Production has been ramped up since the snack bar days. “We produce up to nine batches of ragout a day. Every batch amounts to 400 kilos of ragout.,” Ferry says. “Some of the ragout gets sold like that, the rest is turned into croquettes by us.”
Ferry Zeldenrijk is the third generation of his family to run the Zeldenrijk snack factory in Utrecht. It started in 1964, when his grandfather turned his bakery into a snack bar where he made his own croquettes. In 1974 Dik and Rita Zeldenrijk, Ferry’s parents, took over the business. Zeldenrijk never stopped growing. In 2000 the business moved into the current factory.
From beef to deer
Zeldenrijk produces 57 different types of croquettes. “From beef to deer and from cheese to oyster mushroom. You name it.” And all productions happens on just one production line. “Planning the production is a very meticulous job. It’s our biggest challenge.”
“This morning we started with gluten free. That means the machines have to be very clean. Any allergen you can think of, we have it laying around here somewhere. Organic and vegan products also have very strict guidelines we need to adhere to.”
Room to grow
Zeldenrijk is still growing fast. “Our biggest problem is having just one single production line. We’ll probably expand to add a second one in the future.”
For now, the company is focusing on expanding their refrigeration. This requires a lot of forethought and planning. “We expanded four years ago, but we have already outgrown that. Just look at the refrigerator next to our production line. There's twenty racks of ragout packed together. It’s too small.”
Ferry learned his lesson from the previous remodel. “We have to be clever with our floor plans. We need to have room to grow.”
15 years of collaboration
When Ferry has refrigeration needs, he calls Simon from Vink.
“I tell Simon what we want and he makes his calculations. When we agree on a price, he starts building. We let him do his thing, because that’s what he does best.”
Construction has to be swift, as to not interrupt Zeldenrijk’s tight schedule. “Construction always happens on time and deadlines are met. Vink keeps their promises. This is very important to us, because if one thing goes wrong it throws a wrench in our entire process.”
Zeldenrijk is no stranger to Vink. The companies have been collaborating for 15 years and know each other well. “When they get here to do a job, they know exactly where to go and what our expectations are. They know to wear a hair net and wash their hands for example.”
“When you’re a happy customer somewhere, you should be loyal. My dad is that way, and so am I.”
Ready for a sustainable future
Sustainability is a hot topic for Zeldenrijk. “We try to be as green as possible. We only use LED lighting with sensors and we recycle our waste water. Of course we want our refrigeration to be sustainable too.”
“Vink came to us with the idea of making our refrigeration more sustainable,” Right now, most of the refrigeration at Zeldenrijk runs on CO2, a sustainable alternative to common chemical refrigerants.
“If you were to place a new system with a chemical refrigerant, odds are you soon won’t be allowed to use or maintain it. If Vink were to install that, I’d have to switch over again in the future. Simon consults us on these topics. That allows us to anticipate the future.”
Quality and artisanship
Despite growing and expanding, Zeldenrijk still emphasises quality and artisanship. Croquettes from Zeldenrijk are made the same way you can make them at home. Only at larger scales.
Ferry has croquettes on his mind all the time, even at home. “Sometimes I’ll randomly get an idea that I have to write down immediately. Here I can experiment with these ideas and develop new flavours.”
The test kitchen is his favourite place in the factory. His most successful idea? “It has to be the oyster mushroom, I’m really proud of that one. It is delicious and a wonderful vegetarian alternative to the classic beef croquet.”
At Zeldenrijk, they can’t get enough of croquettes. The evidence is visibile in the break room twice a week, when the crew enjoys a croquet for lunch.
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