Rügenwalder Mühle now makes more sales with vegetarian products than with meat. Now the medium-sized company from East Frisia is being taken over by a Cologne family holding company.
Rügenwalder Mühle, a traditional sausage manufacturer and market leader for vegetarian meat alternatives for several years, is being sold: The food holding company around the Cologne sugar manufacturer Pfeifer & Langen will take over the majority in Rügenwalder. The deal is intended to help the medium-sized company grow internationally Ostfriesland, said the companies. Capital described the eventful history of the Rügenwalder Mühle at the beginning of 2023.
Michael Hähnel is supposed to hold still for a moment, just for the photo, but that’s difficult for him. Finally, he wants to quickly talk about his tennis teaching jobs while studying business administration. Previously it was about his deceased dog and life in Greece. You can easily imagine Hähnel as a tennis teacher. He is an open guy who quickly makes good connections with other people, which is what he says about himself. And he fits the brand he represents pretty well. Hähnel is the man who can do it with everyone – and Rügenwalder is the brand that works for everyone: meat eaters, vegans and everyone in between.
Since January 2020, Michael Hähnel, 56, has been managing director of Rügenwalder Mühle: a medium-sized company from Bad Zwischenahn, East Frisia, 850 employees, in the meat and sausage business for seven generations. But the most amazing story in this long history happened right before Hähnel started there: the transformation of the sausage manufacturer into the German market leader for vegetarian meat alternatives. In 2014, Rügenwalder Mühle, previously known for tea and liver sausage, brought its first vegetarian products onto the market. An experiment. At that time, the vegetarian program was just 0.3 percent of total production.
But in 2021, the company suddenly had more sales with vegetarian and vegan products than with those made from meat. Today mortadella made from sunflower seeds, mettwurst made from peas and soy meatballs are in the range – alongside tried and tested items such as pork mettwurst and poultry mortadella.
The second stage
Rügenwalder managed to get the plant-based sausage out of the organic corner, a success that hardly anyone had expected. “The Rügenwalder Mühle was the pioneer and recognized the signs of the times and the market potential early on,” says Cyriacus Schultze from the food consultancy Food and Wine Culture.
But now the second stage of transformation begins. “I am sure that we as a company still have the big transformation ahead of us,” says Hähnel. Eight years after the veggie departure, the world is a different place.
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