After having spent 120 years in Amsterdam, catering butcher and meat importer Nice to Meat relocated to a brand new wholesale and retail butchers in a highly accessible and high profile location next to the A6 in Almere Poort at the beginning of February. A butchers with 3000 square meters on the ground floor of climatised production and distribution areas, 12 meters high chill and freeze facilities, a demo restaurant and an area for dry aged beef. The first floor is office space and a canteen with a great view of the scenery outside. Meat&Co. asked Manager Mikel Pouw about the relocation and the successful collaboration with the Almere based automation specialist ReflexSystems.

We visit the new butchers, which has been run by the renowned Pouw family for years, just a few weeks before their final move from the Amsterdam location. It is clear that in a short space of time there is still a great deal to be set up and automated in the immense premises on Kobaltstraat in Almere. The team at ReflexSystems will be busy in the weekend of the move to ensure that the Flex 3000 terminals and accompanying Reflex 3000 software are connected in various areas of the company and to ensure that the automation immediately runs smoothly.

“Of course, it’s strange to say goodbye to Amsterdam after so many years and move to Almere,” explains Manager Mikel Pouw. “However, for us, it was no longer profitable to continue in cramped premises in the capital.”
Pouw believes that Nice to Meat outgrew the premises due to the continuing growth that the company experienced since the very beginning.
“At that time Nice to Meat started as a traditional butchers that supplied meat to Amsterdam hotels and restaurants. Our traditional approach and our efficient way of working ensured an ever growing client base in the decades after. The current, national client base of our catering butchers ranges from cafes to top restaurants and hotel chains. A few years ago, in order to continue to meet their various needs, I chose to divide our meat range into three categories: Nice to Meat Classic Label, Nice to Meat Select Label and Nice to Meat Gold Label. We are well equipped to manage this product assortment in our new butchers. It enables us to separate the production of our animal and eco-friendly reared beef, veal, lamb, game and poultry Gold Label meat from the other production.”

Nice to Meat International is the name of the import organisation of quality meat from all around the world. The company has been the exclusive European importer of Wagyu ‘Kobe Style’ beef since 1998. This exclusive meat is supplied to the top restaurants of Europe under the Wagyu USA, Wagyu Premium and Wagyu Gold labels. Wagyu USA originates from the Wagyu cattle kept at the Morgan Davis Ranch in Oklahoma. Premium and Gold originate from Australia. American Black Angus beef, Duke of Berkshire pork and Mangalitza pork are also included in the imported range of products.
“Initially, we rented space for the climatised storage of meat,” explains Pouw. “Because over the last few years our company has been continually busy with importing meat, the external storage costs have also risen. Therefore, it seemed wiser to invest in our own warehousing, in our own cold storage facility. We eventually found an ideal new-development location in Almere, where we can meet our customer’s requirements and raise our profile as a service focussed organisation. It is very satisfying to manage all our processes from just one location, whether this is our catering butchers or our warehousing.”

The state-of-the-art butchers in Almere, which consists of 3000 square meters of climatised production and distribution areas, 12 meters high cold storage facilities and a modern office space with a total of 500 square meters has been designed by Dedato designers and architects of Amsterdam.
Pouw explains, “Because at Nice to Meat we like to do things a bit differently to others, we chose an architect that was unknown in the meat industry. Many meat companies have the same type of look because they work with an architect known in the field. An important element in the design was giving the customer the feel that they are dealing with an traditional catering butcher when they walk through the doors. Therefore, we are installing a dry aging cell behind glass walls next to the entrance and setting up a demonstration kitchen. An enormous cow in LED lighting will also be placed on the roof at the front of our premises, which will be seen from the A6.”

In addition to this, a number of companies renowned in the meat and fresh produce industry were carefully chosen to work on this new development.
“We chose Minerva as project developer and Dijkham as contractor, who both have a lot of experience in developing climatised areas,” explains Pouw. “It is healthy for a company to be stubborn at times but we joined forces with an experienced company that we believe to be the best in their field. However, we did not simply rely on the positive experiences we have had working with ReflexSystems over the last five years as we also approached other automation companies. And once again we chose ReflexSystems. Unlike major competitors that think small-scale with regards to automation, ReflexSystems is an organisation like ourselves that dares to think big. We are in the same phase.”

ReflexSystems supplies Nice to Meat with a complete automation package that covers all the business processes. “In June 2012, the first meetings for the new development began between ReflexSystems and Nice to Meat and the cooperation agreement was signed in September,” explains Roy Meenderink, commercial manager at ReflexSystems. “We designed our automation solutions to suit the building plans for the new butchers. Our solutions for Nice to Meat consist of a completely new administration, office automation, hard and software on the work floor, pallet storage, recipe management and a paperless order picking system. The best thing about the new development is that you can create an ideal situation as far as automation and logistics are concerned. Of course, there have been a few necessary changes made after the contract was signed but in our work as automation specialist for the food industry we are just as flexible as Nice to Meat. A major advantage is that ReflexSystems is only a few minutes drive from the company. If there are any questions or problems, we can react quickly.”

Martijn Mellema, who was closely involved in the new premises as operational manager of Nice to Meat, is very pleased with the successful collaboration with ReflexSystems. “The main difference from the old situation is that our processes will be completely controlled from the Reflex Systems automation system. We are then able to determine exactly when and how much we produce, what we have in stock and what needs to be additionally purchased. Reflex 3000 gives us easy insight. It will probably take both my colleagues and myself some time to get used to it but we have every confidence in the user-friendliness of ReflexSystems. The warehousing project in Almere is also new. In addition, we are also able to trace our meat through the entire catering butchers. As a result, we will be able to work efficiently using traditional methods at customer level.”