I’m Actually The Richest In The World!


“Sabri, If You Had a Tank Factory, You Wouldn’t Have This Much of a Reputation!”

My great uncle used to say to my father; Sabri, if you had a tank factory, you wouldn’t have this much of a reputation, and add; When you give chocolate as a gift, you become unforgettable, but how can you give the tank, to whom?

This is great wealth, a culture, a tradition. #makehappybehappy

Thank God we are now the second-largest biscuit producer in the world. We own many global and local but well-known brands, including Ülker.

4 billion people/consumers live where our factories are and our organizations reach. A great opportunity! But the world population is twice that, so the potential is huge…

I want to tell you about a museum visit (GOYA) to our well-known local brand. Attached…

Verkade biscuits

We held the pladis review meeting of last quarter in Amsterdam. I  visited the market and our factory where Verkade biscuits, a famous Dutch brand, are produced. I received information about the new automation work to be done. Then, we set off for the Zaans Museum in Zaandam, next to Amsterdam. Why? Let me explain.

Image of an old house door

Verkade is to the Netherlands what Ülker is to Turkey. This brand is the basis of industrial and cultural heritage. Of course, being the owner of such an iconic brand comes with an added responsibility. The brand has 135 years of biscuit production history. When we bought United Biscuits in 2014, we got the possession of  the Verkade brand and its factory. United Biscuits acquired Verkade in 1990. After the sale, Verkade’s founding family established Stichting Cultureel Erfgoed Verkade (Verkade Cultural Heritage Preservation Foundation), started preparations to establish a museum and created the “Verkade Experience” inside the Zaandam City Museum. Verkade’s founders invited a photographer to the factory every year and had their photos taken of the facilities and employees.

Digital toys for adults in the museum

When the Verkade museum which was established in 1998 and the brand were esteemed as the region’s cultural heritage , it was enlarged with the “Verkade Experience” pavilion in 2009.

When we arrived at the museum, grandson Tom Verkade greeted us at the door. I gave him his gift in a small ceremony. Then we went to the museum’s meeting room, and there, Jan Krijit from United Biscuits, with a very fluent and entertaining speech, first explained the entirety of pladis in the concept of “family bonds” based on the constellation of stars. With the story of Verkade at the center, we saw all the founders and brands that makeup pladis before our eyes in  his presentation. One of his important sources was James S. Adams’ 1974 book A fell fine baker: The story of United Biscuits.

A presentation to us at the museum

While listening to Krijit’s interesting speech, I thought of the phrase “We are a 350 Years Experienced Company, including United Biscuits (1830), Godiva (1926), and Ülker (1944)” we use  when we tell the story of pladis. If we go to the roots of our brands, who knows how many centuries of experience have been accumulated. You can’t collect specific dates, but you can stack experiences.

Crawford’s (1813)

Macfarlane Lang (1817)

McVities (1830)

Carr’s (1830)

Jacobs (1885)

Verkade (1886)

Biscuit Nantaise (1896)

Demet’s (1898)

Godiva (1926)

Ulker (1944)

As such, pladis has almost 1500 years of experience. Our world’s second place in biscuits comes from here.

An old view of factories

Jan Krijit then spoke of the founders of Verkade. He explained that the first emblem depicting a messenger on a horse was inspired by Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier’s 1860 dated work “The Herald of Murcia.” You know, “Herald” means messenger. Its military meaning is a soldier who gives a signal with a trumpet. Murcia is an ancient kingdom in southeastern Spain, the birthplace of M. El Arabi.

Murat Ülker is on the street

Founded in 1886 by Ericus Gerhardus Verkade, a former oil merchant with no baking experience, the company started to operate as a factory producing bread with steam under the name ‘De Ruyter’ (cavalry). Verkade, with its large-scale production processes, products for a rural population and even lower factory prices; at that time, it was subjected to heavy opposition by local bakers selling bread under the counter. In 1919, while bakers were forbidden to work night shifts with a new law, Verkade also stopped bread production.

Distributor of ancient times

The Verkade story could have ended here, but by taking risks with a forward-looking approach, Verkade was saved from collapse. Investments were made in bakery products, seeing the low capacity of bakers based on craftsmanship and the importance given to the industrial development of the Zaan region as a unique business opportunity. Then he turned to the candle market, a very different business. His son-in-law, Morris Fowler, sold him a patent for the light source candle. Thus, in 1898 Verkade became the first candle manufacturer in the Netherlands. In 1991, this part of the company was sold to a specialist manufacturer.

Meanwhile, Verkade had turned another opportunity into a booming business. After baking bread, he started to produce biscuit rusks by taking advantage of the heat left in the oven. With the import ban of British biscuits during the First World War, Verkade’s revenue between 1913 and 1918 jumped from 132,000 guilders to almost a million and a half.

When the war ended, the company under the leadership of Ericus Verkade Jr., began to focus on the confectionery business as sugar stocks were still high. From this activity, a lucrative business of producing chocolates emerged; in 1937, a new factory with state-of-the-art machinery was built, and within three years, revenue quadrupled.

Verkade, which won the title of ‘Koninklijk’ (Royal) in 1950, continued its success in the 1960s, and Knäckebröd (crispy bread) was given to the Dutch market. The state was also provided with ’emergency biscuits’ to be distributed in case of war.

Sultana production

Verkade’s success is adhered to its flawless marketing strategy along with facing the risks associated with production processes and capacity building, it is considered a pioneer in Guerilla Advertising. As early as 1923, they hired a designer named Cornelis Dekker, and for 30 years, he managed the advertising department, working on very special packaging, developing iconic packages that often included children with a cookie in their hands. With images engraved in the Dutch’s minds for generations, catchy slogans, adhesive photo albums completed with Verkade products, a first in the category and watercolor postcards, another first, it turned into a cultural heritage brand. Today Verkade is considered a part of the European Common Culture. . .

Verkade Girls, on the other hand, are a separate part of Verkade’s history. In 1891, six young women were employed to clean company trucks at the Zaandam factory. From 1900 on, the number of female employees increased rapidly. Their slender fingers and gentle hands were shifted to production, deemed ideally suited for sorting, packaging, dipping biscuits in chocolate, and separating cherries from their stems.

In addition, the company offered women advantages to compensate for the difficult working conditions and monotonous production processes. In the summer, the Verkade girls enjoyed breaks in a garden with swings and carousels while a drum group provided musical vigor. On the other hand, cooking, sewing lessons, and childcare also helped them achieve a better work/life balance. Today, the Verkade girls are remembered as an icon of Dutch culinary culture and industrial heritage.

Chilli Carr’s

After the presentation, this time, Tom Verkade presented me with his gift and then showed me around the museum. It is an experience museum that should be visited by everyone who passes by; there are three production lines of original machines, and all three are operational. In addition, all advertising materials, photographs, digital games, biscuit boxes, original watercolor postcards, animations for employees, and items used in the company, such as telephones, candles, and glasses, are all historical presentations…

They call me the richest person in Turkey; this is my answer: “I am a biscuit maker. I sell small pieces of happiness (biscuits) at reasonable prices. #makehappybehappy Can the richest person of a country be its biscuit maker? That’s true, but this is also true; I am the richest in the world in terms of cultural heritage! I carry a legacy of 1000 years of work experience. As you can see in the example of Verkade, the biscuit is an indispensable wealth of humanity with its production, marketing, advertising, and consumption and an indispensable part of national culture for many societies. Humanity does not seem to give up this cultural habit that is nurturing, pampering and also entertaining. For this reason, those working in the biscuit sector should be aware of the fact that they are in the cultural heritage business, and they need to work diligently and look for ways every day to update what they have for the future.


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