Mindyourmeat; Product development with passion
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Mindyourmeat; Product development with passion

  • 13 September 2021
  • Door: Judith Witte

On October 4th, Leo van Etten, owner of 'De Nieuwe Slager', will start a new company specialised in meat substitutes for chefs and butchers. Pieter de Ruijter, commercial manager DEGENS (the butcher's branch of SOLINA-GROUP) is helping him.

Leo van Etten develops and produces a range of clean-label products from sustainable meat for a loyal group of customers. "Don't make a uniform product, but good, traditional products that people come back for," he says. "Our ham under the Gooise Ambacht label has been legendary for years. But the world is changing. The demand for 'less meat on our plates' is growing. Either by reducing weight, or through a complete alternative." 

"Especially among our meat-related target group, the demand for plant-based is growing, because the number of flexitarians is increasing," agrees Pieter de Ruijter.  "Within SOLINA we have a team of food fanatics who form the unique business unit NEXTERA and respond to the increasing demand for 'New Protein Food' (NFP). All sales teams in 17 countries receive monthly training. Successes achieved, new developments and flavours are shared and tested. With the input of recent industry news and in-depth market reports, we help our customers to increase their capacity for renewal and innovation."

New ideas and inspiration

At the interview table, it becomes clear that Pieter and Leo have known each other for some time. "Through tastings that were organised by a joint customer, Leo explains. "All suppliers were challenged to come up with new ideas. We always kept good contact. On Pieter's advice, I visited the 'Degens bbq inspiration event' two years ago." 

Pieter: "In the meantime, I was working in the world of herb mixes, marinades and sauces for the fresh produce industry. That was since 2017, so a year after the acquisition of Degens by the Solina Group. I thought the barbecue event would be perfect for Leo and assured him that he would be surprised with new ideas, also plant-based." Leo came, but did not pick up the ideas right away. "Everything was still going so well," he explains." I had enough work to focus on... Until the corona pandemic broke out. Suddenly the catering industry was closed, I was selling less and I had time to spare. That got me thinking."

Leo van Etten and Pieter de Ruijter in a brainstorming session

'Super-tasty butcher'

Leo went back to what he likes doing best: product development. "I decided to go with plant-based after all." He ordered the basic mix from DEGENS, in order to use it to make meat substitutes that are chef- and butcher-worthy. The experiments to find the right taste, bite and juiciness had begun. "Around that time, the street in front of my production location in Naarden was broken up. I thought how nice it would be to surprise the workmen with my newly developed burger. But I decided not to tell them it was vegan. Afterwards, I asked their opinion. Super-tasty butcher!" they said. Not one of them suspected that the burger was not actually meat. I thought that was so special! I met with Pieter to discuss the possibilities at DEGENS/SOLINA." Leo's ambitious goal: to develop a complete range himself and to establish a new company.

Further product development 

It did not take long before action was taken. A project team was formed together with Winfred van Eeken, quality manager at De Nieuwe Slager and Chris Schuiling, application specialist at DEGENS. A blind tasting was held with Frans Bon, culinary chef and co-responsible for the flavours of APOLLO (the food service branch of the SOLINA-GROUP). "Seven items stood out. However, we felt that these could really be improved in terms of flavour for the catering and butchery sectors. That's where we began." Leo then went looking for what he considered to be the perfect machines for the new production department. After several tests, he was able to make a well-considered investment for the future. 

Vegan flammkuchen


Pieter: "When you work together like this, you grow closer to each other. It's cool to create something new together. The great thing about this kind of project is that it is also supported by the NEXTERA team that helped us with the latest developments on a larger scale from their test site in Eke (Belgium). All dry mixes are now further optimised by the R&D team in Rotterdam according to customer recipe and produced there." 

Getting started

Leo is already producing for customers with whom he has developed vegetarian or vegan products. Soon he will start producing burgers and chicken strips for a national catering chain. He developed vegan minced meat with a beef, pork and chicken flavour. He will introduce these nationally under the name MINDYOURMEAT. In other words, with a wink: 'Be careful, a little less meat is also possible'. "With this product line, every chef or butcher can establish his own taste signature, make a good return and distinguish himself better towards his own consumer target group," says Pieter. Leo is currently in talks with several strategic sales partners. Export is not excluded. "Step by step we are on our way to a better future." 


Source: Vakblad Voedingsindustrie 2021