A look behind the scenes
An interview with the seventh and eighth generations
Jan Richard Krepel was the seventh generation to run the company, managing the family business from 1984. His son Bernhard took over in 2012. Krepel now celebrates its 150th anniversary, a good moment to look back with the two of them.
All previous generations of the Krepel family lived and worked on the Klarenbeek Estate. It seems only natural that the current generation would also live and work here.
JR: It wasn't the obvious thing to do. I've always told Bernhard to see a bit of the world first. And that's what he did. However, from a fairly young age, he already knew that he wanted to play a role in our family business.
B: Yes, that's right. I never felt I was expected to take over the company, but I grew up in it and I've always liked it. For example, we used to go to the Hanover Stock Exchange with the family, which I saw more as a family outing. We often stayed over the weekend as well. That's quite an adventure for a child. I also went frequently to the factory, and every now and then my father took me with him when he went to see a customer. At primary school I already knew that I wanted to work in the family business someday. The commercial aspect attracted me most.
JR: I, on the other hand, spent most of my time at the factory. I remember it all quite well. Having finished secondary school, I was drafted for military service. When I came out of military service on 31 December, I almost immediately joined the family business on 2 January. I didn't follow any training for that, but learned in practice. At the end of my first day working at the machine, my coat was full of wood splinters. The next day I was given my father's dust jacket to wear. I'm really a doer, so I was mainly to be found in the factory, although I did some calculation work from time to time.
B: You were more the technical man. I'm a doer, too, but I don’t like working at a machine. I spend a lot of time at the factory, but mainly to see how something is made, or to get ideas. We are constantly working on further improving processes and quality.
JR: In the olden days a lot of the work was still done by hand. Where, at the time, 25 operations were performed to complete the work, we now only need six. Now it's all done mechanically. Back in those days you could choose between a number of wood species and models. We knew the product that needed to be packed. We measured a few things and then made a model, which was subsequently sent to the customer. Sometimes three or four new versions of the model had to be made.
B: You can hardly imagine now how labour-intensive and time-consuming it all was. It still happens that you have to make several samples, but you can prevent many problems by using good drawings and good designs.
Entrepreneurship and the will to keep innovating and developing is in the Krepel family's DNA. That's also reflected in what each of you has been able to achieve.
JR: The world is constantly changing, so you go with the flow. You need to learn to adapt if you want to be able to keep answering your customers' questions.
B: You have over 50 years of experience, I've only been doing this job for 15 years. For you, the biggest step was to start a company in Poland for the production of wooden packaging. That was a very good step for the family business.
JR: The people in Poland were inventive, they still are. That was quite a difference with how things were going in the Netherlands at the time. Here, we made good cigar boxes, but there were few people who could meet more complex production demands. While in Poland they made the most beautiful things. That really surpassed our expectations!
B: You managed to start a business in a country where you knew nothing and nobody. You needed premises, suppliers and machines. You built everything from scratch. Considering that there is now a group of highly skilled craftsmen who only work on wooden boxes, I find that very admirable.
JR: Together with my wife I went to Poland at the time, it was by the end of October. I saw many small businesses, old and primitive. I thought the trip was going to be a total waste of time. But then we came to a small town where we stumbled on a kitchen factory which housed a number of small machines. The owner, who was a craftsman himself, wanted to get rid of the factory. So we took over his company and started with 10 people. Within two years, we had approximately 100 people working for us.
B: The big difference between my father and me? My father made and developed things, which were then sold. That's how it was done at the time. Now we look more at what's happening in the market and what the target group wants and what we can come up with next. So we really look from the perspective of the market. My father looked more at the materials and what could be made from them.
JR: Bernhard is very good at connecting with people, with customers. I used to maintain contact with one or two customers. Bernhard knows most of our customers, which is also important to keep customers on board. He does that very well.
Developments are evolving at a rapid pace, so there must be a lot happening in the family business.
B: Every year we come up with new things. New printing techniques, painting techniques, you name it. For example, we are now working on beautiful packaging in which we combine wood and cardboard. Recently, we have also tapped into new markets. In your time, dad, cigar boxes constituted 100% of our production, that's now about 25%. It was also our intention not to be dependent on a specific market, but we didn't expect it to take such a flight.
JR: And the quality level is very high. Even the simplest of boxes get a chic look. The great thing about a family business is that I'm able to keep up to speed with what goes on in it.
B: My dad has always been involved. Every other month, for example, there is a board meeting, at which he is also present. The company results and large-scale plans and investments are discussed at this meeting. My father has a wealth of experience, it's a great pleasure to discuss and exchange ideas with him.
