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Meet Opportunity Leader: Cees de Jong

Before summer, the Global Opportunity Network secretariat sat down with President and CEO of Chr. Hansen, Cees de Jong, for a talk about how he sees their industry develop between now and 2030. It was an insightful and inspirational conversation about how global trends including the Sustainable Development Goals are driving new market opportunities. In the following please explore the highlights from the conversation.

Rediscovering purpose

“Being in that space and delivering some meaningful solutions – that will be our biggest achievement.”

The space Cees de Jong, President and CEO of Chr. Hansen, has in mind is rather expansive – we are talking megatrends such as population growth by 2050, the global food crisis, and international health. All of these trends help drive the emergence of a new market between food and pharma, and they are all part of the answer, when asking Cees about Chr. Hansen’s mission. In other words, the awareness of “that space” and the direction the world is moving in has radically transformed his view of his company’s license to operate.

The awareness of this much bigger picture is a fairly recent discovery at Chr. Hansen. Cees himself explains, “The transition from us being a predominantly product-driven dairy-player to one providing much more purpose has been a very gradual, almost organic process”. In this sense, the Sustainable Development Goals have not so much redirected any of Chr. Hansen’s activities, as they have allowed a renewed focus on the company’s core competencies. “For us goals 2, 3 and 12* are the most relevant”, Cees says without missing a beat.

This has given the company new drive in a fast changing world of complex, interconnected global risks: “When we look at our opportunities for growth, it is easy for us to deselect areas that are less meaningful, because there is so much opportunity in the meaningful spaces. 95% of our technology base is highly relevant, and the other 5%, well we are actively letting that go.”

Ultimately, Cees thinks it all comes down to a new mindset driven by a new type of consumption. “In the past you probably needed to be a regulatory expert to understand the label on your food, but today there are apps on your phone so you can scan the barcode and find out what is in every product”. Soon consumers will use mobile technology to detect traces of antibiotics in their food.

And so, whether it is in terms of improving animal health and increasing feed conversion ratios leading to better yields in a particular agricultural food chain or keeping food fresher and safer through the use of good bacteria, every product Chr. Hansen offers is fueled by a bigger purpose.
“I think our society is moving towards a much better space. We are trying to make a better world, and it’s not just some pioneers that are out there. The question is when the tipping point comes.”

After talking to Cees, you can’t help but get the feeling that we just reached it.

– Cees de Jong, President and CEO of Chr. Hansen
Chr. Hansen is a global bioscience company, using bacteria and enzymes to develop natural solutions for the food, nutritional, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries.

*SDG 2: Zero hunger, SDG 3: Responsible consumption and production, and SDG 12: Good health and well-being

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