Starting at the airport in Brussels, the BENEO vibe was already on point! With a whole bunch of colleagues from different departments, we were ready for take-off to Berlin. And I (Charlotte) was very excited to join my very first live BENEO Group Forum (BGF). The BGF is an annual event were colleagues all across the world are being invited. The aim is to receive the latest information about what is happening in our company, to network and to further grow our company spirit.
We started the trip with a dinner in the hotel. With a group of almost 200 colleagues, you can imagine it was a lot of fun seeing everyone and catching up.
Day one of the BENEO Group Forum in Berlin
In the morning the first day of the BGF started. We had a whole day of presentations ahead, a full program that was hosted by our dear colleagues Silke Ullmann and Kevin Reed. They proved to be fantastic presenters! Our board gave us many insights in the current market situation, challenges and opportunities. Then, we heard the Südzucker board (our mother company) on their vision and how BENEO fits into the bigger picture. Such inspirational speeches! The day took us further into the BENEO world. After the recent acquisition of Meatless, it was interesting to hear from Jos Huygense about how he founded the business and how he sees the opportunities of the two companies combining forces. We are taking steps closer to the consumer, as the Meatless range offers semi-finished meat and fish replacers. And talking about meat replacements, our next insights were all about plant-based protein! We got to dig deep into the current strategy of this product line.
Flying into the afternoon.
What came after, was a highlight for many of us. A keynote from an actual pilot! And this man sure knew how to tell a story. He took us on an (imaginary 😉 ) flight with the story of captain Sullivan. The main message: always keep steering your plane, keep focus, don’t get distracted by chaos…and follow your gut feeling. This was a very inspirational story for sure. There’s also a top notch movie about this, featuring Tom Hanks, if I’ve sparked anyone’s interest.
And the day was not over yet. It was HR’s turn to tell us all about what they’ve been up to lately. With a very interesting workshop about leadership and competencies.
It’s clear that we had a lot of information to digest after such a filled day. Time to let off some steam. Busses were ready to pick us up for some tasty food in the market place. And after that we met up on the dancefloor!
The second and last day of BENEO Group Forum
After a good night’s sleep and a breakfast in the hotel, we were ready for day two. Again with two amazing facilitators: Hanna Bean and Terence Tan. We learned all about our efforts in sustainability and how we are taking steps with our new CRM tool.
After that we split up in groups to visit five market stalls to take us further into topics such as employer branding, our chicory root processing plant in Pemuco, Chile and Oreye, Belgium and many more topics.
And that was already the ending of the BENEO Group Forum. What an amazing event! The organisers sure did a great job with this once again.
I flew home and now hand the word to my colleague Sofie, who then got on the plane to Berlin to join the Sales Network Meeting.
Reunited at the BENEO Sales Network Meeting
I arrived in Berlin to join the BENEO colleagues and our global sales network partners, who flew in from all over the world, for the 2023 BENEO Sales Network Meeting (SNM). The motto of this SNM was “Reunited”, underlining the fact that we were all so happy to being together again, after three looong years of pandemic-forced interruption. The goal of such a meeting, that takes place once every two years, is to re-connect with our sales network partners from all over the world. It is about motivation, learning, celebrating and inspiring each other…while having a great time together. We started off with a leisurely buffet dinner on Monday night, in an informal atmosphere, to catch up with each other and meet some new faces. Exciting!
The official program started on Tuesday, with our colleagues Kwee Choo Ng and Gregory Catillon as facilitators. They made an entrance in style and led us through the morning of presentations, as real hip Berliners. After a welcome word of one of our board members Dominic Speleers, our product managers presented what’s new in the world of functional fibres, carbohydrates, proteins and specialty rice ingredients. We listened to the amazing start-up stories of Michael Ziegler (Co-founder of Grillido), Jos Hugense (Founder of Meatless) and Marcel Paa (Founder of Hellosweety) and ended with a presentation on digital collaboration with our new CRM tool. After lunch our colleagues Pieter Caspers and Jolien Lambrechts took over the role as very charming facilitators and introduced everyone to the afternoon workshops starring the different product lines.
Roaring 20’s night
The evenings were dedicated to conveying some “Berlin feeling”, starting with a Roaring Twenties event. At that time, nightclubs became the mythical venue to get dressed up, go out drinking and listen to the new sound of jazz music. Our plan exactly! Glitz and glamour fashion items were handed out. All dressed up, we headed to the Clärchens Ballhaus, one of the last surviving ballrooms from the 20th Century, where the old charm has been preserved. People have been coming here for 100 years to dance and have fun. And so did we!! Extra credit to the singer and musicians of the Delphi Dance Orchestra for the amazing live tunes in 20’s style! It kind of felt like being on a movie set….very impressive!
Our colleagues Graciela Ralli and Ernesto Duarte rocked at opening the second day. They introduced Jonny Forsyth, Director of Mintel Food & Drink, for a very interesting presentation on how to make your brand invaluable in an inflation era. We tasted and learned even more in the technical workshops on meat and fish substitutes, chocolate, dairy alternatives and new application recipes, led by our colleagues from the Customer Technical Support. Following a good old BENEO tradition, all sales network partners submitted their favourite market launch of the year in order to compete for the most wanted BENEO award: The Product of the Year. In the afternoon our colleagues Robbe De Man and Alisa Borbonus entertainingly guided the voting for the Product of the Year Election. The final winner was to be announced at the special BENEO Award show, the final evening event.
BENEO award night
Reception, dinner and the 2023 SNM Award Show took place in the heart of the city at Berlin Bricks club, an urban ambiance location with industrial design, and a center stage, ideal for live acts! We invited the cover singer, Sascha Krebs, also known as the front singer of one of the best Queen tribute bands in Europe, who started his set with “Let me Entertain you”, which he did for the rest of his performance with his great voice and energy!
The real stars of the night, however, were the hosts of the show, our colleagues Noémie Cosemans and Jo Ruysen, who played a highly appreciated part in making this a memorable event. They announced the winners – with a dash of humor 😉 And the Award for Product of the Year went to…. Sam’s Club Pistachio Nut bar! This great tasting snack bar with the sugar replacer isomalt and fructo-oligosaccharides comes at a right time to the Chinese market, completely in line with the no added sugar market trend and growing consumer interest. Congratulations to our sales network partner DPO China who was proudly represented in absence by our Singaporean colleague Chris Goh! Time to celebrate! We all met up on the dancefloor for one last time, enjoyed some drinks and danced the night away. A perfect end to a fantastic event.
On behalf of the whole BENEO Events Team, one last heartfelt thank you to all participants and contributors on and behind the scenes. See you back for more in 2025!
This blog was written jointly by our dear colleagues Charlotte Keulen and Sofie Colombeen, as Charlotte participated in the BENEO Group Forum while Sofie attended the Sales Network Meeting.