According to DW (Deutsche Welle radio), Germany’s most popular cooking oil comes from the seeds of a bright yellow flowering member of the Brassicaceae family. This clan also include mustard, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and turnips. Known as rapeseed oil, this light and delicate oil is widely used in cooking and baking far beyond the German border. And one company has gained momentum owing to its clean, sustainable rapeseed oil offering.
Teutoburger Ölmühle is a market leader providing customers and consumers with first-class edible oils, especially in the organic sector. Food safety is always at the heart of everything they do for the company: they consider it in all their activities, considerations, and planning. The company is constantly evolving by working on product improvements and further developments of its offerings.
The company was the brainchild of two process engineers working on a non-chemical process for purifying oilseed as part of their doctoral thesis at the University of Essen. Using a now-patented procedure, they could remove the bitter hulls from rapeseed kernels without the need for harsh chemicals. The resulting cold-pressed kernel oil is golden in color, a reliable indicator of its purity. As well as attracting federal funding, this sustainable and gentle process was also singled out as being particularly innovative.
Under the aegis of the CEO, Gerd Beilke, Teutoburger Ölmühle has gained new heights. The new process came just at the right time. Consumers were looking for healthier and more sustainable cooking fats, and their high-quality, cold-pressed rapeseed and linseed oils fit the bill perfectly. The company was taken over in 2016 by the Möhrle family and now employs 100 people here in Ibbenbüren and generates 65 Mio € in annual turnover after 32 Mio € in 2018.
They immediately started restructuring the company to return the focus to its core activity in cold-pressed cooking oils. Most importantly, they accelerated the shift towards organic production and doubled the turnover within 4 years.
Transforming the Company
When Gerd joined the company in 2017, organic oils comprised just 10% of production. But he had already identified the organic oils market, which had immense growth and profitability potential. He knew Teutoburger Ölmühle was the best company to become a market leader. He began cutting off all non-profitable company subsidiaries and downsizing unnecessary expenditures, looking for continuous improvements in the form of talented people, production planning, and efficiency. With his clear strategy and sheer focus, Gerd was able to reduce losses from € -2.5 Mn to 0 already in his first year. “This was really important as it reduced our cash flow pressure immediately. As a result, we do not need money from outside, although we have had huge losses in the past. Then a total restructuring took place at the end of 2017 and in the course of 2018 with a strategy change towards organic oil,” says Gerd. “Today, organic products account for 75% of Teutoburger Ölmühle’s output and it reached 4 Mio € EBITDA in 2022. But that is by no means the endpoint. Our goal is to completely reverse the position of three years ago and make 90% of our production organic. The market is certainly there. The organic trend has grown steadily in recent years, and the recent crisis has only speeded up that process.”
He advises every entrepreneur to act immediately when a company loses money. “Stop everything that is unprofitable and also unnecessary costs (even newspaper costs, office heating over weekends, marketing costs, etc.). Establish a full cost reduction mentality among the whole organization. And also: identify the people in the organization who love to do that with you,” he states. “You need to identify a Strategy that fits your core strengths and also to the market trends. For instance, we are strong in organic oil supply, brand, and trade management, and the organic oil market grew much faster than conventional. Growing market segments act like a booster of all the good work done in an organization.”
Guiding & Inspiring
Gerd constantly guides his employees with the best training, motivation, and job security in the volatile market. For him, it all begins by selecting the right people aligned with the same mission and vision as the company’s core values and dedicated to doing what they do best. “I have a very solid and capable management team with seven people today, where only one of them was in the same position when I started, some were in the companies, but in other positions, some have been recruited on purpose directly,” he explains. “I trust my core team, which has now been established over the years. Failure is a steppingstone for us till the time we learn a lesson from it and never repeat it. And I always recognize good work and motivate them with the best technology and tools.”
Gerd is a strong believer in “Training on the job,” giving young people the possibility to grow fast by taking over full responsibility, using their autodidactic skills to find solutions but assisting them in addition with only the most relevant but essential training (no one fits all training providence, but very individual training identifications). The vital life lesson that the pioneering leader has learned is to do what is best for the business; even though one has to make hard decisions, the employees will recognize the positive impact within the organization, and in the end: they all want to work in a financially healthy and stable company.
Building A Brand
Digital transformation plays an essential role in Teutoburger Ölmühle’s daily business. They have a high-quality IT team, including an ERP specialist, a software programmer, an office manager, and a digital marketing expert who push Teutoburger Ölmühle to stay at the forefront of Information technology all the time.
There are numerous ways where the company utilizes technology, from simple things like “Windows Teams,” which was used (before Covid) to collaborate on projects and also work together on numerous subjects, to Geotargeting in Marketing to spot all target consumers based on socio-demographic data living close to supermarkets/Health Food Stores where Teutoburger Ölmühle’s premium oils are sold. In addition, the company uses a lot of consumer data to know the consumers and their needs. In a nutshell: IT is everywhere in the company and has been a significant driver of Teutoburger Ölmühle’s success in the last couple of years.
In the coming days, Teutoburger Ölmühle wants to become number 1 glass bottled rapeseed oil business in Germany. Rapsgold is Top 1 category brand in German Retail based purely on growth parameters and they have become much closer to the market leader (from approx. 20% of their sales in 2018 to 75% of their sales in 2022).
“We want to work on new business opportunities to leverage all aspects of oil seeds, such as protein usage for human food, and we want to become the leading oil mill in sustainability by e.g., further increasing our organic business percentage and reducing energy usage per ton of output,” elucidates Gerd. “Also, we run already 12 CSR projects per year (either with social, ecological or economic goals) and we would like to double that number in the next 5 years.”