We want to be the best in Europe

5 min
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We want to be the best in Europe

Unox's soup cans, Heinz's ketchup bottles or Albert Heijn's Delicata chocolate bars: just some of the billions of labels that come out of the Royal Sens factory in Rotterdam every year.

Sheets full of Heinz labels fly through the machine at a dizzying pace. "We print around 35 million labels a week", explains Sander Koster, CEO of Royal Sens. Though he's only been CEO since January 2023. "The company has been around since 1896, so I've basically just walked in the door". Royal Sens began in the late 19th century as a family business and lithographic printing firm. The company only started specializing in labels in 1979. Sander entered Royal Sens as his prodecessor Jan Geitenbeek was retiring after 16 years. "Royal Sens is now one of the largest enterprises in the labelling and packaging industry in Europe. In addition to our Rotterdam site, we also have printers in Enschede. In total, we produce around 8.6 billion labels a year divided in 17,000 unique designs. 80 percent of these are paper, and 20 percent plastic. Half the supermarkets are full of our products."

Eye-catcher

While a label is one of the cheaper parts of a package - an average label costs about half a euro - it is also perhaps the most important. "Labels may seem like a mere commodity," says Sander. "But that is not the case. We say to our clients 'Your label is the only way to communicate directly with your end consumer.' The design and image must both be appealing. The front of the label is your brand positioning, the rear provides information about your product, such as nutritional values."

Ultimately, it's our own people who generate revenues here - they really are the heroes of our enterprise
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Sander Koster

General Director

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Heroes of the enterprise 

To ensure precise uniformity among all those labels requires a lot of skill. "What we do is quite capital intensive" Sander explains. "It's packed with machines, but our real capital is our personnel. Operating these machines requires real skill. It takes years before you're competent enough to operate them independently, and that means a very long training process." He laughs: "It's a world apart from your office copier. We use 92 different types of paper here, a vast array of inks, and the presses all work at varying speeds: and that must all be properly coordinated. Ultimately, it's our own people who generate revenues here - they really are the heroes of our enterprise."

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Goal Zero

Although Sander has been in the driver's seat for barely a year, there have been quite a few changes within the company in recent months. "I've introduced the Goal Zero program. Our objective is to arrive at 0 complains from customers within 12 months. So we've invested in extra hardware and check-lists for every production step. There is also more quality control, and we're already noticing major improvements." Fortunately, he's not left alone to come up with solutions. "I use Quadrum often as a sparring partner. They acquired Royal Sens when the family wanted to quit the company in 2019. The stock was sold to Quadrum at that time. Driven by their entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to really invest in the company." He continues: "We really work together with them a lot, the relationship is a very positive one. They are genuinely concerned with what the company needs and support us fully."

Vision of the future

That support is really needed, as Sander is not afraid to think big. "We have an ambitious agenda on the table. For 2024, we basically want three things. Operational excellence for improving our processes, commercial excellence for completely fine-tuning our pricing mechanism, and the last being growth, of course. We want to expand in Enschede, and I want to look at options for acquisitions around Europe. We already deliver in 10 countries. The pace of growth is quite high, but ultimately we simply want to be the best Europe has to offer!" he concludes. 

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