We've always done what we told. Now we will also tell more clearly what we do.

Have you noticed our new look yet? Damaco Group has gone through a rebranding process. But why now? What philosophy lies behind it? Are there any plans? Managing directors (and sister and brother!) Iris and Bruno Vandaele explain why we sharpened the brand structure over the past year, how we refined the positioning, and who came up with the little feather in the logo.

Need for structure after decades of growth

Iris Vandaele clarifies the reason for Damaco Group's new look. The main reason is to create order and clarity in our 3 units and in the many activities and brands that fall under them. This was necessary after decades of growth and expansion. We started as Kipco in 1964, then came Damaco in 1982, followed by the merger in '99 between Kipco and Damaco. Still later it became Damaco Foods and we started working even more broadly and internationally, with offices abroad. Finally, Empro joined us in 2015.’

'For the outside world, customers and prospects, it was unclear what each brand stood for, what products each brand had, what Damaco Group did exactly. At present there is a clear structure, which is clear at a glance. Moreover, we are now also highlighting the strengths of the umbrella Damaco Group.’

‘Take a look at the new structure and you will immediately see: this is us, this is what we do, this is what we offer.’

A step to the side? No, a step forward.

The new structure is now nicely outlined, but that is by no means the end of it. Iris Vandaele: 'The next step is already in the pipeline: further professionalization. A must if we want to grow further. We are working on that now. Bruno and I used to be CEO, but now we have taken a step aside and there is a separate CEO for each unit.’

Bruno Vandaele puts the finishing touches to it: 'I see it more as a step forward. Whereas CEOs tend to focus more on operations, we are more strategic. This has grown organically, and the process is certainly not yet complete. But at some point, the organization got so big that we couldn't do anything else. There are only 24 hours in a day and you really need that structure to be able to cope. This is how we try to become future proof and support further growth, developments and internationalization.’

New accents in terms of content

Thanks to the rebranding, Damaco Group now has a new look and a clearer structure. But it is about much more than just packaging with a nice bow around it. Iris Vandaele. 'Absolutely. We also want to shift the focus from product to solution. We were a company that focused on sales, but in the meantime we are much more. Instead of a pure product seller, we evolved into a growth stimulator. And we have exchanged our somewhat impulsive, chaotic approach for a streamlined and consistent way of working.

‘Our focus has evolved: from product to solution, from selling to stimulating growth.’

Large and yet agile

‘Another difference: whereas we used to present those separate units individually and in a fragmented way, we now position ourselves much more as a strong group with a broad range of products and yet very agile. By agile I mean that we adapt quickly: for example, we also offer private labels for certain customers, which the customer then goes on to use. This is all possible, because we are well prepared. In terms of storytelling, too, we used to miss opportunities. We did what we said we would do, but we didn't say what we did, nobody knew. Now we bring - from our roots which we are proud of - a recognizable growth story.’

Bringing excitement to the food business

Our slogan is "Operate globally, think locally. Iris and Bruno Vandaele often refer to it. Iris Vandaele: 'Yes, the slogan fits perfectly with what we do. And while we are on the subject of slogans, 'Bringing excitement to the food business' is also an important motive for us. If you look at what we have achieved in the past decades, yes, that is quite exciting. I recently looked at our company timeline of key events and was amazed. I even thought 'ooh it's too much, shouldn't we shorten it a bit?' (laughs) Developing new products, responding to opportunities, conquering markets, winning deals, building relationships, it's fantastic when it works, isn't it?’

Customers believe in us, we believe in them

Having the feeling that a customer believes in us and then make it happen for those people: that is what we do at Damaco Group. Sometimes this includes emergencies. Iris Vandaele: "Take the current international shortage of containers. Yes, you are standing there with contracts that need to be filled, with customers who are waiting, how do you solve that? You can't call that boring (laughs).’

Bruno Vandaele nuances: "Of course it is not always so rock 'n roll. Further professionalization is also an exciting challenge, as is digital marketing. Just getting a license is exciting in some countries! The new business unit we put here in 2018, the additional investments that are planned ... there are so many things we can put our enthusiasm into. Customers feel that very well by the way, thanks to our way of working and cooperating. Growing together within the organization and with the customers and stakeholders, that is the beauty of our profession.’

