Tom Verburg, Director of Business Development at Tanis, talks to International Confectionery about the company’s commitment to help its customers succeed in business. From co-developing business ideas, including entering the active candies market, to after-sales manufacturing equipment support.
Having been involved with installations for the food production industry for more than 35 years, Tom Verburg has amassed a vast range of knowledge and experience across the board. From bakery, snacks, instant noodles, and even fresh vegetable processing to his current confectionery focus of complete production lines for gummies and jellies. Through roles in sales, project execution and business development for OEMs. Expertise does not come much more comprehensive than this!
Tom joined Tanis at the start of 2014 as a project manager, having already executed various projects for the company as an external contractor. His official arrival saw him working on what was, for the time, a ground-breaking project in the nutraceutical industry. When this was completed, Tom moved into Sales to introduce the T-Gel Complete lines to the market, before switching to his current position.
Now in his role as Director of Business Development, Tom is overseeing the development and roll-out of Tanis Support, an after-sales service option which follows through on Tanis’ philosophy of “teaming up with customers” (as Tom puts it) through every stage of their Tanis experience.
Teaming up is something that begins long before any Tanis equipment is purchased. As Tom explains: “We are not about just selling equipment, we are about helping our customers’ businesses thrive. Their success is our success. We would not still be here today if we did not proactively take care of that.
“When we first engage with a potential customer, or even an existing one who wants to re-evaluate their position, we do not start by telling them what we can offer, we start by looking at what they hope to achieve. Our conversation is built around their end product and whether there is a feasible business case, with a worthwhile ROI? This is not us being intrusive. This is us sharing the benefits of the extensive knowledge and experience our company has accumulated from decades in the market. In very different territories all over the world.
“Once we are satisfied the trajectory is favourable, we then get to work on rationalising the entire manufacturing process and producing a perfectly tailored solution. This way, we can all be assured that the production line we propose is fully fit for the customer’s stated purpose.”
Strengthening customers’ teams
Tanis’s consultative selling approach is just the start. The teaming up mantra means a commitment to really being there for customers whenever needed. “Regardless of whether a problem could have been prevented, or whose fault it is,” says Tom, “We’re always there to work it out and come to any necessary agreements for resolving it.
“But we’re not just about fixes after things go wrong,” he continues, “we are primarily proactive, we go all out to make sure we understand every customer’s needs and anticipate them. This is how we make ourselves a true, and valuable, part of the team.”
Taking after-sales service to a new level, Tanis is currently rolling out its Tanis Support service, which provides expert on-call support all over the world. And when Tanis says, “expert on-call support,” they really mean it!
“When customers turn to us for help, they don’t end up at a generic customer support desk. They very quickly get directed straight through to a genuine expert who is relevant to their problem, located within a suitable time-zone. We have set up Tanis Support hubs at our headquarters in the Netherlands to serve Europe, at our production facility in Australia for the Asia-Pacific region and in Salt Lake City to serve the Americas.
“Our support team consists of experts who are primarily engaged in their regular work developing, designing, and servicing Tanis equipment, but can be called upon whenever a customer needs their advice. Therefore, Tanis Support members get directly through to ‘the horse’s mouth,’ without going through layers of contacts. Whoever they speak to has full access to all the details of that customer’s production line via a service portal, so no time is wasted.
“Tanis Support effectively extends our service around the provision of gums and jellies production lines to cover the complete lifecycle. It’s an optional extra for which customers choose which level of membership they want to subscribe to.”
Staying ahead of the curve
When asked how Tanis stays ahead of the curve in providing for gums and jellies manufacturers, Tom puts it down to the company’s innovation-driven approach and closeness to the market. “You can only develop the most appropriate products and offer the best advice by joining the ride your customers are on, sensing and feeling what they’re going through in their business. We maintain a constant dialogue with the market and a constant watch on consumer behaviour.”
