The Hamburg enterprise Stern-Wywiol Gruppe is still showing two-digit growth rates, and with over 365 million EUR in 2012 it achieved the highest turnover in its 33-year history. The group’s success is the result of consistent innovation and systematic enlargement of the facilities for applications technology. Investments amounted to over 22 million EUR last year alone, mainly for the facilities in Ahrensburg and Wittenburg. The achievement of a second prize in the “Entrepreneur of the year” competition was yet another impressive acknowledgement of the group’s corporate strategy.
Under the umbrella of the “Stern-Wywiol Gruppe”, eleven highly specialized companies develop, produce and market functional ingredients for the production of food and animal feed. Founded by Volkmar Wywiol 33 years ago as a one-man show, the group of companies has since established itself as one of the major specialists in the global ingredients market and now employees a staff of 800 worldwide.
Torsten Wywiol as the CEO manages the business of the holding company together with his father. He regards the structure of a family business, with the flexibility it permits, as an important competitive advantage: “Compared with the major corporations, we can respond to changing market conditions faster, with innovative products and services.” In his opinion, the most significant guarantee of success is the unusual configuration of the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe: “Each of our eleven independent firms has a profound knowledge of the industry it serves—for instance, baking, dairy products, deli foods, meat, fish, flavourings or vitamins; this also includes extensive applications technology and closeness to the customer. We draw this competence in the different sectors of ingredients together through our holding company.”
The companies owe their high innovative power to an interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge. To permit this, extensive applications development is carried out at the Technology Centre in Ahrensburg. The Research and Development department is the heart of the group. “There is scarcely an enterprise in Europe that has such a broad basis of applications technology. We develop solutions tailored exactly to the scale of the customer’s industrial production. To do that we have a wide range of specialist laboratories and pilot production lines,” says Torsten Wywiol, emphasizing the strong practical orientation of the development department.
On the outskirts of Hamburg, 50 technologists and research scientists work on the products of tomorrow. Last year, their workplace was enlarged at a capital cost of six million euros. The area available for applications research was doubled, to the present 3,000 m²; the investment included the latest equipment for rheological analysis and baking, an enlarged milling section, a pasta plant, laboratories for biotechnology and vitamin analysis, two laboratories for flavour analysis and a teaching room. In addition to all this, a sensory studio was opened to permit the tasting of products under professional, standardized conditions.
At the production facility in Wittenburg, too, the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe has expanded with a view to opening up new business fields in filling and compounding. In the course of the eighth phase of construction at a total capital cost of 16 million EUR a fluid bed processor was commissioned which will permit contract manufacturing of new, functional products for the food and pharmaceutical industries.
With an export ratio of 85 percent the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe is well set up internationally. Thirteen foreign affiliates, such as in Russia, Mexico, Singapore, Malaysia, India, China and Brazil, manage and supply customers in over 100 countries. Last year the first branch in the U.S. opened its doors.
The corporate philosophy of the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe is widely acknowledged in outside circles as well as in the relevant industries. The Hamburg company again achieved one of the top places in the business competition “Entrepreneur of the Year”. In September 2012 the renowned professional services organization Ernst & Young, which awards prizes in over 50 countries worldwide, acknowledged the outstanding entrepreneurial achievements of Torsten and Volkmar Wywiol with second place in the category “Industry”.