JR: It's a family business, so you're always involved. Although I must say times have changed. However, if you see what's possible now…
Krepel 150 Years
A brief company history
This year the family-owned Krepel company celebrates its 150th anniversary. The company is now managed by the eighth generation of the Krepel family. The company has a rich history in which inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit have played an important role. It all began with the construction of a copper mill in 1732. A few years later, this copper mill was taken over by Austria-born Johann Richarti Gröpel (whose name was quickly changed to Krepel). He was the founder of the family business.
From copper mill to sawmill
With the advent of the steam engine in the 19th century, copper mills became redundant, and the demand for copper also decreased considerably. The Krepel family was forced to focus on another core business in order to keep the 40 employees in work. They set up a saw mill/cigar factory powered by steam and hydropower. This turned out to be a good choice. Soon the first forest stock - which could be purchased locally - was fully processed and Krepel had to look for other wood suppliers.
But what was the best way to get the timber to the factory? In 1882, the fourth generation of Krepels made sure that a train station was built in Klarenbeek, the village where the family business was located. The railway was given a branch to the Krepel estate for the transport of timber. This enabled the Krepel sawmill to run at full speed.
From cigar boxes to luxury gift packaging
The high quality of Dutch cigars caused an enormous growth of the cigar industry and this sped up the production of cigar boxes. Unfortunately, the tide turned when new anti-smoking legislation was introduced. Krepel saw the turnover from cigar boxes decrease considerably between 1995 and 2000. The share of cigar boxes in production decreased and Krepel was once again faced with the challenge of developing new products and tapping into new markets. Now they began to focus on products such as tea, chocolate and exclusive drinks. This turned out to be a hit. It is an industry in which creativity, craftsmanship and quality are essential, which suits the family business perfectly.
A factory in Poland
As the capacity of the factory in the Netherlands was no longer sufficient and production costs were too high, Jan Richard Krepel (seventh generation) began to look for opportunities across the border. In 1995, he came across a manufacturer of wooden kitchens in Poland. Not only was the production hall perfect, Krepel was also able to work with experienced craftsmen here. The labour costs were lower than in the Netherlands and large stocks of the right type of wood were available locally.
Krepel makes a name for itself in the luxury segment
After the first steps in the luxury segment of wooden gift packaging, Krepel quickly made a name for itself. Mainly thanks to years of experience in fine woodworking, extensive craftsmanship and unlimited creativity. Developments in the market and within the family business occur at an ever-increasing pace. Recently, for example, it became possible to combine wood and cardboard in a creative manner. In this way, Krepel is once again able to reach a broader target group and remain true to its core business: making distinctive packaging with added value for the brand equity of its customers.
A brand new and unique packaging solution
Product innovation at Krepel
Big news! From 2020, Krepel will be offering even more possibilities in the field of luxury packaging. "We're going to be combining wood with cardboard. With this, we’ll be offering a brand new solution in the packaging sector," says Bernhard Krepel, Managing Director of the Krepel Group. "It's all still in its infancy, but the possibilities are very promising. We can support our customers even more in creating distinctive luxury packaging."
Delivering added value
"Offering cardboard solutions will be an addition to our current services. The way in which we’ll combine wood and cardboard will be unique. We expect it to be of interest to both existing and new customers," says Sławomir Ćwikła, Managing Director of Krepel's production site in Poland. He explains that the benefit to customers is twofold: "On the one hand we’re offering a very attractive product and on the other, it will be interesting from a cost point of view. Customers come to us for a unique luxury packaging that perfectly matches their brand identity. The arrival of cardboard solutions makes this option more accessible to a wider target group, while remaining true to our core business: creating packaging that adds value to our customers' brand equity."
Krepel now has a machine with which a cardboard substrate can be prepared for connection at an angle of exactly 45 degrees. The first samples and small series of packaging made of wood and cardboard are expected to be available in the first quarter of 2020. "As our customers have come to expect from us, we also offer a wide range of personalisation options for our new products
In the new year, we will of course let you know about the new possibilities in the field of luxury packaging.
Another profession, the same love for wood
Oak is the connecting factor
Whisky lover or not: when you talk to Gerard Velthuis you are immediately infected by his enthusiasm. He is the founder of a distillery, Stokerij Sculte in Twente, where they work exclusively with wooden barrels of Dutch origin. The barrels impart beautiful characteristic flavours to their whiskies which have been awarded with international prizes. These quality products come with a packaging that presents the whisky in an authentic and powerful way.
"I just want to create things," says Velthuis. With a background in the world of advertising, that's not really a surprise. "In Austria, I came into contact with the distillation of fruit. What a beautiful and pure process! That inspired me to create something pure, based on what nature gives. Don't add anything and make a wonderful drink.” After distilling fruit spirits, an authentic whisky emerged. "It took some time, but now we have a number of beautiful whiskies to our name", Velthuis adds.