One consumer behaviour which has released an avalanche of opportunities for gums and jellies manufacturers, and has developed into its own sub-industry, is the sharply increasing demand for products with active ingredients, which can be anything from vitamins and minerals to CBD.
Tom explains: “The demand for active candies began in the USA and is now spreading into Europe and around the world. Because Tanis equipment facilitates very accurate ingredient dosing, gums and jellies are a fantastic medium for incorporating these. For many people, getting their dietary supplements via a tasty sweet is far preferable to swallowing pills and capsules.”
Specialist advice for making active candies
However, manufacturing active candies is not just a simple matter of adding extra ingredients. Health-enhancing supplements need to be processed very carefully to ensure they do not lose efficacy, and the production process must be suitably modified. This is another area where Tanis’s consultative selling approach comes into its own, as the company can fully advise customers on how to get the right results.
Tom: “The spectrum of active ingredients which can be incorporated into gums and jellies is very wide. Alongside commonly used vitamins A, B12, C, D3 and E, manufacturers can consider adding probiotics (for digestive health), collagen (for hair, skin, nails), melatonin (sleep pattern regulation) and many more health, energy and wellbeing supplements. This gives brands lots of room to experiment, define and differentiate themselves through themed product ranges.
“The market potential is huge. But it’s vital the opportunity isn’t thrown away during the production process. The last thing any manufacturer wants is to invest in active ingredients and all the marketing around their new candies, only to end up with bad reviews in consumer testing. For active ingredients need to remain active, the manufacturing process needs to be adjusted. We’ve been working on this for a long time, so we know where thing scan go wrong. More importantly, we know how to avoid things going wrong, and are happy to pass on the full extent of this knowledge to our customers.
“For example, some active ingredients are very sensitive to heat, so these need to be added at the last-possible moment before depositing, to avoid damage through prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The presence of active additives in a recipe can also influence characteristics such as flavour, smell and pH. To use vitamin C as an example, it makes everything taste quite sour, and the way to balance this is to add salt!”
Dosing accuracy, and when to overdose
Accurate dosing is important for making any kind of sweets. When active ingredients are involved, it becomes even more critical. As high accuracy has always been a Tanis specialism, this is all under control.
“We’ve put a huge amount of work into ensuring every individual gum or jelly that comes out of our production lines contains a consistent and correct amount of every ingredient. Not just the active ones, but also all the components which preserve stability, such as glucose slurry. We’ve developed some of the most accurate dosing equipment in the industry. Homogenising the mix to ensure equal distribution and depositing an accurate and consistent final product weight are every bit as important. And through our complete production lines, we’ve got it all covered.”
Sometimes, accurate dosing of product calls for overdosing of raw ingredients. “As things stand at this moment, there’s no way to completely prevent active ingredients from degrading to some extent, either during or after production. But we know enough about it to come up with calculations for getting predictable results. These include an amount by which different vitamins and supplements should be overdosed to compensate, together with the amount of stabilising ingredients for counteracting that. It’s all about balance to find the sweet spot, so to speak! You can’t just solve everything by adding more preservatives.”
The question of starch
Tanis’s complete production lines include those with and without starch-lined moulding trays. Use of non-starch trays plays a vital role in avoiding ingredient cross-contamination in production lines where there is periodical switching between recipes.
Swapping starch moulds for non-starch moulds isn’t an isolated process. The mass needs to be created differently, according to which depositing method is used. With its customer-centric focus, Tanis recognised the need for complete non-starch production lines early enough to be first-to-market with this concept.
Tom: “Tanis was the first to develop and introduce a non-starch system. And it delights me every day to be able to say ours is still considered the best! This probably has a lot to do with the way we really thought-through what our manufacturing customers need. We know that every minute of down-time while changing recipes is money lost. This led us to developing unique non-starch trays which are exceptionally easy to exchange and clean to hygienic standard. So, manufacturers can switch recipes as quickly as possible.”
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Editor, International Confectionery
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