The Tönnies Group started out as a small village butcher’s shop 50 years ago and since then has grown to become Germany’s leading meat company. The brothers Bernd and Clemens Tönnies built up their father’s butcher’s shop and implemented their own ideas and visions. Now in 2021, the Group takes a look back over the highs and lows of its 50-year success story.
Milestones in the company’s development
Tönnies has its roots in the old town of Rheda. Here the butcher Klemens Tönnies slaughtered seven to ten pigs per week. His sons Bernd and Clemens Tönnies followed in the footsteps of their father and trained to become butchers – over the next 50 years, they developed the small butcher’s shop to become Germany’s leading meat company.
Bernd Tönnies establishes the family business as it is today, as a wholesaler of meat and sausages. A short while later, Clemens joins the business which employs around 20 staff at this time.Bernd Tönnies establishes the family business as it is today, as a wholesaler of meat and sausages. A short while later, Clemens joins the business which employs around 20 staff at this time.
The young company is successful in adapting the division of labour used in other industries to the needs of the meat industry. As a result, the company grows steadily. For this reason, the company relocates to Herzebrock. The number of employees grows to 60.
The Tönnies Group takes over the pig abattoir in Weißenfels, Saxony-Anhalt. Since the takeover, more than EUR 200 million has been invested in this site. Today the company employs approx. 2,200 staff at this site and produces approx. 2,300 tonnes of quality meat each day.
The Tönnies brothers start to construct a new, state-of-the-art butchering plant in their home town. Under the umbrella term of ‘Biological Unit’, Tönnies plans and establishes the concept of the continuous, uninterrupted production chain in quality meat preparation.
The state-of-the-art butchering plant is finished. Slaughter and butchering become one biological unit for the first time. In addition, inline production (the concept of a continuous and uninterrupted production chain) becomes reality. At the same time, around 400 jobs are created.
A pig slaughterhouse and butchering plant is opened in Sögel. The products manufactured there are sold under the brand Weidemark Fleischwaren. Around 600 employees work at this site at this time.
In Rheda, the company now employs 1,950 employees and has a covered production area of 50,000 m².
The newly built Meat Exchange opens in Rheda. All sales areas (beef, pork, sow meat, convenience meat, export) come together in the sales department enabling short channels and dialogue. Information exchange is the basis for successful customer support and marketing.
With the start of fully automatic butchering, the Tönnies group is not just the most modern slaughterhouse in Europe – but in an even more advanced development, computer-controlled butchering units carry out the necessary steps and prepare the required pieces for further fine cutting. The company has thus made a quantum leap into quality preparation.
In January, the ‘TAZB System’ is put into operation. This is the first ‘Humane Automatic Herding and Anaesthesia System’. This reconciles animal protection with the highest level of meat quality
The slaughter of pigs begins at the Brørup site in Denmark. Expansion abroad begins.
With the completion of Europe’s most modern refrigeration terminal at the Rheda site, a further step is made towards the quality assurance of meat.
The company celebrates its 35-year anniversary and at this point employs approx. 4,900 staff. The slaughter throughput of the group is 8 million pigs per year. The group is present in Europe with sales offices and subsidiaries. The export share is approximately 33 per cent.
The company opens its doors with the construction of the factory outlet and connected restaurant on the production site in Rheda. Every day, the restaurant and factory outlet are visited by several hundred people from across the region.
The new social and administration buildings in Rheda with an area of approx. 17,000 m², our own childcare facility and a fitness studio are completed and opened.
With the integration of the Danish pig slaughter and butchering operation Tican, the Tönnies Group continues to grow. The takeover represents a further step in the internationalisation of the Tönnies company. The Tönnies Group now employs 12,000 staff. The export share is over 50 per cent.
The shareholders Clemens and Robert Tönnies agree on a new company structure. Maximilian Tönnies, the son of Clemens Tönnies, also becomes a shareholder. There are now five divisions: Meat, Convenience, Sausages, Ingredients and Logistics.
The Zur Mühlen Group is integrated into the Tönnies corporate structure. For this purpose, the new division „Sausages“ is founded within the Group. Axel Knau becomes the new Managing Director. With this addition, Tönnies now also covers the self-service sausage and canned sausage segment.
Tönnies takes over the British slaughter and cutting plant of C&K Meats. The business specializes in the slaughtering and cutting of pigs and cattle. The acquisition promises growth opportunities and is known for its high quality and animal welfare standards. In addition, the Bell sausage plants in Suhl, Thuringia, and Börger in the Emsland region („Zimbo“) will be acquired by the Zur Mühlen Group.
On the way to more sustainability, Tönnies sets up the Agenda t30. The company has thus clearly defined its goals and tasks for the future. This will ensure that social demands on meat production, the profitability of the company and its agricultural partners and jobs are all equally secured in the long term.
The first non-European slaughterhouse in China together with Dekon Group is contractually agreed. The operation in the Sichuan region will start with an initial capacity of two million pig slaughters per year.
The Corona pandemic does not hold back at the slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrück. Due to positive cases among the employees, the plant stops its production for a short period of time. Tönnies develops a highly effective hygiene concept in a very short time and becomes a role model for other plants and industries.
mid-2020 the company management decided to abolish all work contracts in the core production areas by the end of the year. This mammoth process was completed on time for 01 January 2021: Tönnies employs around 6,000 employees directly in the Group.
the Tönnies Group continues its growth trajectory in the market for vegetarian and vegan meat-substitute products. The company concentrates its activities in this segment under the consumer brands “es schmeckt”, “Vevia” and “Gutfried veggie” in a standalone division, Vevia 4 You GmbH & Co. KG, with separate production facilities in Böklund. This division supplements the already diverse portfolio.