MBA Alumni Event with Cees de Jong

’How many of you had yoghurt or cheese this morning?’ And with that question CEO Cees de Jong kicked off his visit to CBS where he gave his last public speech as the CEO of Chr. Hansen, a position he has held for five years. With 50% of the world’s yoghurt and cheeses made by Chr. Hansen bacteria, the 150-year-old company truly is part of consumers’ lives and have a unique opportunity to deliver best-in-class ingredients for food manufacturers all over the world. The company is small, employing about 3500 people, but with their unique capabilities they have been able to capture a great market share and deliver outstanding growth year after year.

Cees de Jong did an outstanding job in opening alumni’s eyes to the benefits and opportunities of bacteria and microbes, particularly highlighting the shift in food and agriculture from killing bacteria to using bacteria actively to preserve food and crops, all for the benefit of the end-consumer. Educated as medical doctor, Cees has a natural interest of increasing the health and well-beings of consumers around the world and was clearly proud of the impact Chr. Hansen has on creating sustainable food production.

Reflecting on his leadership style, the charismatic and authentic CEO focused on key values such as pride, dedication, responsibility and care. ‘You can’t shrink your business to success’ he said, reflecting on his experience from previous roles. ‘You need to create value from growing the top line’. And value he has indeed created by growing Chr. Hansen’s market capitalization from just over EUR 3 billion in 2013, to EUR 10 billion end 2017. On a more personal level, he encouraged everyone to keep learning, to take a lot of feedback from others, to stay curious and to read a lot! ‘Life is not a dress rehearsal’ he said quoting a friend. ‘So make a plan for your life, gain insight into what drives you and what will satisfy your needs in life’. When asked to reflect on highlights from his time at Chr. Hansen, Cees was hard-pressed to choose. ‘It has been a fantastic time. I am very proud of having delivered so much value to shareholders and consumers’.