Meet Michael van Iersel, our Technical Sales Manager for Belgium and the Netherlands. With many years of service in the meat industry, since 2019, he dedicates his experience to bringing Kemin’s natural solutions to the market and offer support to our customers in the area.
Name: Michael van Iersel
Job title: Technical Sales Manager for Belgium and the Netherlands
Years of service @ Kemin: 1,5 years
Focus market segment: (Processed) meat, poultry and fish, meat alternatives and plant-based proteins
Let’s start with an introduction. What’s your background, previous experience?
Initially, I was a butcher. That’s what I studied in school, and I also started my career working with meat since I was 15 years old. I’m now in my early fifties, so that’s a long time and I’ve gained a lot of experience along the way. During my professional career, I went to evening classes and received a Bachelor’s degree in Food Technology, with a focus on meat applications. At Kemin, my main focus is still in the meat, but I am also expanding my knowledge to other food applications now as well. It is fascinating to learn new things.
As a Technical Sales Manager, your focus is on meat. What does your average day look like?
The biggest part of my time, I am spending with customers; so I am on the road and in the field a lot. I share our knowledge, offer practical application support, solve problems, and of course, it is my job to market Kemin's total platform of solutions.
You are responsible for the areas of Belgium and the Netherlands. That’s close to Kemin’s headquarters in Herentals, Belgium. Have you noticed that (potential) customers choose for this short supply chain?
Absolutely. Our location makes it easy to bring samples to customers. And typical to the meat industry, or perhaps any sector, they want things moving fast, and we can make that happen, primarily because of our short supply chain. I also prefer delivering samples myself, because I’ve been on the other side of the table as well. A personal approach definitely works best. I am also joining the customers in the production area, to help them test our products in their facility. In this way, we know they are applying our product in the right way.
What can you tell about the profile of your customers? What new food applications did you encounter?
My primary focus is on proteins, so, meat, poultry and fish. Next to proteins, there’s oils & fats, sauces & dressings and bakery. But nowadays also meat replacements, vegetarian and vegan products are on the rise. Especially in Belgium and the Netherlands, many companies are focusing on these new, emerging markets.
How do you approach these new, emerging markets?
I try to use my network as much as I can. Obviously, there are the new kids on the block, but also a lot of the original meat producers shifted their focus and started making plant-based proteins. Perhaps this one is common in the entire industry, but especially with these upcoming new protein products, most companies tend to keep their recipes private, so it’s not always easy to approach them. That’s why I use my network to its fullest extent.
What are the biggest meat trends in your region?
When I look at our product portfolio, we see a lot of opportunities in the processed meat market, especially minced meat products such as hamburgers and meatballs, with spices and herbs.
What’s unique about the Belgian and Dutch markets?
First of all, the protein market is huge in Belgium and in the Netherlands. Still, these regions are very resourceful when it comes to new products, and they’re usually very fast to answer to the needs of customers, changing their game.
Do you have a favourite Kemin product?
Getting the same or even better results when it comes to shelf life or food safety with natural ingredients is just fantastic. But if I had to pick one, I would say BactoCEASE® NV. It’s a very effective label-friendly food safety solution with a balance flavour profile, and therefore it’s popular, especially in the meat market. Our rosemary and green tea blend, NaturFORT™, as it’s a versatile efficacious in several different food products, including meat alternatives.
Belgium and the Netherlands have a high market segment when it comes to meat replacements. What’s your role in all this?
I believe we can offer our customers, in fact, the entire food industry, with good solutions for challenges that have been out there for many years, such as oxidation and shelf life in general. And with these game-changers in the plant-based meat market, we must address these markets. For example, in plant-based meats there should be a certain amount of fat, otherwise, you would have a very dry product, and as they are prone to oxidation, we can provide natural antioxidants. We offer BactoCEASE® NV OR Liquid, which is a liquid buffered vinegar that can be applied organic plant-based foods. Often this these foods are fried. Our FrySMART platform offers a good solution here as well. FORTI-FRY™ can extend the frying life of the oil and FORTIUM® RG20 Liquid can protect the fried food product.
How do you see the meat market evolve?
The alternative meat market is growing very fast, that’s definitely a good thing- and you see that many companies want to get on this train. They cater to the demands of the consumers. And not necessarily the number of vegans or vegetarians are growing rapidly, it’s mainly flexitarians. In that regard, you also have the hybrid products (part meat, part plant-based protein), which are also relatively new. I think their market share will increase in the future.
Kemin is a global company with a local approach. What do you like best about your employer?
I love how everything is organised with strong leadership, cooperation between colleagues and a lot of respect for each other’s knowledge and experience. There’s a transparent flow of information. There good sales training sessions where I’ve learned a lot, but they also leave room for your personal touch and local market knowledge.
Do you have a personal motto?
Always be yourself. A cliché, perhaps… but nevertheless, it’s true. I think it’s important to stay true and that’s something I try to live by both professionally and in my private life.