Mastery in craft & trade

Alex and Geert know each other pretty well. Geert is the co-owner of Brandt & Levie, the traditional sausage maker that is – as he likes to coin it – world-famous in Amsterdam. Alex knows Geert as sales director of Van Hessen for Northwestern Europe. Since the conversation is about mastery, the Van Hessen core-value that is featured in this edition of Let’s Meat, both men keep coming back to the one time that both faced a major challenge. A challenge that was only solved through the mastery of both men.


Brandt & Levie had an issue with the natural casings of Van Hessen. The casings did not perform as required by the craft sausage that Geert and his colleagues envisioned. “For our Gold Line, we purchase meat directly from the farm. All ingredients have to originate from there; we believe that to be essential for our quality product. Natural casings, however, need to be purchased elsewhere. We are not able to clean them ourselves. But even then, we maintain the highest standard. We are, after all, a traditional company that focuses on specialty sausages.” In this particular case, this proved to be a challenge.

They were not able to solve the problem until Alex and his team with their expert knowledge got involved. “This is indeed a special case when it comes to mastery,” says Alex. “It was a pretty complex situation. Geert and his partners learned their craft in Italy and manufacture heavy sausages that require very strong casings. We got on the phone with Italy and Brazil to get an understanding of what was going on. In the end, we managed to solve the issue, but I have to compliment Geert for his patience.” Geert immediately returns the favor: “You deserve to be complimented as well because I have learned a thing or two from your level of service. I am responsible for sales at Brandt & Levie and benefited from your example.”


Mastery is a core-value for Van Hessen. It plays a central role in everything that Van Hessen’s employees do. For a company that has scaled up and increased in size, mastery implies that throughout all layers of the organization, and also with management, there is a profound and in-depth knowledge of the company’s products. Alex and his team would have never been able to help as they did if they hadn’t had an in-depth knowledge of natural casings. At Van Hessen, you cannot have a position that brings you in touch with its products without knowing everything there is to know. Alex, for instance, knows how to clean, salt, and calibrate casings: “I have worked for two years ‘in’ the casings and also made sausages. Van Hessen’s traineeship turns you in a product expert,” says Alex. “I spend ninety minutes in production every week to examine casings. I, therefore, see our salespeople not just as sales representatives but more like consultants. We help and advise our big and small customers until everything is okay.”

Van Hessen has maintained the emphasis on mastery and turned it into an important ingredient of its successful growth. Brandt & Levie too has mastery as one of its core values. Geert explains: “Quality is the most important value for our sausage company and we apply it in every step of our production process. We will, for instance, not compromise on raw materials. For us, this means that we want “fair” pigs and believe that our food system needs to become more honest. Also what we do with these raw materials really counts. That is our background as chefs. We create our own recipes. How a sausage is made, the kind of meat that goes into it, under which temperature this happens, the speed with which the sausage is being filled, and how the fermentation with a dry sausage is regulated… It simply has to be perfect from A to Z.”

Both men acknowledge that the mastery of one is dependent on that of the other. “We have mastered the entire chain from slaughterhouse to sausage plant”, says Alex, “You have no idea how many checks we perform on our casings. It starts in the gut room where the mucosa has to be removed without causing damage to the casing.” Geert agrees: “People have no idea how much is involved in the production of what they consume. As Brandt & Levie we want to make people aware of this. Yes, without good casings you cannot have good sausages. I would like to add that a good casing also results in a pleasant working experience for our employees. To be forced to work with a casing that does not perform well is a very annoying experience. When they enjoy their work, they produce sausages with that “extra shine” so to speak.”

The word annoyance brings the conversation back to that one challenging time. The mastery of the one was necessary to complete that of the other. That’s how they obtained the victory and continue to do so today.