design and manufacturing to installation and after sales service,” it states.
The company is truly international with offices around the world. The North American headquarters can be found in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Handtmann is one of the oldest companies working in the industry, with its start in Germany going all the way back to 1873. Its history in America, according to territory manager Mike Tennis, goes back to 1967.
“Handtmann Linkers were introduced in the U.S. in 1967 by T.W. Handtmann,” he explains. “Handtmann Inc., the current representative, was founded in 1990.”
Starting out as a foundry, Handtmann branched out into the meat industry in 1945, when Arthur Handtmann invented the first Handtmann sausage linking machine that could easily be attached to a stuffer.
Since then, Handtmann has built a worldwide company serving the sausage-making segment. Linking and casing machines remain the products for which the company is known.
“The AL lines for linking, hanging or cutting natural casing product was the biggest advancement we gave to the industry,” Tennis says.
The lines, according to the company’s Web site, has features such as casing brakes, vacuum fillers and cutting units designed for accuracy and consistency. All products are modular.
Kalle Nallo has been selling its products in the U.S. for more than 40 years. However, says Kalle USA President John Lample, it was just in February 2007 that the U.S. division really started to expand on its own. .
“Kalle had distributed [its] products in the U.S. for over 40 years previously by Viscofan USA, which was previously Brectheen,” he explains. “As a result of Viscofan’s purchase of Teepak, our cooperation is now ending.” The company has left Flemington, N.J., to move to Gurnee, Ill., and is investing in a new converting and manufacturing facility that Lample calls “state of the art.”
The product that the company is most proud of bringing to this country is a new casing. “We have developed our version of a barrier casing which has the ability to impart smoke, caramel and flavoring to the meat product during cooking,” explains Lample. The product has a textile base with a polymer coating on the outside, allowing for the absorption of consistent color and flavor on the finished product.
Another new technology Kalle has brought onto the American market is the use of a laser for pre-sticking fibrous casings.
“This is a new solution for an old application of putting holes in the casing to vent air without extruding meat through the holes,” states Lample.
“One strength of our company is the R&D capability and, going direct to the final customer, we can put their requests for development into our system,” Lample says. “We put significant resources behind this process as we look to grow our business through new developments.”
Karl Schnell GmbH & Co.
Established more than 50 years ago, Karl Schnell produces a full line of equipment for several areas of meat processing, from emulsifying to filling to applications. The company’s American headquarters is in New London, Wis.
According to the company’s Web site, Karl Schnell offers a complete product range, from individual machines to entire production lines, from raw material acceptance to portioning — including the necessary on-site planning and implementation for installation and operation/operator training.”
The company’s latest machine is the KS Rotation Cutter. It allows for efficient and accurate portioning of product, thanks to a rotary section cutting into a continuous product string, with the material placed on to a conveyor. It can be combined with other KS products such as the Vacuum Filler P9 and Grinder head 130.
Processing- and smoking-unit producer Maurer-Atmos came to the U.S. in the early 1980s. The company continues to work toward advancing their market position and developing new innovations.
According to Stefanie Jacimowitsch, with public relations at Maurer-Atmos, the company started its push into the American market by developing clientele through distributors, who were later supported by a tech support team. This combination, says Jacimowitsch, proved very successful for the company.
“That’s why Maurer-Atmos became more and more established,” she continues. “Yes, Maurer-Atmos had small obstacles until getting settled, but because of the good organizing at the start in North America, the brand name was soon recognized.”
Nowadays, the product line includes a range of smoking and processing equipment. “Maurer-Atmos is a leader in smoke-generator design, air-flow technology, hygienic construction and advanced control and monitoring systems,” Jacimowitsch says.
The company has also continued its research into new developments such as its intensive chilling system.
“Priority No. 1 for Maurer-Atmos is the satisfaction of [its] customers,” adds Jacimowitsch, “and this aim is reached by a customer-oriented project management with the focus on good availability due to an international network, short response time, a high competence and last, but not least, because of a quick payback of their investment.”
Multivac USA Inc. set up shop in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago, but it had already long been a known entity in packaging in this country.
“All the equipment was well-known already,” says Jerry Hirch, marketing manager for Multivac USA. The U.S. division handles the sales and representation of Multivac in America, with all packaging equipment built in Germany.
“The parent company does that whenever possible for better control of local representation,” explains Hirsh. “When the scale is appropriate, they establish a daughter company.”
Similar action was taken just this year with the Mexican and Canadian markets. The company considers itself the world leader in the thermoseal and vacuum packaging business.
