We see changes in the customer’s requirements for food safety and quality

Hielke van Dijken is Managing Director of two spice companies. One of them is Royal Polak Spices, member of IFFI and the biggest importer of cinnamon in Europe. “We are a unique, small company. In Steenwijk!” (laughs). “But we are very well known in a particular segment, namely the bakery industry. We are a cinnamon-centred company; ninety percent of the products we sell is cinnamon. “We also sell mixed spices, for instance speculaas and gingerbreadspices. Even in those cases, however, the mixture still consists of eighty to ninety percent of cinnamon. We are melangeurs of cinnamon so to speak.” 

What typifies the market and which developments do you see coming its way? 

Our market – the bakery industry – is a traditional one. It does not change much. What we do see is changes in the customer’s requirements for food safety and quality. This is becoming increasingly important in the customer’s experience. We also see that social responsibility and sustainability is becoming more and more important; society asks for this. By that, I mean  fair trade and protection of the rain forest.

In what ways does Polak anticipate these demands?

As a response we only import raw material. These come from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and from the African continent. The raw material can be checked on purity and food safety issues. Extensive organoleptic and (bio)chemical analysis guarantees authenticity and quality of the product before we grind it into powder.

As for fair trade, our suppliers are taking the first steps and collaborate with us. We for example buy Rainforest Alliance certified Cinnamon in Indonesia.

How do you see the discipline innovation come to its fullest in relation to entrepreneurship? 

We have a simple raw material that is the basis of delicious taste in baked products New products and applications are not really on the table. We’re mostly preoccupied with delivering perfect flavors – client-specific flavors – to our clients. We have our own test bakery where we organize tastings with our clients. We do not invent new products: we develop them together with our customers.

How does the IFFI network contribute to this? 

It is always valuable to meet other businesses representatives discussing common issues in the market. It offers a network you can contact and ask for advice.

Hielke van Dijken