After having immigrated to South Africa from the Netherlands, Hugo Molenaar established H.G. Molenaar in 1949. Since then, the company has been going from strength-to-strength, continually innovating and pioneering new solutions that answer ever-changing market demands. It is this experience, coupled with exceptional customer service delivery that has seen the company expand far beyond local borders.
Today, H.G. Molenaar is still proudly a family-owned and operated engineering business that employs over 250 people worldwide.
The early years
In 1935 the company’s founder, Hugo Molenaar, came to South Africa as a young technical engineer from the Netherlands. Shortly after his arrival, he secured a job with leading Western Cape nurserymen, Pickstone Farms. At that time, Pickstone was the main supplier of fruit trees to, among others, Rhodes Fruit Farms – one of the first Groups to can deciduous fruit in South Africa.
In 1962, Cor Molenaar, who had graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cape Town, set off for the United States. Once there he worked for numerous canning companies including the Green Giant Company and Del Monte. Through U.S. fruit packaging engineers, Atlas Pacific, which was already doing business in South Africa, Cor became familiar with pear peelers. This meant that when he returned to South Africa in 1963, he joined H.G. Molenaar as both the sales and service manager in addition to starting the agency for Atlas Pacific pear peeling machines. This was to be the beginning of a long association with various leading U.S. companies.
Sanctions are imposed
The 1970s saw politics starting to impinge on the business. Economic sanctions were imposed on U.S. companies that were doing business in South Africa. As a result, Filper was forced to abandon its small, but vibrant partner.
The Continuous Rotary Sterilizer
One of H.G. Molenaar’s flagship products is the Molenaar Continuous Rotary Sterilizer for canned goods. The first machine was designed and manufactured for a local client in 1978. In quick succession several other projects of this nature were commissioned, culminating in the first sterilizer export project to the United Kingdom in 1981.
Sanctions are lifted
The 1990s saw a great deal of political change in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and the country’s first democratic elections took place in 1994. Political changes also meant a change in the business climate. Sanctions against South Africa were lifted and it became possible for local companies to access global markets more easily.
The new millennium saw the company entering both the North American and the Asian markets. In H.G. Molenaar’s first Asian contract, new equipment was installed for Siam Foods in Thailand, which comprised an exhaust box, Continuous Rotary Sterilizer, Palletizers and Conveyors. This was followed by several more orders for sterilizers and, a few years later, the same client contracted H.G. Molenaar to construct a green fields corn-processing factory.