Safety and Continuity at Zoogamma in Italy

The corona measures have disrupted the entire world. Nevertheless, the VanDrie Group chain continued work ‘as per normal’. But how normal was that? For an answer to that question, we turn to our Italian colleagues.

25-06-2020

The production facilities of Zoogamma tower over the flat landscape of the Po Plain in Northern Italy. The height is necessary to be able to house the impressive drying towers. Zoogamma products are made in Ghedi and Casalbuttano.

Zoogamma focuses on the production of two products: whey powder (in Cassalbutano) and calf feed (in Ghedi). The origin of whey, which is widely used in calf milk, lies in the production of cheese. In order to make milk from cheese, the solid matter, also called curd, must be separated from liquid matter (whey), a process for which rennet is used. Rennet is a binding agent that clumps the milk together. 

There are many cheese makers in Northern Italy. Zoogamma’s location therefore makes logical sense – close to the source of the necessary ingredients. World-class cheeses, such as Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano, are made in the region. And wherever a lot of cheese is made, a lot of whey remains. Whey is a residual product to the cheese industry, but a valuable raw material to Zoogamma.

Recent developments with regard to COVID-19 have left their mark on the company. Paulo de Waal, director of Zoogamma, says:  “We felt the impact very clearly. Zoogamma is located in Lombardy, a region in Italy that was hit hard by the coronavirus. Three of our employees were infected. To our great sorrow, one of our colleagues passed away. The other two are slowly recovering.  We will always remember this crisis.”

Safety is the top priority within our chain and processes. This goes beyond food-safe production, especially in these types of exceptional situations. Safeguarding employee safety is essential. Zoogamma was designated as a key company in the food chain by the Italian authorities and was able to continue production during the crisis. Paulo de Waal says: "In addition to the strict operational safety rules that we implemented immediately, it also meant that we had to take appropriate steps within our production. We had to continue producing as best as we could. The links in our value chain are highly interdependent. We work with residual flows from other sectors and are a supplier for various products. The situation forced us to reduce our production. It was a measure that had a great impact: production limits in one of the links directly impact the processes of other chain links.”

Normally, approximately 35% of all of the Italian whey is processed by Zoogamma. The temporary reduction or halt is therefore a drastic measure.

Through constant contact with other chain links and the local government, suitable solutions were found for challenges in the areas of safety, transport and the availability of raw materials. -  Paulo de Waal

According to him, the pandemic and its corresponding changing situation have proven that things can be done differently. It is possible to work remotely with suppliers, buyers and authorities. This creates room to look critically at one's own processes. Paulo: “We see that we have more free time now. We can use this time to further optimise our production process. In addition, the corona crisis served a kind of reset for us. It consciously brought the term ‘listening’ top of mind. Listening to the needs of our suppliers, customers and employees. Being part of the VanDrie Group, we see that we are industry leaders in terms of sustainability, animal welfare and food safety. We should continue to embed this Northern European tradition in our Italian roots.”

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