Taste and health from france

taste and health from france

Close your eyes, take a deep breath. We are suddenly in a lemon grove in the sunny south? "Lemongrass", says axel vom berg. A few steps further on, it suddenly smells like… Roasting faucet? The production manager laughs. "This is how it smells when we degerminate paprika powder." At the next hall, intensely aromatic thyme floods the lungs and reminds one of a vacation in corsica. A corner away, there is something strange in the air. "Feel free to taste!" Axel vom berg opens the door to the filling plant and hands you a few dried, light green flakes. They taste rooty, like mushroom chips. "Weibkohl. It is used for example for soups."

Long, beige-white halls: from the outside, the premises of krauter mix gmbh in abtswind (kitzingen district) in mainfranken do not look like a place from where taste and health go out into the world. Every tour becomes a sensual experience. The company founder, who planted the first peppermint fields in 1919, would certainly have liked this. What the (great) grandfather of today’s bosses would say if he knew that 420 employees work for krauter mix and generated sales of 115 million euros last year? Or that 2000 industrial and commercial customers are served around the globe, in the food, tea, pharmaceutical, pet food and spirits sectors?

The scent of the big, wide world. If it can be sniffed out anywhere, then it is here in the heart of frankens. The foundation stone for this was laid 100 years ago – on 1. April 1919 – a young druggist as courageous as he was determined: christoph mix, born in 1887 in rehweiler. His motto: "the lord makes the medicine grow out of the earth and a sensible man does not despise it"." After the first world war he moves to abtswind with his wife anna. In the surroundings of the hut no.38 the pioneer grows and trades medicinal plants. Historical pictures show smiling people weeding, harvesting and drying marigolds and valerian.

In the 1930s christoph mix invests in a coarser hall for drying and storing the plants. Under his sons bernhard and walter mix, the company continues to grow, new machines are purchased, and the assortment now also includes pickled herbs.

The name of the company founder lives on in his grandson. Christoph mix takes over the management in the third generation after his father’s sudden death in 1973. He is only in his early 20s, but like his six siblings, he has always lent a hand on the farm. "When I came home from school, I had a choice: first help, then do my homework – or vice versa", tells the 67-year-old. He vividly remembers the company buildings as a rough adventure playground "there was high life" -, and also in the fact that it is sometimes used for "plucking" instead of learning went. This was the term used to describe the stripping of leaves from peppermint or balm plants. "For drying, the leaves are then placed on wire mesh frames. They were stored on multi-story wooden racks."

As head of the company, christoph mix is gearing it up for international competition, one step at a time. He drives innovations forward, expands business relations abroad. In addition to medicinal herbs and teas, from now on dry mixtures and spice mixtures are also produced.

"The company has continued to grow. And it goes on and on." Serving more and more major customers requires expanding the portfolio and setting up new production processes. In 2005, a second site with its own shipping area is built in wiesentheid. Today, the company has a total of 64 plants in abtswind and wiesentheid.000 square meters of storage space at our disposal.

Unlike in the past, today all plants are delivered already dried, reports christoph mix. "Here they are virtually refined. Only juniper comes fresh." Juniper? "Yes, from it is made especially the trendy drink gin."

Trends in food and drink are reflected in the mix assortment. "Our salespeople always have an ear to the customer, listening for signals," says, says mix. "When we talk about spelt or wheatgrass, we look for good growers."

And that worldwide. Dried vegetables, dried mushrooms, cake herbs, spices and "superfoods" are currently coming from 70 countries in asia, africa, america and europe, medicinal herbs and tea ingredients – almost a quarter of them already in organic quality. "We have many long-term supplier relationships, some of which have lasted for decades", stresses the boss. "Sustainability is very important to us, which is why our 25 product managers in purchasing are supported by a five-strong team of experts in sustainable supplies." According to mix, the sustainability team, which looks at the ecological and social aspects of the growers, farmers and game gatherers, "travels more often than the buyers".