“We have services our competitors can’t match on a scale our competitors can’t approach,” declares Hirsh. The company was established in Germany in the early 1960s and has been refining its skills and designs ever since.
Multivac prides itself on its engineering, technology, service and creating solutions for customers’ individual needs. Those skills are used for clients large and small. The big focus now is hygiene.
“Sanitation is one of the big differentiators,” Hirsh says. More investment has been going into the engineering that enables efficient cleaning of equipment in place for each customer.
“It’s tremendous considering how it’s going to be used day in and out,” asserts Hirsh. “They can have it completely hygienic for the next cycle. No one can really touch us on that.”
Multivac isn’t stopping with what it has now. The company has new innovation in creating performance trays with thermoforming. “Those who go to IFFA will see it first and at AMI,” Hirsch says.
Reiser International has been bringing German engineering to the United States since 1959. The brands it has been bringing over include Vemag, Holac and Seydelmann, all top companies in their fields in Germany.
“We partner with our customers to provide total solutions,” says John McIsaac, vice president of engineering and R & D. “We have common ownership with most of our suppliers. We provide the solutions, and we don’t point fingers.”
Vemag Maschinenbau GmbH has been producing equipment for the food industry for more than 60 years. More recognizable as Reiser International in the United States, its meat-industry products include sausage line machines, grinders, vacuum fillers and stuffers.
According to the Vemag area of the Reiser Web site, the company builds machines such as the sausage length portioning machine LPG 202, separation grinder 982 model and minced meat attachments. In fact, according to McIssac, Vemag was one of the first to introduce a small stuff sausage machine in the U.S. with the Vemag 500.
Holac Maschinenbau GmbH, with 40 years of manufacturing experience, produces cutters and dicers.
“Beyond the classical application of cutting fat and meat for the production of sausage, Holac machines are now used to portion fresh and tempered meat and fish products for retail applications, as well as dicing or slicing bacon and ham or dicing and shredding cheese for pizza toppings,” the company’s Web site states.
Maschinenfabrik Seydelmann KG is the oldest of them all; with a history going back to 1843. The Stuttgart-based company builds cutters, grinders and mixers. The machines are adaptable and can handle loads from 500 kilograms to 50,000 per shift. According to its Web site, it has facilities on five continents.
Vemag is the brand with the most expansion planned right now. “The Vemag line is expanding into all types of food plants,” explains McIsaac. “With improvements such as the new HP-CD series machine which is approved for use in USDA-inspected dairy plants, we are reaching a new level of hygiene that is unmatched.”
Schröter Technologie and AmTrade started their history in American in 1985, thanks to some German immigrants working at a meat plant in Wisconsin.
“This gentleman knew Schröter from his former jobs back home in Germany, so he got into contact with Schröter,” says Joachim Glaser, president of AmTrade Systems and a project manager for Schröter Technologie GmbH. His company worked with the customers for 15 years until the plant had been completely updated.
“We, AmTrade, are still doing business with this company, which shows how good the relationship is,” Glaser continues.
AmTrade itself was founded in 2003 as an independent company. Glaser says the company has been the dealer for Schröter products in the U.S. ever since — and it is currently in negotiations to represent another German company in America for insulated doors and cabinets for use in the meat industry.
The company has made its reputation in the U.S. with its thermal-processing equipment. Smokehouses are at the top of the list.
“We have combined the market demand here in the U.S. with German craftsmanship and finish,” he declares. The company had to adapt quickly because American customers require more power and size than those in other parts of the world.
“But we adapted this knowledge and combined it with our quality and energy-saving concepts which is requested by our European customers,” says Glaser. “We are proud to have, I think, the best finished and most energy-efficient smokehouse on the market.”
The RH 91 smoke generator is another product that AmTrade and Schröter proudly offer. “This is a wood chip generator, which is able to serve smokehouses up to 55 feet in length, meaning almost every size of oven with one generator,” says Glaser.
Currently, the company is working to expand its market in the U.S. “The U.S. is a huge market,” Glaser concludes, “we liked from the beginning the friendliness of the people we met as our customers, and their hospitality!”
TREIF USA, a food-processing machine manufacturer, celebrates its 15th anniversary in the United States this year. “We did not really face obstacles as you may face in emerging markets,” says Maurizio Ventura, TREIF USA president. “I would say that at the beginning, we had to understand the mechanics of this very dynamic market and also the distinct differences between German and/or European food processors and their counterparts in the U.S.” TREIF has been producing slicing equipment for more than five decades. “We are convinced that TREIF’s strength lies in the customer-oriented think culture that is cultivated at TREIF and lived by all employees pursing the everyday challenges that exist in company such as TREIF,” Ventura says.
