"Be confident in the message that you are trying to carry out and ensure that your bio-based product can perform better than the petroleum alternatives."
Interflon is a Dutch company which manufactures a range of lubricants that use its proprietary MicPol Technology.
The organisation makes high performance lubricants for industrial and foodstuff plant equipment as well as outdoor machinery. Interflon lubricants are designed to enable continuously run machines to perform longer and they also reduce energy consumption. Machines lubricated with Interflon products consume up to 15% less energy which results in lower fuel consumption compared to conventional lubricants, petrochemical oils and grease. This week we spoke to Pieter-Dave Boekel, the product manager based in their Netherlands' office. Our reporter Emily O’Dowd went to find out more about the initiative that has now been delivered in 44 countries. Pieter-Dave provides us an insight into his personal journey in the industry and how the market has evolved over the last few years.
Emily O'Dowd (EOD) ( @BioBasedEmily ): What has led you to this role?
Pieter-Dave Boekel (PDB): I first started working at the company in 2005 as a product developer and have remained here ever since. But five years ago I decidedto try something different, so I changed roles and became a technical manager where my work was focused in supporting all countries with our service desk but a more active field of support in France and Spain. As the business started to grow faster it became apparent that we needed a better structure in place which is when I was offered a role as product manager for Interflon BV.
EOD: What inspired you to work in the bio-based industry?
PDB: In 2014 my first daughter was born and it really shaped my opinion of the world and opened my eyes to the dangers and the environmental harm. For me, it gave me the determination to try and change things for the better. My fear is that lots of people just aren’t made aware of the amount of environmental problems and crisis that are facing us and I don’t know what it is going to take to change these attitudes. But what I love about this industry is that every day is different and I am able to do something which I hope will inspire other people to think about their environmental footprint. My role as Interflon’s product manager also allows me to see unique environments, work with new customers and look to solve problems.
EOD: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the industry?
PDB: Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges is something that is monitored outside of our control - and this comes down to legislation. In many cases, there is a lot of raw material data which is unavailable. This makes formulating new products complicated. Furthermore, governments and customers are free to choose any product they choose, regardless of their origin, and little help is provided to make them choose renewable or bio based products.
EOD: What advice would you give for someone starting work in the bio-based industry?
PDB: It is so important to be confident in the message that you are trying to carry out and ensure that your bio-based product can perform better than the petroleum alternatives. Whilst it used to be the other way round, technology is becoming more advanced all the time and practical tests can prove these results. You need to think about your proposition, how you are going to sell this to the consumer and why they should be interested in buying it.
EOD: How has the market evolved over the past three years?
PDB: Interflon has definitely seen more competition evolve in recent years. There is a trend towards having all things ‘green’, ‘eco’ or ‘bio-based’, but it doesn’t always mean they are better. Unfortunately, some businesses may market themselves as being fully renewable but they aren’t! What about the packaging? What about the labelling and hazardous classifications? On the whole, it is something that is improving, but it needs to improve faster.
EOD: How responsive is the bio-based market in the Netherlands?
PDB: It is definitely a work in progress. So many people are just put off by the price tag which is understandable, however it should mean that more emphasis is placed on the ways that we can convince our customers to make sustainable choices.
EOD: But what do you think will change customers’ opinions?
PDB: It is important to educate consumers and this can start by educating our customers. At Interflon we organise monthly seminars which can also influence economic patterns of behaviour. We try to educate our consumers about the lubrication and cleaning process. So at the same time we are able to promote our products as well as demonstrating how our products can be used differently. It allows us to discuss the problems, train, guide and then offer solutions.
EOD: Where would you like to see your company in 5 years’ time?
PDB: We hope to launch more bio-based products as part of our range and increase our turnover. Additionally, Interflon would like to create products which are at least 40 percent or more without any dangerous classifications.
EOD: What is your favourite bio-based/sustainable product aside from your own product range?
PDB: I have a young family and close to our home is an organic farm, it was always a place that we drove past but never visited. On one occassion we decided to take our children there and expose them to the natural ways of doing things. The farm is full of cows which are free to roam about the land. Obviously this makes the milk and butter taste even better. I feel very encouraged by these sorts of initiatives and believe that more people should be supporting them. Not only that, but visiting your local farm is such an enjoyable experience which puts you back in touch with nature.
Bio-Based World News will bring this 5 minute feature to our readers every week. This will able to put a face to the brand and provide established businesses and new start-ups the crucial advise they need in this industry. If you would like to be interviewed about your own bio-based/sustainable business then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week's 5 minutes with... 5 minutes with... Dirk Kronemeijer, CEO of GoodFuels.
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