'We produce single-use kegs for the drinks industry worldwide. These offer an environmentally-friendly alternative to steel kegs as well as to bottles and cans. In order to always keep stock as close to our customers as possible, we have production lines and warehouses in strategic locations including the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and as of this year, Spain too', explains Veenendaal.
'Within our company, everyone is a senior business creator'
KeyKeg and UniKeg The company produces two types of kegs. 'The KeyKeg is fitted with an inner bag containing the product. Air is used to compress the bag as a result of which the drink is dispensed. Using an inner bag means that the product never comes into contact with propellants or oxygen. This enables the drink to be kept for up to twice as long in comparison with other types of packaging so that after a KeyKeg has been opened, the product does not have to be consumed anywhere near as quickly. In addition, using air as a propellant is more environmentally-friendly than using CO2.'
As an alternative to the KeyKeg, Lightweight Containers offers the UniKeg which is a lot like a conventional steel keg in terms of how it works. 'The UniKeg has a riser pipe just like a steel keg. With this type of keg, CO2 is used as the propellant which dispenses the drink via the riser pipe.'
Circular by design
The KeyKeg and UniKeg are Lightweight Containers' sustainable alternative to heavy steel kegs. 'Our kegs are much more environmentally-friendly because of their circular design. Our kegs are already produced using 30 per cent recycled material. After use, they are also almost fully recyclable: every KeyKeg which re-enters the process via the supply chain is reused to make new kegs', says Veenendaal.
Lightweight Containers' products are sold all over the world. But it is difficult when local factors mean that each country's recycling process is just a little bit different from the rest. For instance, not every country has made the same progress with regard to recycling. Veenendaal: 'We are working towards wide coverage which can only be achieved by collaborating effectively with local partners. Where possible, we prefer to fit in with local recycling processes.'
Last year, Lightweight Containers set up a company called OneCircle to collect the single-use plastic kegs all over the world. OneCircle has already set up successful partnerships in Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Kegs are collected along with existing recycling streams and compressed into bales as a result of which up to 3800 empty kegs can be transported by a single truck. The empty kegs are transported with existing shipments in order to minimise transport.
Lightweight Containers has experienced rapid growth. 'Over the past ten years, we have achieved annual growth of almost 48 per cent on average', explains Veenendaal. One of the reasons behind that growth is the way in which the company supports the whole supply chain. 'We supply brewers who then supply their products in our kegs to drinks distributors. Those distributors then supply end customers such as the hospitality industry and cruise ships', says the CEO. 'In order to stimulate the demand for our products, our marketing activities focus on end users.'
The company has a Chain Activity Team, for example. 'The purpose of the team is to activate the chain and create market demand for our products from the bottom up. The team supports end users in many ways which include offering training and providing them with information, technical support and documents.' The Chain Activity Team also helps end users to select new dispensing systems, by converting CO2-based dispensing systems into ones which use air, and to put together new ranges on tap.
Lightweight Containers also has a KeyKeg user platform. 'Users can find each other easily via our platform www.keykegusers.com. For instance, a distributor wanting to expand his range may be looking for a suitable brewer or an end user may be looking for a new distributor.'
Lightweight Containers' employees play an important role in the company's success. 'Within our company, everyone is regarded as a senior business creator. We work together to support the customer and end user. Equality plays an important role in this: everyone is equal within our company. We deliberately don't have departments as all they do is create divisions. We look at the strengths of our people and encourage them to develop themselves further.'
The rapid growth of Lightweight Containers over the past few years has not been at the expense of its employees' vitality. On the contrary, last November the company was declared the Most Vital Company in the Netherlands 2018. 'We invest heavily in sport, for example, and have our own running teams, gym and yoga classes. We also provide unlimited fruit for our employees and fresh smoothies are made every day. We are a non-smoking company', explains Veenendaal. 'Everyone is able to relax by playing pinball and table football, for example. And everyone has an ergonomic sit-stand desk.'
Virtually zero staff turnover
That focus on vitality brings benefits in practice, remarks Veenendaal. 'We have noticed that our employees feel energised. We have virtually zero staff turnover, something that we cannot allow ourselves either, in view of the rapid growth that we are experiencing. We are very keen to hang onto the professionals who work for us.'
Five production sites
Lightweight Containers opened its first automated production and assembly line in 2012 in Den Helder, the Netherlands. In mid-2019, the family-run company opened a new plant in Guadalajara, Spain. From this plant, the company produces KeyKegs and UniKegs for both Spain and other Southern European markets. With the opening of this new site, Lightweight Containers now has five production sites and ten warehouses worldwide. At the end of last year, the company announced that it would also be opening a second new production site in Southern Europe later this year.