Key Business Outlooks For 2024 (8/10): Norbert Hübler & Franz Sommerauer, Koenig Group

The year 2023 has brought more international turmoil, supply chain disruption and historic inflation all over the globe, putting a lot of pressure on the baking industry. Concerns about the availability of raw materials, the cost of energy, transport capacity, regulations, labor shortage and purchasing power had companies and professionals worried and looking for solutions.

That is what we see in these interviews with top managers from the most important industry players: the industry fought back and invested in research and development to provide sustainable solutions that address these challenges.

For 2024, representatives of some of the most important equipment and ingredients manufacturing companies talk in unison about sustainability, automation, energy-saving technology, traceability and working for the customers, to make sure their access to good bakery products is unhindered by the setbacks of the world. None of the viewpoints shared with us is lacking in hope, an essential attribute for a long-term winning business.

Conventional food production systems have enjoyed uninterrupted growth over the last few decades. While this trend is expected to continue in the short term, resource constraints may dampen expansion in the long term. Furthermore, the sector is increasingly ripe for disruption.

It is up to the bakers, transporters and retailers to find the right way to stay profitable and capitalize on the market opportunities that await them in 2024.

Norbert Hübler / Global Sales Director and Franz Sommerauer / Head of Sales & Marketing, Authorized Signatory, Koenig Group

Considering the market volatility, the bottleneck of resources, the energy crisis, the increasing prices and workforce scarcity, what does this past year look like for your company when you draw the line

The last year was difficult for us to plan, as already budgeted projects were postponed due to increases in energy costs and uncertainty in the field of subsidies and interest costs. Customers were reluctant to make decisions based on the uncertain situation on the markets.

Nevertheless, it was a very good year for Koenig as there was a significant demand for high-quality equipment. Medium-sized companies have invested due to lack of employees and have therefore automated their production.

The shortage of skilled workers will be a key factor for investments in the baking industry and Koenig is very well positioned in this area. We took the right steps internally at an early stage to respond to evolving market demands.

What are your expectations for next year, keeping in mind the legacy of 2023, but also the current challenges?

The market is still very turbulent, but we see a clear tendency for the investment backlog to clear. The signs are promising in terms of stable energy costs, lower interest rates and a general improvement on global markets. We are prepared for a more stable situation and higher willingness to invest.

How do you estimate the market will evolve and what is your priority list for 2024?

For 2024, we will focus on solution thinking for the customer, supporting bakeries in solving problems so that they can successfully do business in the market and building long-lasting partnerships with customers.

As for market trends, we will focus on simplification in line operation, hygiene and energy saving.

In the industrial field, we perceive a demand for investment to compensate lack of employees and respond to market requirements in the growing bread sector. This means for us that we will increasingly position ourselves as a comprehensive solution provider.

It is about “growing with Koenig” – we are providing solutions so that the customer has potential for growth and for continuous adaptation of their solutions to the market requirements.

This is why we will revise our artisan product portfolio with focusing on saving resources and modularization to meet the increased requirements regarding differentiated products.

We will also increasingly focus on dough sheeting and vacuum cooling technology, as we see great potential in the artisan sector.

Where did the growth opportunities come from and what is the most important lesson you have learned in recent times?

We appreciated the good and cooperative, long-standing dealer network that maintains close contact with
customers and offers service in the respective regions.

Our vision to manufacture high-quality baking equipment to support bakeries in their craft proved us right in the recent turbulent and unstable years. This vision of our founder Mr. Koenig was the basis for our success and will be in the future.

We have a very high level of vertical integration with several production plants in Europe. As a result, we offer a high availability of spare parts and can react better to market fluctuations.

What do you consider to be the most valuable asset you have in 2024 as a company?

It is our team without a doubt. The Koenig family is our most valuable asset.

Read the rest of the story in the January / February edition of European Baker & Biscuit.

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