A visit Down Under

In Wangaratta in North East Victoria, Van Hessen Australia has been making great strides in recent years. In Australia and New Zealand, they have become the biggest player in processing green sheep runners. The company has also increased its share of porcine casings and mucosa in the Australian market.

VH Matters #5 A Visit Down Under


Discussing sales, Tony Greaves, Managing Director of Van Hessen in Australia and New Zealand, makes it clear he’s not talking about in-company movement of goods: “We sell selected sheep and hog casings to the local sausage-manufacturing industry but also overseas. In short, we have a lot going on in our corner of the world.” Tony is a busy man indeed. “Every day is different. I usually prepare sales contracts, offers, pricing arrangement, sales planning, etc. This morning, however, I started at 7 am in order to set up an in-company covid testing facility. Honestly, without a fantastic back-office under the able leadership of Courtney Purcell, things could go very wrong very quickly.” Tony gives us a tour of the various departments.


He introduces Jack Pockley who is in charge of procurement. “Procurement is rather different from purchasing,” says Jack. “Understanding that difference is crucial in the casings business. Instead of simply purchasing bolts or screws for a project, procurement entails the constant orientation toward a strategy that seeks to both maximize the value of the product and establish long-term relations with the suppliers.” It also means understanding the market. “We have one ethos,” says Jack. “We get what we pay for. It works both ways. As we build the right relationship with the right supplier, we end up paying a fair price for exactly the product we need. We focus all our efforts on this.” Procurement also means looking ahead: “We do a three-year rolling forecast for procurement requirements. We report to our suppliers and seek to achieve our goals. Mutual trust is tremendously important in this business.” From procurement, Tony takes us to two products sourced in Australia and New Zealand: green sheep runners, white porcine runners and porcine mucosa.

Green Runners

Jason Skinner is Assistant Production Manager Cleaning Sheep and replaces Denise Watson, who is currently on a long service leave (Australian for “paid sabbatical”). “We source the green runners, i.e. sheep intestines that aren’t yet processed, clean them and then ship them for selection elsewhere in the world,” Jason explains. While the resulting white runners/casings are sold “inter- company” as it is called and eventually end up in the major markets of Europe, the USA, and Japan, some of these casings return after selection to be sold to regional markets. Says Jason: “Green runners arrive both fresh and frozen, and typically take a 24-hour cycle to be processed. Unlike hog casings, sheep intestines are very delicate and require skilled treatment. After being defrosted overnight, they go to the cutting room, after which they are conditioned and machine-cleaned. Then they need to be chilled down, salted, and packed, after which they are ready to be shipped to our selection facilities.” 


One could wonder why Van Hessen Australia is involved in extracting heparin from mucosa, which is done from hog casings, when the company specializes in green sheep runners. But Tony Greaves is very clear on this point: “There is no difference, really. Van Hessen is in the casings business, or rather, in the valorization of the bowel package. Processing hog casings is therefore a natural thing for us to do. Mucosa is a valuable ingredient of the bowel package that is harvested from the small intestine. Sourcing mucosa helps us to add more value to the bowel package. It gives suppliers yet another reason to make use of our services.” While at the moment most of the casings and mucosa comes from third parties, which means it is not harvested using Van Hessen’s own employees, everything is under supervision by our product experts to ensure maximum returns. Michael Palmer, who heads the mucosa department, explains what Van Hessen does with mucosa, the slimy lining found in hog casings: “Mucosa contains tiny amounts of heparin, an important anticoagulant that stops blood clotting. It is used during millions of surgeries around the world. We use resin to extract the heparin from mucosa. The resulting semi-finished product called heparin-on-resin is sold to the pharmaceutical industry, where it is processed into the final product.”

Sales (again)

We return to Sales where Tony Greaves sees us to the door. “As with elsewhere in Van Hessen, working in sales means being a knowledge broker, a production expert, someone who understands machinery, etc. We don’t want to sell the most expensive product, but rather the best product for the manufacturer. It takes expertise to fulfill this role. That’s why we call our sales people Account Managers. Sales is not just order taking; it is a combination of good communication, technical knowledge, and planning with foresight.” We leave knowing Van Hessen is in expert hands in Wangaratta!