Innovations Galore

Interview with Torben Müller and Siegfried Weber, Co-CEOs of Kalle GmbH

Torben Müller and Siegfried Weber, Co-CEOs of Kalle GmbH
Torben Müller and Siegfried Weber, Co-CEOs of Kalle GmbH

For over 160 years, Kalle GmbH has been at the forefront of industrial production of high-quality sausage casings and sponge cloths. As a global leader, the company sets standards in quality and innovation, especially in the field of sausage casings. The long-standing experience and the relentless pursuit of perfection have made the Kalle Group a reliable partner for its customers worldwide. Wirtschaftsforum spoke in an interview with the two managing directors, Siegfried Weber and Torben Müller, about the secret of success and plans for the future.

Wirtschaftsforum: Mr. Müller, Mr. Weber, last year you celebrated the 160th anniversary of Kalle GmbH. What have been the biggest milestones in the company's history?

Torben Müller: Our history, which began in 1863, is primarily characterized by innovation. Kalle's products have repeatedly redefined the business around sausage casings. It began in 1929 with the invention of the first seamless cellulose sausage casing by company founder Dr. Wilhelm Kalle. Under the brand name Nalo, Kalle offered this artificial casing as an alternative to natural intestine, enabling a significant advance for the modern meat industry. Another highlight was the launch of sponge cloth production in 1955. Sponge cloths share the same raw materials as sausage casings, cellulose and cotton fibers, allowing Kalle to utilize synergies. The sponge cloths were so successful that a second sponge cloth production line was started in 1975. At the same time, sausage casings were consistently developed further, and we launched NaloProSpice, the first seamless casing with a spice and smoke transfer to the market. Our most recent milestone was the opening of our fourth sponge cloth production line at the end of April this year. It operates completely automated and thus we have a total capacity of about 14 million m2 of sponge cloths per year.

Kalle Sausage Casings
Kalle GmbH offers a wide range of sausage casings

Wirtschaftsforum: The industry certainly also brings various challenges. What topics are you currently concerned with?

Siegfried Weber: A big issue for the future of our industry is sustainability. We already offer biodegradable casings that can be utilized in biogas plants, for example. Kalle is intensively dealing with consumer expectations and developing casings that meet the growing need for conscious nutrition. An example of this are the ‘Clean Label’ Casings. These are transfer casings that contain no preservatives, artificial colours, and allergens. Kalle also benefits from the trend towards vegetarian and vegan diets, as the casings are suitable for any type of food in dough form, so-called ‘paste’ products. This includes sausage as well as cheese, tofu, or seitan.

Wirtschaftsforum: Besides high innovation and customer orientation, are there other strengths that distinguish the Kalle Group?

Torben Müller: We do not sell from a catalog, but work with direct sales. Our sales managers are either trained butchers or come from the industry and understand the processes and machinery. Our entire team consists of experts in all areas who know the markets well. Moreover, we have a very pronounced system of partnerships and also sell support products from other companies that optimize customer production. We want to further expand these partnerships.

Kalle Sausage Casings in Production
Kalle GmbH relies on production at the site in Frankfurt am Main
Kalle Polymer Casings
In the case of polymer casings, the combination of several layers of plastic allows for a wide range of different product properties

Wirtschaftsforum: What is one of the highlights from your product portfolio in this area?

Torben Müller: Among our strongest products are the Value-Added-Casings. Value-Added-Casings represent an added value that goes far beyond the classic functions of casings. They replace whole steps in the sausage production process, transferring smoke, color, and spices from the casing directly to the surface of the filling. This happens during the cooking process, after the content made of meat, cheese, or tofu has been filled into the casing. Afterward, the product is ready and remains in the casing until the goods are sliced or unpacked. Depending on the application and the previous production process, companies can save up to 20% of process costs with Value-Added-Casings, as cooking losses are avoided and work steps are eliminated.

Wirtschaftsforum: For which applications are the products from Kalle used?

Siegfried Weber: Kalle casings are used in the production of meat products and vegetarian and vegan foods. Kalle sponges are used for household applications and professional cleaning, but they can do much more than absorb liquids highly effectively in the household. Areas of application include medical or cosmetic applications, insulation in the automotive industry, soundproofing, moisture absorption in satellites, or as an evaporative medium in refrigeration technology. Moreover, our team is constantly considering what further applications there may be.

Wirtschaftsforum: In the past, the Kalle Group has brought numerous innovations to the market. What are the latest developments?

Torben Müller: Currently, we have quite a bit in the pipeline. Most new developments are based on the requirements of our customers, for whom we find a solution. Many developments focus on sustainability, circular economy, or vegan applications. We are also working on alternative raw materials or dyes. In doing so, we are also thinking about the future. A major theme is sustainability and we are working on biodegradable casings or recycled casings. The new basis for the casings are proteins and we also have completely new ideas for the production process. We work with our customers again in this regard. The requirements for a sausage casing are extremely high. It must, among other things, withstand enormous pressure, be able to expand, be permeable to water, then shrink again, and finally fall off by itself. This requires a lot of know-how, and here we are the right contact.

Wirtschaftsforum: What strategy do you have for the future of the Kalle Group?

Siegfried Weber: We already have international hubs for sausage casings and sponge cloths. In the future, we want to position ourselves even more locally and tailor our products as close as possible to our customers. In addition, we value our employees and the fact that they are regularly trained. We know what we have in our team and what we have at our location.