It’s a puzzle
Stokerij Sculte's distillates mature in barrels made of local wood, i.e. Twenthe wood. Velthuis: "That's quite a puzzle. I wanted a whiskey with its own character, matured in its own barrels. It's a process that will always keep you busy. Of course, it's a little absurd how meticulous we are about the wood, but it's a lot of fun for me. Besides that, the work and testing wasn't all for nothing, because we've managed to create some award-winning whiskies.”
Velthuis pre-selects the wood that is used to make the barrels: "Every year, we buy an oak tree that's about 250 years old. As soon as we've made the pre-selection of the wood to be used, it is shipped to Austria. That's where the cooperage I work with is located and where they continue the selection process with the wood. The barrels are then virtually made by hand. Part of the waste wood from the same tree is used to burn out the barrels. There is no gas burner involved! 70 to 80% of the taste of the whisky is determined by the wood. For me, it makes sense to be so diligent with the wood. I'm proud to be the first in the world to use Dutch wood and that it also gives it such a fantastic characteristic taste...”
Working with people with passion
When you work on something so passionately, you only want to work with people who have the same passion for their own profession. Velthuis, for example, chose a small cooperage for a good reason: "It's almost like a museum, a real pleasure to visit. Our barrels are made by a father and his two sons. The process we use is far too cumbersome for a large company, but we don't have to worry about that. Our cooperage doesn't look at how much the barrels cost, but at how they can get the best aromas. Everyone I work with is passionate about what they do, whatever their role in the process.
"The packaging is very important to us," says Velthuis. "I think the bottle should sit on wood. The holders containing the bottles of whisky are made of oak, just like our barrels. This particular wood is very important. In addition, it was a deliberate choice, for example, to burn the logo into the wooden packaging, as a link to our burnt-out barrels. It made sense to me to include wood in the packaging, to choose the material that is close to our product. I would never have chosen plastic packaging.”
Collaboration with Krepel
Velthuis knew Krepel from the time he worked in advertising: "I am impressed by how they make their products. When you sit around the table with Krepel you notice their love for wooden packaging. That suits us exactly. Their passion is as great as ours. This means that you can inspire each other and make beautiful things together, where oak is the connecting factor.”
Limited edition painter's box
Royal Talens celebrates the Year of Rembrandt
2019 is the year of Rembrandt. He died exactly 350 years ago and is now remembered as the greatest master of the Golden Age. There are many initiatives to mark the Year of Rembrandt. For Royal Talens, 2019 is extra special: 120 years ago they introduced the Rembrandt painters' brand. So it's a double anniversary. To celebrate this, Royal Talens, in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, has launched a unique limited-edition painter's box that is jointly dedicated to the artist and the Rembrandt paint brand.
Everything about the box is special
Even at first glance, the box is quite impressive. But when you take a closer look and understand the meaning of all the unique elements and details, you’ll agree with us that this box is truly a collector's item. Only 120 copies were produced, most of which were sold within a day.
The icing on the cake
"Everything has a meaning. In the box, you’ll find 120 colours, which refers to the anniversary of the Rembrandt paint brand. As well as the fact that only 120 boxes have been produced, all with a unique number. Namely, the years from 1899 to 2019", says Willemijn Brinkman - International Brand Manager at Royal Talens. "The box had to be really special. It was decided, therefore, that the Rembrandt 'R' on top of the box would be made of real gold. This was the icing on the cake!" The box is highly detailed. ‘Something really needs to happen when you open the box’, was part of the brief for designer Bas van den Hurk. And indeed it does!
The Rembrandt brand from Royal Talens is very traditional, but also very contemporary. Young talented artists from all over the world work with this paint. The dark classic box fits nicely with the traditional aspect of the brand. Yet the sleek design and the bright orange artwork in combination with the golden R makes the whole thing very contemporary.
Sold out in a day and a half
Willemijn: "We thought it was all very exciting. We hadn't done anything like this before, with a price tag of € 3,500, they are pretty expensive boxes. The first box was quickly sold by one of our sales people to a customer in Asia. "This customer bought the box based on its special story, the design and their trusted association. The orders just kept flying in after that. All the boxes were sold out within a day and a half! What's more bizarre, the box hadn't even been made at that point." The box was officially launched at the Frankfurt trade fair in January, for which, one box was made.
"Krepel was the perfect match for this unique box. They contributed some great ideas and were very flexible. They never said anything was impossible, and fully lived up to that promise. A small compartment was milled out for each and every tube of paint. The 'R' on the front of the drawers were also carefully milled out, one by one. It all looks so pristine. The colour of the circle came out exactly the same as in the design. I was very anxious to see how that would turn out. Thankfully, it turned out to be just as beautiful and impressive as we had hoped," says Willemijn.
