Designing a disposable fork: Interview with Erwin van Limpt

May 6, 2020

Disposable forks: buy them or make them ourselves? In 1984, Harry van Limpt took the chance offered to him by a business contact and moved from running his own snack bar to mechanized production of disposable cutlery for the hospitality industry. His son Erwin followed him in 1993, adding design to the core values of family business Haval. By offering beautiful and functional designs at midrange prices, Haval avoids competing on price at the bottom of the market, and their clients get to present their customers with fine disposables.

interview FMCG

Erwin first introducing design by working with a bureau from the west of the Netherlands, but he quickly switched to the founders and designers of GBO Innovation makers. “Once I saw the quality of local designers, the switch was easy,” said Erwin. Haval and GBO have since developed a long-standing and close relationship. “It’s still people work, and Jacques and I have good chemistry. GBO has created plenty of unique designs for us, like the Wave stirrer and the Hercules cutlery set. Their last design is the Gaia cutlery line. A wonderful product at a very sharp price.”

But it all started with the stirrer with two holes, a design of their own and, according to Erwin, the most copied product in the industry. “You can recognize the original Haval stirrer by its holes. The end of the stirrer doesn’t fit in the hole. In many copies, it does. They still don’t get why we designed it that way.”

Continuous adaptation

“When there’s an economic downturn, consumers often choose cheaper food. That means our products will be more popular and our business will do well. At the same time, we’re continuously adapting. As Darwin said: it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change. In the past two decades, our market opportunities have mostly been determined by consumer behavior. Consider cherry tomatoes. They’re now very popular and use our buckets, something I’d never thought would happen. Watching well, listening and taking action, that will always be the secret. It is a great help that GBO immediately understands what we’re looking for and translates that into distinctive designs.”

“With good design, you can stay away from price erosion.”

“As a result of our approach, we once had to say goodbye to a big customer. When we were building our new premises, that customer didn’t want to commit to continuing with us. They were thinking of outsourcing, but kept submitting orders that only gave us a minimal mark-up. At one point, we just started sending those orders back. That’s the kind of guts you need to have. That gave us the opportunity to focus fully on the food industry.”

Recycling

“Currently, regulations determine our chances to a significant extent. We’re almost the only producers of single-use plastic cutlery in the Benelux region. The public opinion is against plastic, though it’s the only reasonable solution for many applications. Plastic is more than just the waste problem on the political agenda. We managed to find a fully recyclable solution, available if we invest heavily – not waiting, but action. We spoke to festival organizers and caterers about our solution to the waste problem, a solution that meets the Haval core value of making beautiful products at a good price. Because nobody wants to drink beer from a floppy cup or be surrounded by a sea of trash at a festival. GBO helped us tighten up the marketing proposition and is now designing the physical products: cups, trays, plates and cutlery. No trash, fully recyclable and circular: that’s the core. Once we know the legal situation late 2020, we’ll be able to show the benefit for consumers and the environment.”

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