Christoph mix’s son bernhard, who joined the family business in 2010, adds: "it is becoming more and more important to the customers where the goods come from. And that they have been produced sustainably and fairly." Social and ecological aspects also had a high priority for his brother steffen mix. Steffen’s sudden accidental death in 2017 has shaken the herb mix community, but it has also forged it together. Steffen’s visions should become reality. Among others, there is the association "mix for kids", who wants to improve the living conditions of children in difficult circumstances.

"Hidden champion

Half of krauter mix’s products are sold in germany; important export destinations are the u.S., australia, scandinavia and the eu. Well-known customers include unilever, nestle, frutarom, mondelez, kontanyi, van hees, twinings and kneipp. "We are a ‘hidden champion’", says bernhard mix. "When you go shopping, you’re pretty sure to find blended products in your cart. However, you will not see this – neither in health teas nor in tutu soups, neither in cheese nor in sausage." The probability is roughly "that the paprika sausage in the paprikastucke was refined in abtswind".

Only a tiny percentage of the mix products actually bear the name krauter mix: under the label "lebensmix" teas and spice specialties are available in the regional core area – in health food stores, pharmacies, drugstores – under the motto "from franken – for franken".

However, many more products are sent from all over the world to france – and from france to all over the world. Whether rosemary from morocco, garlic from china or marjoram from egypt: the employees in abtswind process raw materials on 30 plants that run in three shifts. Before the herbs and spices reach one of the production and filling halls, however, the goods, which are usually delivered to abtswind by truck, first have to overcome several hurdles. The first is the goods entrance.

Like in the arrivals hall at the airport, the arrival times are listed on a rough screen. Every incoming truck is weighed and inspected: containers are opened, samples are taken. "Quality is paramount", production manager axel vom berg clarifies. That’s why sensory experts take a close look at the samples, then they are analyzed biochemically and physically in the in-house laboratory and, if necessary, additionally tested in independent, certified laboratories for all ingredients and co-formulants.

Christoph mix must smile when he thinks about the enormous changes in quality control. "50 years ago there was no laboratory at all. And today? Pharmacists, food chemists, pharmaceutical technical assistants and chemical laboratory assistants work on high-tech equipment such as high-performance liquid and gas chromatographs."

If everything is in order, the lemongrass leaves, for example, are filled into stainless steel tanks and acidified. "We work with natural products, so there can always be a foreign body on it", female axel from the mountain. In a mill in the cellar, the leaves are crushed to the desired coarseness, sieved again and transported up one floor with compressed air, where they are filled into small containers or coarse bags, just as the customer wishes.

For special hygiene requirements, the products first pass through a germ reduction plant "a kind of pressure cooker in which they are steamed, axel vom berg explains. The 30 production and mixing facilities all look similar: they extend over several floors, connected by gleaming stainless steel pipes. Once the sieves and crushers have been passed through, the finished end product is filled – cut, ground, rubbed, kibbled, as a whole product, in slices, strips, cubes or as granules – and transported to the shipping hall or the warehouse.

"Grow sustainably"

In order for the plants to thrive at all, sun, rain, wind and insects had to balance each other out. It doesn’t always work out. "Mother nature is an uncertain negotiating partner. Calculating the development is the exciting part of our work", finds christoph mix. Even after 50 years of experience, he still loves traveling and negotiating with suppliers all over the world.

"Nothing is ever finished. Everything is growing, walter mix already stated in 1963. On the occasion of the centenary, the two managing partners christoph mix and bernhard mix as well as managing director silke wurlitzer present a revised company logo and the motto "passion for plants". With this passion for plants "we go into the future", announces christoph mix. "We want to continue to grow sustainably." Just like grandpa 100 years ago.

Mix in numbers:

23.000 tons is the average stock level in krauter mix’s modern warehouses.

The 420 employees of the company, which was founded in 1919, generated 115 million euros in sales in 2018.

50 percent of the goods processed at krauter mix in the french town of abtswind are exported abroad.

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