Tasty! Greek dairy giant FAGE finds their place in TopDutch
The dairy giant the FAGE Group – famous for introducing the world to Greek ‘strained’ yogurt – has found their place in the TopDutch region. As European shoppers have been more and more frequently filling their fridges with FAGE yogurts, the Group found themselves in need of a second European production facility to meet the growing demand. After several years of searching for the perfect location, this week FAGE signed a preliminary contract with the Municipality of Hoogeveen announcing their intention to build a state-of-the-art factory in the TopDutch province of Drenthe.
In 1926, a small dairy store opened in the city of Athens and quickly became the place-to-go for scrummy strained yogurt. Almost 100-years later, and FAGE’s red and blue logo is recognized by consumers in over 40 countries worldwide as a tasty and healthy choice for your breakfast or midday snack. The Group currently supplies 75,000 supermarkets across the globe from one of their two production facilities; either in Greece or the United States. But as their European market presence has continued to strengthen, the family-owned multinational decided to draw up plans to build another state-of-the-art smart production facility on the continent. Their new gateway to Europe? The TopDutch region.
FAGE and the future of food
The TopDutch region is considered the Dairy Capital of Europe. With an AgriFood cluster dedicated to building the most innovative, sustainable and remunerative dairy chain in the world, FAGE and the Northern Netherlands seemed like a perfect match. Therefore, just under a year ago talks began between FAGE, the TopDutch Investment and Development Agency (NOM) and the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA). The local experts at the NOM levied their knowledge and contacts to support FAGE in scouting for their ideal location, and a 15 hectare plot on the brand-new Riegmeer Industrial Park in Drenthe quickly emerged as a potential match for FAGE’s criteria and requirements.
FAGE’s US production facilities are renowned among food engineers. The firm plan to employ the same smart and sustainable technologies that automate their high-quality production in the States in the new factory. That’s where another of TopDutch’s strengths come in.
Our region is home to a passionate Smart Industry ecosystem where a triple helix cluster of businesses, research institutes and government are set to be one of the frontrunners in the emerging Industry 5.0 (which builds on the existing Industry 4.0 approach to focus on applying smart technologies for processes that are in equal parts financially, environmentally and socially sustainable) European market. The knowledge-sharing, talent and investment potential of the region is a strong pull to innovative smart producers such as FAGE. And this expertise crosses over deliciously with the TopDutch AgriFood sector - where homegrown superstar knowledge institutions and businesses, such as Wageningen University’s Dairy Campus or the much-loved cooperative FrieslandCampina, as well as major international brands including Japan’s Kikkoman or China’s Ausnutritia – jointly invest and innovate for food’s future technologies and processes. No wonder the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology proclaimed the TopDutch region ‘has all the necessary ingredients to shape the future of food’!
40,000 tons of yogurt feeds 250 new jobs
Once the production facility is set-up, FAGE’s initial plans are to provide the European market with a healthy 40,000 tons of yogurt per annum from the TopDutch region, which will require an initial investment of over €150 million. The establishment of such a large project is a major operation involving numerous parties. Alderman Jan Zwiers explained: ‘Step by step, in close cross-party collaboration, a model was worked out for all aspects including infrastructure, wastewater, water supply, gas, electricity, etcetera.’ Reflecting on his own experiences, Reinder de Jong, Project Manager for AgriFood FDI at the NOM, added: ‘We’re very pleased with the arrival of FAGE in the TopDutch region. The strong position of our dairy sector is once again underlined. Of course the implementation of such a large project has the potential to become highly complex. That’s why we at the NOM, in cooperation with the project partners, devoted a great deal of attention to details such as infrastructure, zoning plans, building regulations, utilities, permits and the overall coordination. It was an intensive process that took almost a year to complete, but we’re delighted we were able to work closely with FAGE in order to offer them this support’.
With the signing of the preliminary contract, FAGE has made an important step towards the establishment of the site in Hoogeveen. However, more fun is yet to come! As FAGE was the first to snap-up a spot on the new Riegmeer Industrial Park, there’s a few planning formalities that are yet to be finalized. In the coming few weeks, the municipal council will officially rule on the proposal for the land development of the northern section of Riegmeer, as well as an €11.8 million sewage infrastructure development project. Following this, construction of the FAGE plant should begin in mid-2022, with a view for production in the TopDutch region to be up-and-running by 2024.
FAGE is a top firm and a great addition to TopDutch's dairy sector.Henk Brink, Economic Minister for the Province of Drenthe
‘The establishment of FAGE means the first large-scale establishment at the Riegmeer Park’ continued Alderman Zwiers. ‘It will initiate a significant economic ripple, both during and after construction. Just in terms of direct employment, FAGE will soon create an extra 250 full time jobs in the site, alongside the work in the fields of construction, suppliers, transport and maintenance. We also anticipate that other innovative firms will settle here in the wake FAGE’s arrival’. This sentiment was echoed by Drenthe’s Economic Minister Henk Brink, who added: ‘This location is important for Hoogeveen and the entire region. FAGE is a top firm and is a great addition to TopDutch’s dairy cluster. The arrival of such a large company will have a magnetizing effect; strengthening the whole regional ecosystem’.
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