Without Royal Steensma from Leeuwarden there would be no Frisian orange cake, but now Americans are in charge: ‘Don’t worry’

Royal Steensma in Leeuwarden supplies essential raw materials for making orange cake. Now the almost 185-year-old family business has been taken over by the large American peer Dawn Foods.

Steensma started as a bakery in Leeuwarden in 1839, but quickly turned into a supplier for pastry chefs. Today the company supplies candied fruit, almond paste and pastry mixes to the food industry and pastry shops.

The confectionery company prides itself on being one of the largest players in bakery raw materials in the Netherlands. Half of the products are for export. When Steensma celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2015, the company was given the designation ‘Royal’.

Advisor from The Hague

The owner of the originally Frisian company came from The Hague. Alfred Bruin started as an advisor at Steensma in 1998. Within a year he took over the reins of the confectionery. Around the turn of the century, Bruin bought out the Steensma family. At the end of January he signed another sales contract.

Royal Steensma thus ended up in the hands of Dawn Foods, an industry peer from the United States. This concern, founded in 1920, employs 3,700 people worldwide from Jackson, Michigan, USA.

The producer is active in North America, Latin America and Western Europe. Dawn Foods has a branch at Hoendiep in Groningen.

We are a very healthy company

“We were not for sale,” says Steensma director Rimmert de Jong. “But we were high on Dawn Foods’ list, so they came to see us. We are a very healthy company, but that visit made it clear that this is a very good acquisition party.”

De Jong points to Dawn’s international sales network. “For example, they have a sales office in Dubai, while we only have one man for our activities outside Europe. This acquisition is therefore good for our company and for our people.”

Not the first time

How did the staff react to the takeover news? “Well,” says De Jong. “This is of course not the first time.” His own family business, the RA de Jong company from Franeker, came under the wings of Steensma in 1972.

“We were owned by a German concern, a Swiss listed company and then back in Dutch hands. Now we are part of an American family business. De Jong served on Steensma’s board of directors for almost half a century. That will remain the case for the time being.”

Donut mixes

CEO Carrie Jones-Barber sees many similarities between her Dawn Foods and Royal Steensma: “Both family businesses have a long history and a lot of knowledge of the bakery.” The Americans have become big with the production of donut mixes.

Whether the arrival of Dawn Foods has put the Frisian orange cake in danger? “Don’t worry,” says De Jong. “I will personally take care of that.”

Strong growth

Steensma has grown strongly over the past decade. While there were 220 full-time jobs in 2015, there are now about 310. There are factories in Leeuwarden, Franeker, Vlaardingen and Elst. In addition, the company has a production facility for tropical fruits in Thailand.

Alfred Bruin says that he is transferring his Royal Steensma to Dawn Foods “with peace of mind.” “I have full confidence that the character of our company will continue to be safeguarded.”