Connecting worlds with soy milk

Foodvalley Podcast 4 | De Nieuwe Melkboer

In the fourth episode of this podcast series, Jeroen Willemsen, Innovation Lead for the protein shift at Foodvalley NL, meets Bart and Tom Grobben, just outside the Dutch city of Enschede. These two young brothers are (partly) transforming the family dairy farm into a plant based dairy farm. With their brand De Nieuwe Melkboer (the new milkman) they produce high quality dairy products made from soy. Jeroen, Bart and Tom discuss obstacles and policies that need to be removed and the strengths of locally sourced plant-based dairy.

Listen to the podcast (in Dutch)

Bart, Tom and Jeroen on…

……connecting worlds
Bart: “During our study, we lived in a big city in the west of The Netherlands. We noticed that the younger generations in our neighbourhood were looking for plant-based alternatives for traditional dairy products. New coffee bars and breakfast places that offered plenty of plant-based dairy were opening almost on a daily basis. With our background as traditional dairy farmers, we realised an opportunity presented itself to connect two worlds. We wanted to build the bridge between farmers and consumers, vegetarians and carnivores and between generations by developing quality plant-based dairy.”

…problems and possibilities
Bart: “It’s too easy to hide some of the less sustainable aspects of certain crops and products in a global economy. Local crops stimulate transparency. And yes, that might be a little more expensive. But I am confident consumers that travel from Amsterdam to Enschede and see the soy grow in these fields, the soy that will end up in their plant based latté, will gladly pay a little extra for that experience and the transparency.”

…policies and politics
Jeroen: “In 1992 Europe traded off its trade protection for crops that were high in protein for easier access to the North- and South-American financial markets for banks and investors. That effectively destroyed the internal market for these crops from Europe. We immediately started importing cheap products from across the Atlantic and as a result we now import eighty percent of our plant based proteins from outside of Europe.”

Tom: “It would help if some policies change in order to make it easier for Dutch farmers to experiment and diversify. Currently, we are required to grow grass on eighty percent of our land because of the fact that we also have herd of cows. The remaining twenty percent is almost automatically needed to grow corn, because it is such a reliable crop. If it were allowed to use some of the remaining eighty percent a little differently, it would be much easier to experiment with new crops.”

…commitment and vision
Jeroen: “I am amazed by the entrepreneurship of producers like Bart and Tom even before there is a serious market for their products. Unfortunately, I am equally amazed by the time it took our national government to realise that the protein shift costs money in the short term, but that this concerns a profitable change in the long run. In time, these initiatives will result in a healthier climate, healthier people and a healthier economy. I am glad to see the government finally taking the first careful steps to support the protein shift right now though. Better late than never.”

“Of course, another important factor is the consumer. We spend eight percent of our income on food in the Netherlands. A historically low percentage. This suggests to me that there should be possibilities to appreciate health and sustainability a little bit more as consumers. But it is important to explain the choices we make and the impact those choices have.”

Please note: this serie is Dutch spoken. Also available on Spotify and Anchor.

Jeroen Willemsen
Innovation Lead Protein Shift
+31 6 177 380 37

About the podcast: 20 years of protein transition in the Netherlands

Listen to candid conversations with Jeroen Willemsen, Innovation lead Protein Shift, and professionals about the protein transition. What developments has the protein transition made in recent years? Where are we now? And what will be the position of plant proteins in the future?

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