Continued growth from our pioneering drive

Iris Vandaele: "Whatever the future brings, one thing will never change: our pioneering drive. It's there and you can't get it out. Fortunately.' Bruno Vandaele: 'Building customer relationships, working hard, constantly innovating... we took it all for granted. We didn't give it enough thought. We did what we said we would do, but we did not say enough about what we were doing. Now, with our new positioning, we pay more attention to our growth story.’

Customers first: through our enthusiasm we make them enthusiastic

When Bruno and Iris Vandaele have to 'sell' the difference between Damaco Group and others in an elevator pitch, they know exactly how to proceed. Iris Vandaele: 'We stimulate and enthuse our customers, keep them awake. That way we stay sharp ourselves. We are the partner who is closest to our customers, they can count on and trust. We ensure that our customers grow. If they grow, that comes back to us. "Customers first" is our basic philosophy for a reason.’

Bruno Vandaele: "You have to live up to what you say, and don't forget: first test, try, see if it works and adjust. Although that is not always necessary: our customers and prospects usually already know how and for whom we work. They often know us and we can suggest other products or references.’

‘In the beginning, of course, something like this is not easy', Iris Vandaele explains.  ‘It was really starting from scratch, no one was interested in our MDM. I could only convince them by showing my know-how, gaining their trust and getting opportunities. And that worked. Nice, isn't it?

‘In order to convince our customers and prospects of something new, our references are often sufficient.’

Our local employees are indispensable assets

Improvisation is one thing, but it doesn't always work. How do you deal with problems such as the randomness of sudden measures or changes in some countries? Bruno Vandaele: "We invest heavily in our local staff and we are very satisfied with them. They are the ideal ambassadors anyway, and they inform us quickly so that we can understand the situation there and intervene in time. We are in contact on a weekly basis, sometimes even daily if necessary. If, for example, African swine fever appears in Poland or Germany, it immediately has an effect on other markets as well. Speed of action is then crucial.’  

Our core positioning: return on investment for our customers

Another key word that often crops up at Damaco Group is return. Iris Vandaele outlines how we specifically implement that return with our own positioning for each of our 3 business units: food processing, food distribution and nutrient science. We always try to distinguish ourselves with quality products. As far as our first unit, meat processing, is concerned, the return to the customer is paramount. Our quality lies in the structure of our meat, which offers much more potential for our customers than supposedly comparable products from our competitors. In the food distribution unit, we mainly play out the strength of the brands - that's where our customers get their return.’

A step ahead in innovation

Bruno Vandaele explains what makes our third unit so special: "For nutrient science, the return is based even more on innovation. We are trendsetters in this, which is a huge advantage. We always try to be one step ahead of our competitors, which is also a strong selling point. For example, we have succeeded in marketing meat meal, bone meal and poultry meal with 30% more usable proteins. So that means 30% more return from the same raw material that our competitors use. That makes me happy.’


Interplay between units

We can say that every company wants the same thing, namely a better end product, but that we have done it effectively. Bruno Vandaele: "Exactly. Take the maximum valorization of the side streams - others often don't do that or hardly at all, but we go to extremes. If it is economically profitable, then we go for it and bring it to the market. And if it doesn't work, we stop. That is just how it works. If, for example, in aquaculture we succeed in making nutrients for fish so that they are stronger and healthier, have fewer diseases, grow faster ... surely you can only call that positive? Before you see results, it does take a long time, tests often take 7 or 8 months. Time is an important factor. Of course we have the additional advantage of being able to use our own technical know-how from the other business units for nutrient science.’

‘While many competitors don't even get started, we go to extremes in the valorization of by-products.’

Damaco Group: a heavyweight with a feather

The little feather in the group's logo is obviously a nod to Damaco's origins and core business. Who ever invented that little feather, we will never know for sure. But we can confirm that it is part of the family history. Bruno Vandaele: 'It originally came from the 1964 logo, which was the very beginning.' Iris Vandaele: "I still have a business card from 1964 at home: a chicken with a tuxedo and a top hat, designed by our grandfather and father. That little triangle with the rooster in it quickly became famous then and even now it is still easily recognized around the world. I suspect that we were showing off our rooster even before Le Coq Sportif did! It is and remains our signature - you can bet we will continue to use it!’

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