Enormous product range
Alldra stands out thanks to its enormous product range, extending from hard and soft nonpareils to sugar sprinkles and all kinds of sugar decorations. Within the niche market in which the company is active, Alldra has competitors in Germany and Scandinavia. The European market share in hard nonpareils is approximately 35 percent, and for sugar sprinkles nearly 25 percent. "Most of our competitors produce only hard or soft nonpareils, for example. When you look at our entire product range, we are the European market leader," explains Managing Director Hank van Hasselt proudly. Although some clients purchase roughly 30,000 kilograms every month, most bulk deliveries are under 2,000 kilograms. What is remarkable is that virtually every consignment is custom-made. Tony Schoorlemmer: "Every brand wants to be emphatically different from their competitors. In taste, granule size and especially in colour, too. A nice, eye-catching product sells better." Alldra's enormous inventory of samples with countless creative colour combinations is a prime example of this kind of customised production. One important aspect is developments in the use of natural raw materials. This has resulted in many bright colours being replaced by pastel-like hues. "Clients do not want E numbers, which have certain negative connotations. We add colour to our products using, among other ingredients, beetroot juice, black carrots, spinach juice and paprika extract," explains the site manager.
Home baking is on the rise
'Heel Holland Bakt' (the Dutch version of the Great British Bake Off) is a television programme familiar to most in the Netherlands, where home baking has become a real trend. The result of such programmes is that supermarket sales of jars of sugar decorations have increased enormously over the past two years. Van Hasselt: "The popularity of home baking has grown abroad, too. This has resulted in the home market representing nearly 30 percent of our overall turnover. We expect this trend to continue in the coming years." Alldra has grown right along with the rising market demand over the past years. While this company from Rijssen produced 75,000 tonnes per week just three years ago, current production has risen to 120,000 tonnes per week. The last expansion in 2011, which added 25% extra production area, made this increase in capacity possible. Schoorlemmer: "In this new space, we have big plans for the production of our base product. Raw materials are added automatically. Sugar panning is then carried out in a purely traditional fashion."
This process of panning, which is Alldra's specialty, is carried out in a total of approximately two hundred copper pans. The heated pans of sugar spin round while staff coat the products in syrup and starch until a nice round white granule is created. It is a traditional trade, carried out by fourteen experienced employees, some of whom have been working for Alldra for dozens of years. Schoorlemmer: "Panning is a subtle art. It's all about choosing the right moment to add the starch and powdered sugar and subsequently allowing it to dry." The process of turning an angular little sugar granule into a larger, round ball takes roughly half a day to achieve. The core is built up by adding layer upon layer. For the production of hard nonpareils, wheat starch is added for the drying process. Overheating is required in order to allow the moisture to evaporate. Soft nonpareils are dried using powdered sugar and syrup, instead. The product hardens further during storage in big bags. After panning, the products are coated in different pans, and flavours and glazing agents are added. The client's desired colouring is also added at this point. In order to prevent contamination with metal particles, the confectionery producer has installed a metal detector. The reason for this is that copper can come free of the copper pans during heating, and it is also possible that metal particles are present in the supplied raw materials. "The metal detectors identify and immediately remove the metal. This is how a completely safe food product is created," says Schoorlemmer, adding that Alldra is also FSSC 22000 certified.
Alldra at a glance
Alldra was founded fifty years ago and has operated under a number of different companies over the course of the years, including as a subsidiary of CSM and as part of Heinz. After a management buy-out in 2004, six entrepreneurs bought shares in Alldra. In 2008, four of the participants were bought out by the current shareholders. The current Managing Director is Hank van Hasselt. As a former supervisor, he has been responsible for the day-to-day management of the company since 2013. The name of the company is a fusion of the Dutch words 'allemaal drageren' or 'total panning', the specialised sugar processing technique of Alldra that is largely done in the traditional fashion.