For 17 years Danish company KMC had Uffe Andreasen as its CEO and he transformed the company from a raw material supplier to the food industry to dedicated partner and supplier of functional solutions worldwide. Late last year Michael Jensen took over and is set to continue the company's global growth.
KMC is unusual in the competitive world of modern business. The company started in1933 as part of the co-operative movement that brought Danish agriculture from small-scale self-sufficiency to being Denmark's major post-war export industry.
Denmark was, in fact, one of the world's earliest practitioners of the co-operative idea in its modern form.
The many small farmers in this tiny Scandinavian country pooled resources to invest in machinery and know-how so that they could become more competitive in world markets.
The whole idea was to help each other get better and stronger.
KMC and its seven factories began the first Danish commercial production of potato starch, after a political agreement at government level.
People regarded the start-up of these factories with scepticism, partly because growers had to put their signature to an obligation to deliver potatoes. Practically every previous attempt to start a potato starch factory had resulted in big financial losses for the growers.
Today, KMC is a modern company with a distinctive way of doing business that has evolved from its unusual background.
The company is still formally a co-operative company owned by the 1,500 or so Danish growers who supply the potatoes that are the basis of KMC's production in Denmark.
The members of the board of directors are elected by the growers and are at the same time part-owners.
This offers a unique, dynamic configuration where the owners, suppliers, management and board have the same shared interest. They all work to ensure KMC is a prosperous company making the best possible use of the crops from the farmers who are its suppliers.
During Uffe Andreasen's 17 years of inspiring leadership he transformed KMC from raw material supplier to the food industry to dedicated partner and supplier of functional solutions to leading food producers in more than 72 countries.
Andreasen also embraced the global future with the start-up of production in China and Vietnam as well as representative offices in Russia, China, England, and Germany.
This put KMC in a strong position to face the political and market-related challenges ahead.
Personally Andreasen enjoyed having the world as his workplace and his cheerful and positive manner helped put KMC on the map and made it an attractive cooperative partner for farmers, customers, and associates.
Michael Jensen took over at the end of September last year and while emulating Andreasen might be a ‘tall order', Jensen is eager to take on the challenge of guiding KMC not only through the current global recession, but even more so through the challenging situation in the international starch markets.
Jensen brings a very strong background to the CEO position.
He holds a PhD in biochemistry/molecular biology, an MBA in change management and business administration, an MSc in physics/chemistry as well as a BCom (International trade).
In addition Jensen has 20 years experience with complex project solutions for Danish and international businesses.
Jensen's professional experience covers a wide field within protein and biochemical basic research, sales and marketing, key account management, competency development and top management from a number of chief executive positions.
So, what are the challenges?
Said Jensen: "With the forthcoming cessation of EU subsidies in July 2012, KMC is facing a huge challenge in creating a new business foundation that, as a minimum, will create additional earnings in the order of the lost subsidies."
He said that while Danish starch potato farmers had both a right and an obligation to deliver, ‘we face the risk of receiving significantly fewer potatoes for processing in our factories with resulting free production capacity'.
This, he said, could create a vicious circle with ‘decreased earnings and even lower payments to our farmers'.
And how does the company plan to counter this?
"The burning issues are thus crystal clear for KMC," explained Jensen.
"The business, application, and product development must ensure additional earnings that, as a minimum, will make up for the loss of subsidies.
"Then we need low-cost leadership - that is, the production of native potato starch at lowest possible cost
"We are in the process of analysing the present picture in KMC and clarifying the specific strategic challenges.
"When the new business, application, and product possibilities have been established a strategy for the next three to four years will be implemented that will ensure the necessary additional earnings
"These are big and demanding challenges for KMC, but with the spirit, commitment, and solidarity that characterise the entire KMC team we are convinced that we will meet our goal."
According to KMC chairman Martin Arvad, Jensen ‘is the exact combination of seasoned technology executive and savvy leader that the board was looking for'.
He said he is confident Jensen will continue to cement KMC's status as market leading supplier of high-value starch products.
As part of its ongoing global growth, KMC has intensified its focus on the US market. While being present in the USA for many years, due to the continued focus on modified starches and functional ingredients KMC recently expanded its team of application technicians.
Through co-operation with Indiana Sugars, Dorothy Peterson joined the KMC team in January this year.
Peterson has solid experience within starches and numerous applications within the food industry and is described as a ‘key element' in the company's strategy to expand KMC's activities in the US market.