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Coffee break with Dr Jan Van Loo about being with BENEO for 37 years

We will miss you letters

As Dr. Jan Van Loo, Senior Manager of New Business Development & Competitive Intelligence, prepares to embark on the next chapter of his journey after 37 years with the company, we look back with him on his remarkable career and the profound impact he had on our organization and the industry.

Jan, can you share with us a bit about your journey with the company? What initially drew you to this organization, and how has your role evolved over the years?

In the early days of what would eventually become BENEO, I was part of a small team at the Belgian sugar company “Tiense Suiker”. We were tasked with creating value-added products from sugar. Our journey began with exploration and experimentation, leading to the development of fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and a subsequent focus on chicory-based products.

Other colleagues soon followed and the former sugar factory in Oreye, Belgium was converted to a chicory factory. Here I started my Nutrition Research activities, resulting in numerous peer-reviewed publications and being able to put the chicory root fibre inulin as a gold standard prebiotic on the map!

After this exciting phase, which lasted 12 years, I joined BENEO’s team for New Business Development and I started competition monitoring for the company.

Wijgmaal Factory Tour with the NBD team
Wijgmaal Factory Tour with the NBD team

Wow, your pioneering work really laid the foundation for BENEO’s presence in the functional food landscape! Reflecting on your time here, what are your most memorable moments or achievements from your career?

The most significant milestones in my career, besides my time in the extraordinary Pilot team to create chicory root fibres in Tienen, is the creation of the prebiotic concept, the launch of a dedicated BENEO-wide tool to monitor competition and last but far from least: the launch of BENEO’s wholegrain barley flour enriched with beta-glucan (the Orafti® β-Fit).

That’s indeed an impressive list! What motivated you to stay with the company for more than three decades? Were there specific aspects of the workplace culture or the work itself that kept you engaged and committed?

The open-mindedness, professionalism, and care of the BENEO corporate environment made my time here feel more as ‘hobby’ time rather than ‘working’ time.

What advice would you offer to younger colleagues just starting their careers within this industry or organization?

Find your passion and shape your path around it! When you are deeply passionate about what you do, work doesn’t feel like a chore. Once you’ve found your passion, trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to mold your role to fit it, you finally build your own job.

Thanks for this good advice! How do you envision the future of the company, based on your years of experience and insights?

The future cannot be predicted. BENEO however has the right cards in hands to play and win. It is up to the players to draw the right card at the right time 😉.

Beyond the professional aspects, how has working here influenced or impacted your personal life?

There was a generous set of annual BENEO holidays, allowing to spend a lot of quality time with my wife, children and – the last decade – grandchildren.

Other than spending even more time with your family, what are you looking forward to the most in your retirement, and do you have any plans or aspirations you would like to share?

I am looking forward to embracing a few pursuits that have long been on my wish list. Among them, is a motorcycle journey across Europe and indulging in my passion for playing the piano. Additionally, I would love to continue to contribute to exciting BENEO New Business Development (NBD) projects, but at a more relaxed pace.

To celebrate Jan’s invaluable contributions to the company, his close colleagues organised a well-deserved farewell dinner at a charming restaurant in Leuven where he was given some presents, generously contributed to by numerous colleagues, remembering his time with BENEO.

Jan Van Loo with his farewell presents
Dr Jan Van Loo during his farewell party with presents he received from colleagues

So, here is to you, Jan! Your dedication, expertise and commitment have left an enduring mark on our company and will for sure contribute to its continued success. It has been an absolute privilege to work alongside someone of your spirit and enthusiasm. We wish you nothing but the best!

Your BENEO Colleagues
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