Wooden packaging for hand tools
Sneeboer’s craft: forging tools
Sneeboer is a family-run business in the Netherlands that has been making garden tools of the highest quality for more than 100 years. Made of stainless steel and hand-forged. 100% craftsmanship! Sneeboer combines craft with innovation. Examples include developing innovative tools to make life easier and reviving forgotten tools. That’s also one of the reasons why we like working with Sneeboer so much. “Sneeboer is a fantastic family business with plenty of common ground with Krepel in terms of craftsmanship and sustainability, for instance”, says Antoon Pelgrim, Sales Manager at Krepel.
A family-run business with a passion for craft
When the Sneeboer family talks about their profession, you’re listening to 100% passion! Their products are of incredible quality, which is quite logical according to Wilma Peelen and Jaap Sneeboer (the owners of Sneeboer). “We know what we’re doing. I guess you can compare it to a chef, he also knows exactly which ingredients to put in a dish. And so do we. Everything is made and tested in our own “kitchen”.” According to Wilma, the forging of the tools is very much a trick of the trade. “The forges are and always will be the heart of our business. That’s the strength of our tools. Forging isn’t something anyone can start doing just like that, it's a true craft. It takes years for a smith to get the hang of it. You have to know exactly when a scoop has the right hardness, for instance, you have to sense it and that takes experience”, Wilma says.
Diversity in tools across the world
With more than 200 different tools, Sneeboer has a very wide product range. “That’s not so strange”, Wilma explains. “We have an international customer portfolio. There is a lot of diversity in tools in the various countries. And we offer both newly developed tools and tools that have been used for decades, such as the Old Dutch Plant Trowel. It’s a favourite hand tool which we redesigned and which is always used to plant bulbs at Keukenhof (a typically Dutch park full of flowers and highly popular with tourists).”
The hand tools are the most popular. “They make very nice gifts too. That's why we offer various gift sets, from a children’s set to an exclusive titanium set that was made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sneeboer in 2013. Krepel Timeless Wooden Packaging takes care of the packaging for these products, among others”, Wilma says.
Collaboration with Krepel
Our collaboration started with the development of a maintenance box, which resulted in a wonderful product. “We deliberately opted for Krepel as the supplier of our wooden packaging”, Wilma says. “Krepel came up with ideas and gave us the opportunity to start out on a small scale. We thought that was really wonderful. The contact we have is also very pleasant, there’s always room for new challenges and they come up with ideas about sustainable applications, for instance. The wooden packaging in itself is a fantastic sustainable choice as customers won’t throw it away but will use it to keep their tools in. And it’s made of FSC wood, which is also mentioned on the packaging. We think it's important for customers to know where our products come from. In the future, we will definitely do more projects with Krepel.”
The added value of 3D design
Our designers in the spotlight
Did you know that Krepel has its own 3D design department? Thanks to this department, we can serve our clients even better, we are able to create even more beautiful products, we can continue to innovate and we can save time. In order to achieve a perfect design, the sales, production and design departments all work closely together. It’s about time we introduced our designers to you! Our colleagues Marcin and Sławek are responsible for creating the 3D visualisations within Krepel.
Read more: The added value of 3D design
We regularly work on beautiful projects, but the presentation case that was designed by Van Heertum Design and commissioned by Aurum Brothers is truly a special item. Aurum Brothers make wrist jewellery from natural stone, silver and gold, in which craftsmanship and history play an important role. The Varnos Collection comprises the latest jewellery being offered by the company. It is a unique design, which also demanded a unique packaging so that a truly total experience could be created. And we succeeded!
It is the only trade fair of its kind in the world: ProSweets Cologne. This trade fair brings together all the specialists in the confectionery and snack food industry. Here you will find inspiration for innovative ingredients, for optimising your production process and for unique packaging. Krepel Timeless Wooden Packaging will be present during ProSweets 2018 and will be exhibiting the very latest in luxury wooden packaging for confectionery.
Be inspired by the latest trends and visit ProSweets Cologne from 28 January to 31 January 2018. You can order a free ticket for the event email@example.com.
Luxepack Monaco 2017
This year too, the Grimaldi Forum will be hosting the LUXE PACK MONACO, which is held on 02, 03 and 04 October. Three days to discover the latest international trends in the fields of luxury packaging. Allow yourself to be amazed in terms of creativity and innovation. Naturally, Krepel will also be at this trade fair. Stand number: AB 21)
Van Vollenhoven prize for Klarenbeek country estate
The Krepel family received the Pieter van Vollenhoven prize. The gave the former sawmill of the box factory a new purpose. In this article you can read more about the possibilities of Klarenbeek country estate and the meaning of the prize.