- 1765 Wessanen incorporated
- 1913 Distinguished the title Royal
- 1959 Listed on the Amsterdam stock exchange
- 2015 Celebrating our 250th anniversary
From windmills to wellbeing: a story of growth
Planting the seed
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Netherlands was one of the world’s greatest trading nations globally. The hub of this activity was Amsterdam where many of the ships docked and unloaded their cargoes into the warehouses that lined the River Zaan.
Among the owners of the warehouses was the merchant Adriaan Wessanen. In 1765, the 41-year-old teamed up with his nephew Dirk Laan to trade in ‘Mustard, Canary and other seeds’. The new company was called Wessanen & Laan. It flourished as new uses were found for all sorts of seeds.
In 1789 the elderly Wessanen retired from the business, leaving Dirk Laan to run the company alone. Laan decided that his own surname was too common in the Zaan district and so abbreviated the company name to Wessanen.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the company bought windmills and became active in Belgium, Germany and France. With new products coming in from the Dutch colonies, the company entered the rice trade and opened up a rice-husking mill. It also began to trade in cheese.
In 1839, Wessanen bought the Het Fortuin (The Fortune) oil-pressing windmill and processing and manufacturing became a core business.
In 1857, the company took a significant step forward when it acquired an oil press called De Tijd which was steam-driven rather than wind-powered. Industrialization was here to stay.
Celebrating its centenary in 1865, Wessanen then employed about 100 people.
By the start of the 20th century, Wessanen was by now a large company, and following the award of royal warrants it was now known as NV Wessanen Koninklijke Fabrieken (NV Wessanen Royal Factories).
With a diversified global sales market, it was able to survive war, tariff barriers and the demise of colonialism. But it was still a typically Dutch company, with production facilities on the Zaan River.
Expansion into Europe and beyond
After World War II, new production facilities were created in Europe. Wessanen became a modern European company upgrading and extending production and storage and - by selling its flour mills in 1992 - successfully transformed itself from bulk manufacturer to multinational marketer of consumer products. A true new phase in Wessanen’s history!
Between 1972 and 2003, Wessanen acquired over 20 companies, mostly in Western Europe but also in the United States. All of them were engaged in the food and beverage industry, either in production or distribution.
In 1993, Wessanen joined forces with Dutch spirits producer Bols although five years later, Wessanen became a separate company again.
In 2009, Wessanen’s strategic focus was further refined when the company decided to focus on organic and 'to make our organic brands most desired in Europe'.
In March 2012, UK-based Clipper was acquired, UK market leader in organic and fair trade teas, while in Spring 2013 French-based Alter Eco has been acquired, a leading player in fair trade and organic food in France.
Looking ahead, adapting to change
Nearly 250 years after Adriaan Wessanen and Dirk Laan set up their seed business by the River Zaan, the Wessanen name continues to stand for energy, industry and innovation. The old warehouses and windmills may have fallen into disuse, but they have been replaced by modern production facilities and distribution systems designed for international trade, just as the originals were.
The modern Wessanen has inherited at least one key characteristic from its founders: they constantly looked to the future, adapting their products and processes to changing markets – and so does the 21st century Wessanen.