Bob de Kuyper, the former CEO of De Kuyper, established in 1695, shows me around the family business. 311 years ago Petrus Kuyper – a manufacturer of wooden barrels for the transportation of jenever and beer – married Anna Custers and started a dynasty. In 1769 De Kuyper started the distillation of beverages and has never stopped since. Bob de Kuyper is Petrus’ direct descendant and proud of his family tradition. We enter a listed building – a 19th century factory hall in Schiedam, the distillation capital of the Netherlands – with crates of fresh ginger from China, bags filled with juniper berries from Italy, oak barrels filled with aged rum and strong smelling cacao and coffee beans. In comparison to the modern and fashionable entrance, this working area where the aromas for their world-renowned liqueurs are being made is surprisingly mundane and traditional. “For a long time jenever (also known as Dutch gin or Geneva ed.) was our core business but for the last 15 years we concentrate on liqueurs,” De Kuyper explains. “The Dutch have a long tradition as traders, but not as marketers. Whiskey and gin – an English copy of Dutch jenever – went global, but jenever never did. It is too late now, I fear.”
“The past is obviously very important to us, but the future is even more essential. In the public eye, family businesses are seen as dusty and old fashioned. But family businesses survive – and there are still many jenever companies in Schiedam that are family-owned, like Nolet, Jansen and Dirkzwager. They managed always to change course in time. The pressure of short-term success is lower and you can be more stubborn in your strategies. Old family businesses tend to have a strong and conservative financial basis. Many companies suffered from the economic crisis with wild investments and towering debts, but for us that is less of a problem.”
As many other family companies they have kept a long term focus. They have been doing it for more than 300 years. More than 10 generations of De Kuyper have run the company. They know what the pitfalls and snags are. And it has paid off. It is difficult to walk in any bar around the globe and not see the colourful bottles of De Kuyper lining the walls. De Kuyper is the world’s largest producer of cocktail liqueurs, a testimony to a true family spirit.