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Michael Brinkman:

“European model has to be adjusted to be successful in Asia”

San Lucar started the year with a changing of the guard at management level. Founder and CEO Stephan Rötzer passed the baton to Michael Brinkmann, the company’s former CFO and CEO for the international production. The international company, with headquarter in Spain, wants to continue growing in the coming years, and to expand globally. For example, the Netherlands is clearly on the agenda. The new CEO talks about his ambitions and the challenges facing the sector.

Michael Brinkmann started as San Lucar’s CFO in 2013. “because of that, I know the company through and through, I know how the company works,” he says. “San Lucar is a fantastic company. Stephan and I have the same values within the company.” Owner Stephan Rötzer will not completely withdraw from the company. He’ll focus on strategic developments and new ideas more. “It’s up to me to implement as many ideas as possible,” Michael says, laughing.

“It’s a challenging sector. We have healthy products that grow in nature, I think that’s fantastic. There’s a lot of demand, and we work hard to meet customers’ wishes. But it is not easy. Sometimes customers come to us with impossible requests, for example, we have to establish the programmes for next year now, so that we can plant plenty of new plants, but not every customer can already make those choices now. I enjoy that seasonal challenge.”

Daan van der Giessen (commercial manager Netherlands) and Michael Brinkmann (CEO)

International ambition

The most important task of the new manager is to have the company grow in a stable manner. “It’s not my ambition to implement drastic changes. SanLucar has been successful in the past twenty five years, so major changes aren’t necessary. It’s more about fine-tuning.” 

One of the files to be found on Michael’s desk is marked "International Growth." “We want to grow on markets such as the Middle East, China and Russia,” he says. “These markets aren’t new to us, but they are different. We have to adjust the European model to these markets to be successful. I’ll be focusing on that.” Another challenge is for internal communication to go well. “With offices in China, the Middle East and Ecuador it’s important to establish good communication.”

Considering the size of the Chinese market, the scale on which a new concept can be introduced is much larger, yet Michael is wary of a growth that’s too quick. “Sometimes companies want to grow very quickly, but we’d rather be certain the cooperation is successful. We want to know for certain that we have the right product and the right partner,” he says. The different import regulations and differences in logistics are the two factors that decide success on the market. On top of that, each group of consumers has different preferences for flavour and size. “Germans prefer larger sizes of fruit, but I’m not sure the same is true for the Chinese market,” Michael exemplifies the differences between the markets.

Controlled growth strategy

Closer to home, SanLucar has also turned its gaze towards the Dutch market. “We want to introduce our concept on shop floors in the Netherlands,” Michael explains. This concept means SanLucar will take over part of the shop floor to offer their products. “We increase turnover for the shopkeeper, but it takes time to properly develop this.” In the Netherlands, the company works with supermarkets and wholesalers to introduce the concept. “It’s a massive success in Germany, so why wouldn’t it be in the Netherlands and Belgium? We get enthusiastic responses from shop owners.”

That controlled growth strategy is possible because the company is in private hands. “In the past twenty five years, we grew step by step. Because we aren’t quoted on the stock exchange, there’s no pressure to grow. Growing isn’t the most important thing,” Michael says. Takeovers therefore don’t exactly fit the growth strategy. “It’s tricky to completely integrate two companies with different cultures, and to have them work together seamlessly. I don’t think a takeover would help us.”

“I personally think decision-making is much quicker for a private company as well,” Michael continues. “We can quickly draw conclusions and make decisions. Besides, we can also make decisions that will be profitable in the long term.” That long-term vision has always been Stephan Rötzer’s starting point. “He wants to leave something for the next generation. Most investors don’t look at the far horizon, nor at the long term.”

For more information:
Sonia Gabarda
Press Department SanLucar Fruit
T: (+34) 96142 40 40. Extension 2410

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