The company is currently working on concepts to help expand its market share. “I personally think that there is a bright future for German companies in the U.S., because the U.S. represents a very strong market which leaves space for some more successful companies to come in and offer their products or services,” concludes Ventura.
Weber Inc.’s American headquarters are located in Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City was the first and only place the company considered when setting up in the U.S., on recommendation. In fact, it opened a new distribution center in Kansas City to increase the company’s flexibility in serving its customers.
“John Robertson from RMF Steels is a longtime friend of our owner,” explains Scott Scriven, president and CEO of Weber Inc. “He sent them to Kansas City. No requesting of tax credits, no search.”
The company has been in the U.S. for 11 years with its Kansas City location. “The U.S. was the last market we came to,” Scriven says. “We were everywhere else in the world, except the U.S.”
What held them back, admittedly, from a German perspective, were stories about the U.S. legal system. Weber kept hearing reports of large awards doled out via the U.S. justice system for minor problems with equipment. Of course, that hasn’t been an issue for Weber, and the company was ready to make the jump to America.
“The U.S. is the largest single market for meat products in the world today,” maintains Scriven. “China is rising, but meat is not big there yet. If you have a good product, bring it to market because there is a big audience for it.”
Weber has built its business on its flexibility. Scriven says the company’s strength is its willingness to work with customers to create the right machine for the situation. This has proven to be a good plan considering the differences in products between Europe and America. Many of the slicers that Weber builds are used on naturally cured products in Europe, while the sectioned and formed products common in the American industry are still relatively new. “The formulations are very different and that leads to different slicing characteristics,” he explains.
With Multivac’s headquarters nearby, it’s no surprise that Weber works with other German companies. “Even if you didn’t want to, you would have to,” states Scriven.
Wolf-Tec’s started in 1977, when Wolfgang Peter Ludwig, a German immigrant, used the knowledge he’d gained as a meat apprentice in Europe and in American factories. Since then, the company has grown from one person to an international company with facilities in the U.S., Latin American, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
“We are passionate about the meat industry,” says Peter Ludwig, one of Wolfgang’s sons and the chief operating officer of Wolf-tec, Inc. “We are leaders in development and not followers of traditional methods or methodology.”
The company has brought many products to the American market. The latest is the PolarVision single and/or remote point control system that was developed for real time monitoring, data collection and control. Other products include the Polar Massagers, which eliminate the hold time for cured meats; and Schroder injectors, developed for the “moisture enhanced” fresh meat and poultry market. Schroder is a division of Wolf-tec based in Germany. Ludwig says the company has had challenges in its growth.
“We were relentless in our pursuit to change the industry.” he states. “Now that we have the reputation for being innovators, it has gotten much easier for our customers to embrace our developments and technologies.”
The company has taken steps to patent many of its products.
“If one takes a close look at our industry, many new developments are driven by the Europeans,” he says. “Germany, as an example, is an innovator in processing equipment and the RTE side of the business such as slicing, material handling and packaging. I believe the possibilities remain strong if companies go into it knowing they cannot be everything to everybody.”
World Pac Converting USA, LLC
World Pac Converting USA is one of the newer companies coming to American shores. “We first entered into the U.S. through a distributor,” says Tom Schaefer, the technical and marketing director worldwide for the company. He also happens to be a German Master Butcher, Sausage Maker and Certified Meat Technologist. “In 2001, we established World Pac Converting USA, LLC in order to better facilitate the manufacturing of our products in the U.S. In 2002, we established World Pac International USA Inc. and started selling directly to our customers.”
World Pac produces casings for products such as ham, sausage and bacon. The film and techniques used add more than just the skin of the sausage.
“Our first introduction to the U.S. was our Sun Spice casings and film,” continues Schaefer. “The spice transfers to the outside of the product including ham, cheese, sausage and bacon.”
Developments similar to this earned the company the 2006 European FoodTec Gold Award. The products that brought this award home were the high barrier Sun Smoke CAS, Sun Caramel CAS and Sun Flavor CAS casings. Each product transfers the flavors to the product. The latest news for these products, Schaefer says, is the development of versions that can be used for the Poly-clip TSA machine.
Another product World Pac is proud of is the Sun F line, a pulp film for ham products that is used instead of typical collagen.
“Our biggest strengths are our people and our innovative products,” Schaefer goes on to say. “We currently sell in over 30 countries worldwide.”
The company also adapts to the requirements and tastes for each country in its products.