We share our knowledge and stories, always with the support of a marketing communications consultant from Circa Twee, our communications agency. For the past six months, this has been Janneke Buitenhuis. Five questions, five answers.
“Loads of faith in our partnership with Vetipak”
For many years now, they’ve been a powerhouse duo made in fragrant heaven: Vetipak and Rituals, a Dutch producer of luxury home and body cosmetics. We recently even opened a production plant dedicated exclusively to Rituals in the Vorstengrafdonk business park in Oss. We asked Marcel van Groningen, Chief Sourcing & Supply at Rituals, about the relationship between the two companies.
During his first-ever meeting with Arno van de Ven, Marcel picked up on Arno’s soft southern Dutch accent: “That’s when I knew I was dealing with a born-and-bred North Brabant man – someone was obviously comfortable enough in his skin to speak in his native dialect. I liked that about him, as well as the fact that he was clearly a born entrepreneur with a good head on his shoulders.”
Packaging gift sets
A little background to that initial meeting between Arno and Marcel: Rituals was looking for a company to package their gift sets. Marcel: “We don’t operate our own production plants or warehouses – we outsource everything to experts in their specific industry. It was our CEO, Raymond Cloosterman, who first put our two companies in touch. His in-laws own the The Duke golf club in Nistelrode [a village in the province of North Brabant], where, as it happens, none other than Arno van de Ven was crowned club champion several times...”
“I knew I was dealing with a born-and-bred North Brabant man,
as well as an entrepreneur with a good head on his shoulders”
Thinking out of the box
But while it was those connections that gave our company the ‘in’ we needed, that didn’t mean it was all smooth sailing from there on out. Marcel: “Quite the contrary, in fact – it took us a while to hammer out a deal that both companies were happy with. Our main sticking point was the price: they really wanted to help us out, but were also looking for a healthy profit margin. Fortunately, we managed to break the deadlock, because whenever he needs to think out of the box, Arno really comes through.”
The solution turned out to be vertically integrated production – a phenomenon also known as ‘backward integration.’ Marcel: “In order to be able to generate the profit margins they needed, Arno decided that Vetipak would produce the packaging for the gift sets themselves. It took him no time at all to purchase the machines, which at least took care of the commercial end of things. I like that kind of can-do attitude, as I’m very much the same way: whenever I see an opportunity, I’ll grab it.”
Rituals grew like gangbusters in the years that followed, and the company continues its international expansion today. With around 1,000 stores, roughly 5,000 shops-in-shops, and a boatload of ambitious plans, solid and reliable partnerships are crucial for the company. Marcel: “Although we have a lot of expertise and quality in-house, there are certain areas where other companies simply do a better job. No matter how creative and aesthetically beautiful your new packaging design might be, it also needs to be viable in terms of both quality and scale. We have found Vetipak to be a partner that provides input and solutions in so many different areas.”
As an example of Vetipak’s innovative approach, Marcel cites a packaging line recently launched by Rituals. “In Japan, we were inspired by the idea of packaging our gift boxes in origami, because unpacking a gift with multiple layers is a fabulous experience for the receiver. The only thing was: how were we going to pull it off? We had no idea how to go about it, but we knew one person who did: Arno! Who else? He couldn’t tell us how long it would take exactly, but he assured us he’d be able to come up with a solution at some point. And he did come through for us, just like he promised. Once we got past that stage, Vetipak also showed us why they’re unlike any of their competitors. They instantly went looking for ways to automate, mechanize, and robotize manual processes, to both scale up and speed up the process. I feel that kind of speed and determination is typical of how Vetipak operates.”
“Automating and mechanizing production to scale up and speed up the process – that kind of speed and determination is typical of how Vetipak operates”
Marcel van Groningen | Chief Sourcing & Supply Rituals
Rituals works with a variety of partners, not just Vetipak. As Marcel explains, there’s a strategy behind this decision: “From a risk management perspective, we never work with just one external supplier, but always with two or more. For the same reason, we don’t want to account for too small or too large a percentage of a supplier’s revenue – that means neither one percent, nor 30 percent. If you don’t keep the business relationship going, it tends to wither, which also means innovation tends to fall by the wayside. But if one of the partners is too big for the other, this could have an impact during an economic downturn. And the last thing we want is to see our suppliers in jeopardy. We aim to be a reliable partner no matter what.”
Marcel expects (and hopes) that the two companies will continue their excellent relationship going forward. “Since it’s important for Vetipak to keep growing, just like we have, it’s smart for them to find other clients and industries and develop in those areas. The more they grow, the better they’ll be able to facilitate our growth, and nothing is more fun than enjoying that kind of success together.”
“Nothing is more fun than enjoying that kind of success together”
However, ‘together’ will soon no longer include Marcel, who announced some time ago that he would be leaving Rituals. “I’ve started to wind down, and my calendar is looking a lot lighter these days, as my successor has started to take on a lot of my duties. We’ve already visited quite a few clients, partners, and suppliers together. I must say I have mixed feelings about leaving, as working with suppliers over all those years is part of what made my job so special. And although I will certainly miss Vetipak, I have every confidence that Rituals and Vetipak will continue their partnership into the future.”
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