It is difficult to find a dairy farmer in the Netherlands or Flanders who is not a CRV customer. The cooperative is among the top three in cattle improvement worldwide. What plans does COO Huib Jan Krasenberg have to strengthen this position and stay top of mind with ever-changing farmers?
Although he has been COO of CRV Holding BV for only a few months, he knows exactly which direction the firm needs to go. Huib Jan Krasenberg joined CRV on 1 February 2017 as Executive Director Western Europe and took a seat on the board the same year. 'What particularly enthuses me, is CRV's role and network. We play a very central role in the barnyard, like a spider in the agricultural web. By effectively marketing all these beautiful products and extensive knowledge, we can relieve cattle farmers of their worries and help them along in their business operations.'
You sound excited, but dairy farming has many issues to deal with, these days.
'Indeed. Take phosphate legislation for instance, which has reduced livestock by eight per cent. Fewer cows means fewer inseminations. This facilitates consolidation: smaller businesses give up and larger business become bigger. For us it is a challenge, because our main market share is among small and medium-sized businesses. Many larger companies do their own insemination, which makes the blows harder for us. We are now trying to adjust to this.'
Will the cooperative model remain workable in the future?
'Many farmers still go for that cooperative feeling, but decreasingly so. Farmers are becoming more rational. The idyllic idea of farming is waning, partly due to all the regulations imposed from above. Where previously the better farmer was focused on using the best possible sperm, many cattle farmers now choose the embryo option. I guess you can safely say that cooperatives are evolving. Our advisers see themselves as serving the members and customers, although at the same time we are obviously running a commercial business. This tension can be difficult sometimes, but the fact remains that in the Netherlands and Flanders we are still a cooperation.'
The cooperative element is what sets CRV apart from its competitors. What else?
'CRV offers a mix of solutions for cattle farmers in the areas of genetics, management products, data and services. Other parties are specifically focused on one sub area, which means that there may be up to ten different advisers at the average Dutch farmyard. Because we receive almost all the data from herds on a farm, we are able to indicate the breeding values, among other things. The Custom Breeding program is a fine example. It makes us unique. All this knowledge also ensures that we can deliver added value and are at the heart of the agricultural network. Our national coverage is larger than FrieslandCampina's, I dare say.'
What is CRV's position abroad?
'The Netherlands and Flanders are our largest market. I estimate our market share at 65%. In addition, we have offices in Brazil, Oceania, Britain, Germany, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Spain, the United States, Canada and South Africa. Our combination of genetics and solutions makes us unique in global sales as well. Measured by the number of straws, we are in the worldwide top three.'
What can you tell us about your plans for the coming three years?
"Traditionally, thinking has been based on the product that is marketed. Due to the reduced number of cattle farms and farmers being increasingly highly educated, a customer-oriented approach is the better option these days. It is no longer about showing off the product, but rather about being a partner to your customer. Thinking along at strategic level, and providing practical solutions, for example. In other words: putting the customer at the centre. Marketing plays an important role in this process. If we can manage that, the sky is the limit.'
This means more work for Marketing and the Manager Global Marketing!
'In my opinion, Marketing is the spider at the centre of the organisation's web. Where it used to suffice to throw together a brochure, these days the position of Marketing Manager is a serious one. It requires taking stock of customers' wishes and needs and then preparing existing and new products for sales. Content creation is also important, partly thanks to the professional journals that are made here. We would also like to make use of those in our marketing activities. Our values and slogan BETTER COWS | BETTER LIFE should be communicated continuously. It will be the job of the new Manager Global Marketing to coordinate all this, including internationally. Everything needs to pass through the marketing lock, as it were.'
What should the Global Marketing Manager be made of in order to ensure CRV is top of mind?
'In short, I think three things are of the utmost importance: refreshing marketing knowledge, firm management skills, and agricultural feeling.'