Celebrating 60 years
GEA Food Processing celebrates an impressive 60 years of innovation and development. Specializing in designing, engineering, manufacturing and service of machinery for the food industry, GEA’s innovative food technology solutions have led the market for the last 60 years – with many becoming the industry standard.
A family business, founded by Wim and Nelly Koppens in Bakel, Netherlands, in 1963, now GEA Food Solutions, has become a true market leader in performance-enhancing equipment for food preparation, marination, further processing, freezing and packaging.
In the early 1960s when a Dutch start-up and food processor van Lieshout (Beckers) approached Koppens Machine builders and asked if they could develop a new machine for producing skinless sausage. Koppens agreed and the popular Dutch ‘Frikandel’ was born.
Today more than 600 million frikandels are produced for the Dutch and Belgian markets. Needless to say, this collaboration led to both technological as well as commercial success for both entrepreneurs and marked the start of a range of technology innovations for the convenience food industry. In 1976 Koppens created the first forming machine for meat on sticks (or satays) and began exporting its equipment beyond the Netherlands. By 1983, the Koppens were delighted to produce the very first, fully cooked McDonalds chicken McNugget in their Bakel test center. Today, hundreds of millions chicken nuggets are produced worldwide every day, a third of which are produced using GEA technology.
Other key milestones include the company’s move to its current location in Bakel, where the business continued to grow and develop. In 1989, Koppens Machinefabriek was sold. , creating a group also incorporating Krämer+Grebe, Tiromat and other companies developing an extensive processing and packaging range.
Several years later, in 1997, the company made another step-change and Convenience Food Systems (CFS) was established, kicking off a new period of innovation waves from Bakel Technology Hub. This was also the era of acquisitions. In 1999 CFS acquired Aquarius (Weert, NL) with its lollipop and vertical packaging technology. And in 2001, Wolfking was acquired, adding marination (Belam and Scanio) as well as preparation equipment for expanding the Total Line Solutions. Finally, in 2011 CFS joined GEA Group. With this addition, GEA now holds an enviable position, as it can provide customers with end-to-end ingredient processing technologies for any type of protein, whether meat, plant or cell based. These total line solutions form an important pillar of GEA’s ongoing growth trajectory.
GEA’s current portfolio comprises single machines and complete automated lines. This includes solutions for defrosting, cutting and grinding, mixing, forming, marinating, coating, cooking, steaming, in-line smoking and frying. GEA technologies can be used for processing poultry, meat, seafood, vegetarian and vegan products. In fact, GEA has partnered customers in the alternative protein industry for more than 25 years. This includes helping established meat processors transition some or all of their production to alternative proteins, as well as collaborating with start-ups to explore new opportunities.
An impressive number of innovations have their roots in Bakel during the last sixty years, many of which hold market-leading positions. For example, the CookStar; the first patented double spiral, two zone oven, introduced in 1992. The double-spiral cooking technique took convenience food cooking to the next level by increasing yield and efficiency. Many of the first generation CookStars sold are still in operation today. Eleven years later, the CookStar TurboCook added a third cooking zone and extended the possibilities to include roasting and browning, and as of 2019, also inline smoking.
The CrumbMaster coating machine, first introduced in 1998, revolutionized the art of crumb coating across the industry – delighting customers with its ability to easily handle all types of crumb mixture, from breadcrumbs to specialty j-crumbs. For 25 years the machine became the industry standard worldwide. And this year the latest generation came on the market and is even more efficient, cleaner and more sustainable, helping reduce energy costs and food waste.
“We have a rich heritage of bringing iconic products to the market, innovating technology, pushing productivity, improving processes to reduce waste, time and resources. None of this success would have been possible without our customers and industry partners, and colleagues around the world," states Marcel Janssen, Senior Director Product Owners at GEA Food Solutions.
Senior Director Product Owners at GEA Food Solutions
GEA Food Solutions is committed to continuing its proud heritage of cutting-edge innovation. GEA’s sustainability pledges are a key element of its Mission 26 corporate strategy and fundamental to all business decisions made. In line with this strategy, GEA new food and alternative protein technologies are crucial to the company’s sustainability commitments, including its expertise in enabling customers to minimize their CO2 footprint, increase efficiency, minimize waste and reduce freshwater usage. New GEA digital solutions also increase efficiencies in production.
Janssen, who joined the company in 1994 explains: “We began as a family-owned business, and you can see this red thread running through the company’s history and even today. Building on this rich history, GEA has always set trends in food solutions, not allowing itself to be defined by one idea or one machine. We are constantly thinking about what will help the market and this has meant the success of many consumer brands, either in a local or regional market, or even globally. From that standpoint, it’s been an amazing journey.”
“Our founders would be very proud of everything the company has achieved. Another point of pride is that we have several employees who have been with the company for more than 30 years; this says a lot about the team, their knowledge and expertise. Many of the successful principles established by the Koppens family are still valid and alive today, a credit to them and GEA.”
No one could have anticipated in 1963 what would come. But as GEA Food processing takes its first steps into its seventh decade, the company is primed to tackle some of the 21st century’s greatest challenges and demands in food processing.
Senior Director Product Owners at GEA Food Solutions
GEA is one of the world’s largest systems suppliers for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical sectors. Our portfolio includes machinery and plants as well as advanced process technology, components and comprehensive services. Used across diverse industries, they enhance the sustainability and efficiency of production processes globally.
GEA is listed in the German MDAX and the STOXX® Europe 600 Index and is also among the companies comprising the DAX 50 ESG and MSCI Global Sustainability Indices.
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