22 Oct 2020
Family-owned company Rijk Zwaan still on track
Vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan has achieved a net turnover of €477 million in the 2019/2020 financial year. This represents 8.5% growth on the previous year.
Rijk Zwaan’s revenue grew across almost all its crops and regions. Its market share of around 9% makes it one of the top four vegetable seed companies in the world. The workforce has continued to grow too; Rijk Zwaan now employs 3,500 people, around 1,450 of whom are based in the Netherlands.
Vegetable seeds for the world food supply
Vegetables and vegetable seeds are an essential part of the food chain and form the foundation of a healthy and varied diet. “The final quarter of the 2019/2020 financial year was dominated by the global spread of COVID-19. From an international perspective, this presented us with a number of logistical challenges. Governments were quick to realise that vegetable seeds are important for the world food supply. Thanks to the ‘green lanes’ approach, the international borders remained open for our sector and, as a company, we were able to keep our processes operational – albeit with a few changes sometimes – in order to continue to supply vegetable seeds to our customers around the world,” reflects Ben Tax, a member of the Rijk Zwaan Board of Directors.
In 2019/2020, Rijk Zwaan invested €130 million in research & development, which is 27.5% of the annual revenue. Offering more than 1,500 different vegetable varieties, the company has varieties for every climate zone with the right traits for the various growing methods and consumer preferences. “We translate the wants and needs in the market into objectives for our breeding programmes. In our laboratories, we conduct research in the fields of biotechnology, seed quality and phytopathology to accelerate our breeding activities, to study the genetics of new traits and to be able to supply top-quality seeds.” Last year, Rijk Zwaan’s introductions included fusarium-resistant cucumber varieties and the first hairless aubergine variety which is more resilient against pest damage. The company also responded to consumer trends by introducing vegetable varieties specially tailored for fresh meal kits and for the organic range.
The growing number of new production facilities, research facilities and office buildings also underline the company’s vitality. Rijk Zwaan China’s new head office, which is also a research and demo station, opened in May 2020, and new facilities were also completed in Chile and Poland in 2019/2020. This year, construction work is due to finish on Rijk Zwaan’s new tomato, pepper and aubergine breeding facility in De Lier, which represents the company’s biggest ever new-build investment.
Strong and stable family-owned company
Today, Rijk Zwaan has its head office in De Lier and a Research & Development facility in Fijnaart in the Netherlands, and more than 30 international subsidiaries spread across the globe, but its Dutch roots date back to 1924. Since 1989, approximately 90% of the independent company has been owned by three families and the remaining 10% is owned by numerous members of the workforce in the form of shares. The company has a strong reputation for being loyal to its employees. “Employee satisfaction is our number one priority, which is why we offer all 3,500 employees worldwide an enjoyable job with good benefits and a permanent contract in a pleasant work environment,” explains Tax.
“We are confident about the new financial year. Different sales channels are reacting to the COVID-19 situation differently, however, and the longer the travel restrictions last, the greater the challenges will be. So that’s a threat, of course, but nothing we can’t handle,” states Tax resolutely. There are also opportunities: “We fully support the growing societal focus on making healthy food available to all. As a vegetable breeding company we are keen to contribute to this cause by laying the foundations for healthy and appealing vegetables.”