DMK Group has converted the former DMK dairy plant in Strückhausen in Wesermarsch, Germany, into a baby food production facility.
When the plant is fully commissioned, up to 40 million kg of GM-free milk per year will be able to be processed to produce baby milk formula for the German and international markets.
The company sources high-quality raw material from its own milk producers, which are located close to the plant.
The company has invested €145 million (US$164.418 million) in technology, infrastructure and energy-saving processes and equipment.
Stefan Eckert, COO DMK Baby tells Food News International more on the plant conversion, market outlook and tips for creating successful products in the baby food market.
FNI: Why did DMK Group decide to convert its former dairy plant into a baby food production facilities?
Eckert: The Strückhausen site was operated very successfully over many years and several mergers.
It had become a ‘multi-functional site’.
However, as a result of the merger, the DMK Group has shifted its focus to highly specialized locations – which means that Strückhausen lost its advantage.
Within the framework of the new orientation of the company (which, among other things, focuses on baby food), it was necessary for the company to establish its own baby milk factory.
The Strückhausen site was ideally suited for this because it is located in the middle of the Weser-Ems production area, offering direct access to an ideal fresh milk source.
The processed milk comes from DMK Group farmers located in the immediate vicinity of the site.
The milk is processed immediately after delivery, in an especially gentle process of very few steps.
Strict controls allow to ensure consistently tested quality.
All farms are contractually committed to animal welfare and GMO-free feed.
FNI: What changes were made for the conversion?
Eckert: In the drying, mixing and filling areas, only the facade of the buildings remain.
Within the building, complete house-in-house constructions have been installed.
In addition, the administrative areas have been modernized, though they retained their original structures.
Part of the investment funded a completely new, fully equipped laboratory.
Also, the new site has been developed with a special hygiene concept in order to ensure the highest level of safety.
For example, all incoming pallets or raw material are re-palletized on in-house pallets and secondary packaging remains in the logistic area.
Each pallet is washed, disinfected and dried before its repeated use in in-house transport and our big bags are always filled in the highest hygiene zone.
Furthermore, the new facility is actively saving energy and water.
Major parts of the process heat is reused in the power house, in order to heat up water for the cleaning-in-place or CIP system or to generate steam.
The water from the milk separation can be used for cleaning and rinsing our equipment.
FNI: What challenges did the Group face when converting into a baby food plant?
Eckert: Major challenge to overcome was the implantation of a high tech baby food factory in the given overall layout and infrastructure of a historical dairy milk plant.
Especially, the intensive zoning concept reflecting the high standard of IMF in combination with effect work forces.
On top, to match the current and future high standard of the usage of sustainable resources a concept has been implemented to save water and energy in the production.
FNI: Which markets (geographically) would products from the baby food plant be made available to?
Eckert: In future, powdered baby milk formula will be produced and packaged at the site.
The diverse formulas will be filled in a wide variety of packaging, from metal cans to a new, innovative packaging – the myHumana Pack – for global markets.
We are represented in more than 50 markets by our Humana brand.
We are represented locally with our own European sales units in Germany, Poland, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Further, our sales units are located in China, Russia and Dubai.
Our activities focus on Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, GIS, Gulf Cooperation Council, Asia and the Middle East and North Africa region.
There, we focus on Humana milk foods and on food supplements for mothers, babies and toddlers.
Our infant food range caps off our product portfolio.
Since the establishment of the DMK Baby business unit in 2013, we have been pursuing this direction continuously and sustainably within the DMK Group, which has been successful.
This can be seen, for example, in the hard-fought European market of Italy, where DMK and its Humana brand is now the market leader in specialty milk and infant milk formula.
All other baby milk segments are also showing continuous growth. The restructuring has also underscored the double-digit growth figures from the international markets.
FNI: How is packaging important to the baby food product offering?
Eckert: The packaging is an important component of the product range.
In order to understand what mothers want and how to provide them with optimal support as they care for their little ones, we asked mothers the world over to describe what is important to them.
More than 6,700 mothers responded clearly: safety, convenience of use, an appealing design, the perfect dosing system and protection against bacteria.
Our answer has been a new packaging that makes it possible to prepare baby formula more safely, hygienically and simply than ever before.
The tamper-evident seal ensures that the package is unopened before use.
A protective membrane and moisture and oxygen barriers keep the powder fresh until it is opened for the first time.
The large opening also prevents the powder from coming into contact with skin unnecessarily.
The packaging is easily opened and reclosed with a click.
The ergonomic packing means that the bottle can be prepared with just one hand.
The handy measuring spoon is always at hand in the integrated spoon holder – and the scraper edge helps to precisely measure the powder so the baby gets exactly the amount it needs for its individual development stage.
FNI: What makes a successful baby food product?
Eckert: The composition of baby formula in Europe is tightly regulated with regard to quality standards and food law requirements.
In different parts of the world there are other quality standards and specific formulation requirements.
Following the “think globally, act locally” philosophy, these requirements are reflected in our regional milk portfolios for our markets.
Our global market research findings show that mothers all over the world have the same core values.
Baby formula must be safe, good for their children and designed to meet the specific needs of each developmental stage.
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