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Our Year 2023 - Interview with CEO Ingo Müller
In a year characterized by extremely volatile markets and challenges on the cost side, the DMK Group has shown how important team spirit is and that a common goal, adaptability and innovation are now more important than ever.

In this interview, CEO Ingo Müller looks back on the year 2023 and explains how the DMK Group has faced up to its challenges while keeping a firm eye on the strategic goals it has set itself. He also talks about the immensely important role of #teamdmk and highlights the importance of sustainable action and the will to change for the company's success. He also explains how the DMK Group deals with increasing demands in the food sector, the sustainable transformation of agriculture and the implementation of effective climate protection measures.

Mr Müller, how would you describe the year 2023 for the DMK Group and what were the biggest challenges?

Ingo Müller: We fell short of our potential in 2023. There are no two opinions about that.  Factors such as the markets turning again after the record year of 2022, negative one-off effects and the continuing challenging overall social conditions came together here. In 30 years of dairy farming, I have never experienced the kind of market distortions we faced in 2023. It was already foreseeable at the end of the record year 2022 that market prices would drop significantly and realisations would fall. In retrospect, our reaction to this was too restrained. In addition, the markets were extremely volatile and there was a huge devaluation of our stocks - especially for cheese.

How do you deal with challenges of this kind?

Ingo Müller: One thing first: to see that we have missed our target and are not where we wanted to be as an organisation is very sad for me personally. And simply carrying on as if nothing had happened - that has never been our style and we're not going to start now. We have taken a close look at where we need to adjust and have made the necessary adjustments.  And yes, unfortunately this also includes the reduction in production capacity because of the reduced milk volume due to redundancies. We have now picked up speed again and the measures we have introduced are having a noticeable effect. In the years 2019 to 2022, we have impressively demonstrated that our Agenda 2030 is absolutely the right path, and as a team, we are consistently continuing this path with our strategic topics for the future.

What role does Team DMK play in this?

Ingo Müller: All our farmers and employees, whether on the farms, in the factories or in administration, are the backbone of our company. Their commitment and their willingness to go the extra mile time and again are the reason why we do not lose sight of our path, even in challenging times. I am particularly proud of our team spirit. This is something that particularly characterizes the DMK Group, and I am convinced that team spirit and the high motivation of our members and employees are indispensable factors for the success of our company. This applies in good times, but especially in difficult ones. Our last year showed this clearly. And I am very grateful for that.

What makes you certain that a year like 2023 won't happen again?

Ingo Müller: The last few years have shown that you always must reckon with the most unlikely developments and that nothing is completely certain or predictable.  Even if we would all like that to be the case. I think it's important to take a close look at things that didn't go as planned so that we can learn from them quickly.  Regarding 2023 we have done this and can see that the actions we have introduced are working. In concrete terms, this can also be seen in our rising milk price curve. We are now doing everything we can to build on the previous successful years.

In addition to innovative solutions and increased efficiency, what other goals has the DMK Group set for the coming years?

Ingo Müller: Our long-term goals are clearly defined in our "Vision 2030". We prioritize value creation overgrowth and want to act as a pioneer in the dairy industry while also consistently implementing and advancing our sustainability strategy. This includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. We have already taken important steps with projects such as Net Zero Farms and the Agricultural Climate Check. We also want to further diversify our product range. I would like to emphasize MILRAM here, which has established itself as a strong brand and is developing well. Not forgetting the topic of digitalization within the company, which we are continuing to drive forward.

Keyword sustainable: What significance does this topic have for DMK?

Ingo Müller: To achieve our long-term sustainability goals, we have identified four areas of action in our "Vision 2030" and are implementing corresponding measures on the farms, in our factories and along the entire supply chain. Our aim with all projects is to set up measures in such a way that they can also be adapted across the board. In doing so, we don't just want to look at ourselves as a company, but also contribute to the industry and share our knowledge with others. Sustainability is not a "nice to have" for DMK, but the order of the day.

What specific measures are currently being implemented?

Ingo Müller: The major projects include, for example, the "B-WaterSmart" programme supported by the EU Commission, which is researching a method for recovering water from milk. The aim is to treat 600,000 m³ of vapour condensate per year at the DMK plant in Edewecht and use it as a substitute for drinking water. 
At our production site in Edewecht, we are also focussing on the energy-efficient use of waste heat. This measure saves 24,800 MWh of natural gas and 200 MWh of electricity every year, which contributes to a significant reduction in CO₂ emissions. 
Another important contribution to greater climate protection is our new vehicle fleet. We are replacing all our milk collection lorries and switching to bio-LNG as fuel. This will save us 13,500 tonnes of CO2 every year. With our own refuelling station, we are also making the changeover easier for external hauliers.  Our "Net Zero Project" also plays a huge role in our "Vision 2030", as farms account for around 80% of the emissions generated by DMK. We are trialling various measures for climate-friendly agriculture on four pilot farms in Germany and the Netherlands, in which all our farms will participate in the future.

What influence do changing eating habits have on the DMK Group and what trends do you currently see?

Ingo Müller: For many people, food is an important expression of their own lifestyle, especially when it comes to healthy and sustainable nutrition.  Consumers are looking for high-quality food that not only stands for personal enjoyment but is also produced in a climate-friendly and sustainable way. As the DMK Group, we keep an eye on this development in conjunction with long-term trends and derive measures to counter them. We are dairy experts, but we can also do plant based. Dairy products and plant-based alternatives are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they complement each other and offer consumers the opportunity to shop according to their dietary habits. 
At DMK, we translate this into a broad portfolio in which dairy-based and plant-based products stand side by side. This allows us to offer consumers with a taste for flavours, such as flexitarians, a choice within our own range and therefore products that perfectly suit their lifestyle.

What will happen to the DMK Group in the coming years?

Ingo Müller: Our Vision 2030 was, is and remains the right path for us. And we are consistently pursuing this path with our strategic topics for the future.  We only strategically repositioned ourselves as DMK in 2018/2019. And because we are undergoing such an enormous transformation process, it is important to take all our internal and external target groups with us on this journey and communicate it in the way we have been doing since 2018. After all, our transformation affects processes, product ranges and our actions and values. We have the first five years behind us. Of these years, four have gone well to very well and we have achieved most of the interim goals we set ourselves. And yes: we did not deliver in one year.  Of course, nobody wants that to happen, but we are not the first or even the only ones to whom this has happened. The important thing in such situations is to analyze the causes in detail, do better and take responsibility. That's exactly what happened. And that's only half the battle. We have six more years ahead of us to bring our 2030 Agenda to a successful conclusion. The path is right.