The interview: Erik Visser, CEO of Hamlet Protein
From Milling and Grain, October 24th, 2019
Erik Visser has been involved in the animal feed industry for most of his career, usually in a high-ranking position, such as the company CEO. The companies he has worked for are among the leaders in the feed industry and include such prestigious names as Nutriad/Adisseo and Provimi.
In mid-2019, he took a position as CEO of Hamlet Protein, a company headquartered in Denmark that specialises in soy-based specialty proteins used in young animal feed. Erik Visser’s skills as a CEO are known throughout the industry, where he is recognised as a role model and leader who demonstrates his passion for building solid teams.
You have been involved in both animal feed and aquafeed throughout your career, with Provimi, and then Nutriad/Adisseo. What prompted you to move to Hamlet Protein?
Hamlet Protein is a company with strong Danish roots that wants to expand internationally. It is big enough to cover the world, yet small enough to allow for a direct and personal relationship with colleagues and business partners. I enjoy being close to the market, customers and internal teams and feel that I can have a real and direct impact at Hamlet Protein in realizing the ambitious growth agenda.
As a young person, what sparked your interest in this industry?
The variety of challenges that the global feed industry faces, to help feed a growing world population, attracts a group of talented people from business and academic backgrounds.
Only real team work within companies and across the industry will allow us to produce more with less, increase the sustainability of our industry and deal with consumer demands and government regulations at the same time. Being part of that community is really exciting.
What in your education prepared you for this career?
An academic background lays the foundation for a career, but experience across markets and geographies is what truly helped me in dealing with the broad spectrum of tasks that are part of leading any company. Having worked and lived in various countries exposed me to different cultures, allowing me to better understand how to relate to business partners across the world. I have been fortunate to have worked in best in class companies in the feed industry and with some of the most talented industry professionals. That network has helped me to develop the skill set I have today.
You have taken a position with Hamlet Protein as CEO. What are you hoping to bring to the company?
The product portfolio of Hamlet Protein, soy based specialty protein for young animals, is recognized for its technical excellence. At Hamlet Protein we have strong scientific dossiers for each of our products. I believe we can further expand that portfolio and also do a better job of explaining how our technical capacity and support can bring real practical solutions to our customers. Increasing our commercial footprint, and getting closer to our current and future customers, is one of the first things I am looking at with the team.
Sustainability is a big issue in the animal feed industry. How is Hamlet’s soy-based protein able to fill the sustainability issue?
Sustainability throughout the chain is very important for Hamlet Protein. Soy is nature’s most sustainable source for protein and oils in the world. We strive to source our soy from sustainable sources. Hamlet Protein is actively involved in the Danish Agriculture & Food Council. We contribute to drawing up the policies on sourcing soy, especially from South America.
Our production is a natural bioconversion process with no use of chemicals. Our only emission is carbon dioxide and water vapors. We are ISO 50001 certified and over the past 15 years we have decreased energy consumption with almost 50 percent per million tonnes produced. In 2019, we completed the reuse of heat from our production site in Horsens and we will start supplying that to 3,330 households.
Will Hamlet also produce aquafeed?
Hamlet Protein is considered the benchmark product in soy protein specialties for young pigs. We also have strong track record in Calf Milk Replacers and are currently positioning ourselves in poultry. We certainly believe in the application of our technology in aquafeed but have not yet defined our go-to-market strategy.
With the insights of our business partners, external consultants and Hamlet Protein technical team we are reviewing a possible approach into shrimp and fry feed.
Currently, Hamlet Proteins concentrates on feed for young animals. Does the company plan to expand their range of products for older animals/different species?
With our technical competences and solid evidence based knowhow about application of our products, we have a good starting point in young animals. Hamlet Protein is definitely exploring opportunities to expand this and help create additional solutions for our customers.
We live in an age of climate crisis, dwindling resources and increasing regulation. What changes do you foresee in the feed industry over the next decade?
Consumers will be the biggest driver of change across industries in general and the feed industry in particular. Regulations will follow. An increased demand for more sustainable production, focus on animal welfare and climate will drive the development of the feed industry. The reduction of antibiotics and zinc oxide in feed are the most recent examples that affect producers all across the globe. To be successful in addressing today’s and tomorrow’s challenges we will need to work together across the entire chain.
What you would recommend to young people who want to get involved in this industry?
The industry will receive young people with open arms. There is room for technical and commercial talent. In joining the global feed industry, they will become part of creating solutions for global challenges: feeding a growing world population in a sustainable manner. Together with everyone in the chain, they will have the opportunity to make a real impact.