In December 2020, Baltic Control® reached a milestone: its 40-year business anniversary. We are humble and very proud to have reached this milestone; 40 years of adventures in testing, inspection and certification (TIC) is clearly a pretty unique achievement.
Since its inception in the early 20th century, the TIC business has undergone massive change. It is a widely polarised business with many small local operators that are servicing local markets or niches to big international mastodons that employ over 100,000 people.
In this environment Baltic Control® has experienced steady growth throughout the 40 years. From the outset, the company has been operating from a remote corner of the port of Aarhus in Denmark. Like in a Danish fairy tale, the founder Mr Hugo K. R. Pedersen and his loyal co-workers have had to overcome impossible challenges, travel thousands of miles to far-flung areas of the world and face strong competitors, who had business muscles as big as the Swiss Alps. But despite the challenges, we have conquered the world country by country, client by client. We would be delighted if you could join us on a little trip down memory lane:
Aarhus, Denmark – where it all started
It all started on 1st December 1980 when Baltic Control® was founded by Mr Hugo Pedersen and his business partners/investors in the port of Aarhus, Denmark.
In those days, the TIC market was very different from what it is today. The business was much less transparent and compliance was not well developed, and the market was dominated by the Big 4 who had their own take on how things should be done … One could say that the industry did not have a great reputation, mired in various big scandals. Hugo Pedersen was therefore able to offer an alternative service with a clean Scandinavian image.
It was in that environment that the company was started as the ‘Scandinavian alternative’ to the big mastodons. Mr Pedersen was already a well-known and seasoned TIC professional with extensive industry-related experience. Having spent many years abroad in Africa and Asia, he had a network of international contacts. He knew the international business inside out and understood that there was a need for change. Right from the start the company was focusing on offering its services to the agricultural sector. It enjoyed particular success in the trade of grains and other foodstuffs between Scandinavia and Eastern Bloc countries, such as the Soviet Union and East Germany, where large quantities of these commodities were shipped from Scandinavian ports on feeder vessels over the Baltic Sea - hence the name Baltic Control.
A lot of the big institutional and government organisations in the market were disillusioned with the Big 4 and were open to look for alternatives. Mr Pedersen saw his window of opportunity in North Africa and the Middle East. He ensured that the company quickly expanded into other regions and activities. The company quickly gained a foothold in North Africa and the Middle East, securing new contracts and approvals for inspection of imports of grains and feed from all over the world. The global expansion of Baltic Control® now took off.
The first Baltic Control® office outside Scandinavia
The very first Baltic Control® office abroad was established in 1983 in Greece: Baltic Control® Hellas. The purpose of this new office was to enable the company to handle its growing business interests in the Mediterranean. This Greek office marked the beginning of the company’s expansion outside Scandinavia.
Despite the growing success, business was tough. Every single penny was spent on developing existing contacts and contracts, and exploring new opportunities within the inspection and testing business wherever possible. The expansion of the Baltic Control® network of offices was done in collaboration with local partners/investors who wanted to get on board and be part of the Baltic Control® brand. Over the years, Mr Pedersen and his growing number of sales staff travelled thousands of miles all over the world. Thanks to their persistence and hard work, Baltic Control® steadily grew into what is it today; a truly global company and a key operator with a strong reputation within the TIC industry.
Next generation part I -
Mrs Pedersen & Humanitarian Aid
As a result of significant consumer demand, the TIC market in the 90s was becoming more regulated. The market had until then been highly unregulated. To meet growing consumer demand, the Big 4 created a trade association called the International Federation of Inspection Agencies (IFIA), with the aim of improving the situation by implementing rules and guidelines for the TIC industry. This move appeared to be well-intentioned, but the newly established association quickly evolved into an exclusive club where other companies did not have a look-in. Mr Pedersen sought membership of the association for Baltic Control® on several occasions, but each time the membership refused the application and a legal battle ensued and rumbled on for several years.
In the meantime, Mr Pedersen and his team continued to work hard to grow the business. But behind a great man, there is always a great woman. Being the wife of an entrepreneur and global businessman is a fulltime occupation. Mr Pedersen’s wife Mrs Gun Pedersen rose to the challenge, serving as Chairman of the Board for three decades and playing a key role in the direction the company took. It was Mrs Gun Pedersen, for example, who coined Baltic Control®’s slogan ‘Caring about Quality’ which we feel still embodies the essence of what Baltic Control® stands for.
Mrs Gun Pedersen also handled many key projects including the humanitarian aid and relief projects which were close to her heart. These projects served the needs of United Nations and other global donor organisations that were able to benefit from Baltic Control®’s unique global network and quick and agile operations in the most remote areas of the world. This is still a business area where Baltic Control® enjoys a strong reputation. The company feels humble and honoured to have served this sector for more than 3 decades.
In 1990, Hugo & Gun Pedersen’s son Martin E. Pedersen joined the company. After a number of years of solid back office and front office work, Martin E. Pedersen was promoted to the management team, as commercial manager. He joined the traveling sales force, spending up to 200 days travelling every year for many years. He also held positions as managing director in various branch offices from the Baltic States to Africa.
The 90s also marked an acceleration of global expansion with the establishment of many new offices all over the world. At the end of the decade, Baltic Control® won its largest long-term contract to date when the EU body, Agro Action, appointed Baltic Control® to protect their interests in the delivery of EU grain donations to Third World countries all over the world.
IFIA – next generation part II - Generational change
In 2002, after many years of legal wrangling, an important milestone was achieved - Baltic Control® finally became a full member of IFIA. Becoming a full member of IFIA (now TIC Council) spoke volumes. This was effectively an official stamp of approval for Baltic Control®. More importantly Baltic Control® was the first smaller company to become a member of the association which until then had been monopolised by the Big 4, and it was now able to have a direct influence on the development of the industry. Baltic Control® took this role very seriously and actively participated in all committees and general meetings.
Also, the 00s marked the Group’s entry to the business of providing pre-shipment services to governments under the regulations of World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Customs Organization (WCO), securing long-term contracts in Burundi and Ecuador. Only a small handful of companies are eligible to participate in these programmes. The company’s involvement was a clear indication that Baltic Control® was now one of the leading players in the TIC industry. This business is still today an important part of the business portfolio.
In 2004, the family business expanded when the Pedersen daughter Mrs Karina E. Nielsen joined the Baltic Control® team. With a solid background in marketing, IT software and hardware, Karina E. Nielsen came in with fresh blood and new ideas. In 2008, having spent a few years as Group quality manager, she kickstarted the certification division. Until then Baltic Control® had been primarily an inspection and testing company, but the decision to diversify activities into product certification proved an instant success. Animal welfare and food sustainability, in particular, were key areas for Karina E. Nielsen and her certification teams. By end of 2008, the first of many long-term contracts for certification of DANISH animal production was signed. Today more than 10,000+ audits are completed annually primarily in Scandinavia, Germany and Poland. The Groups certification activities are also rolled out to many faraway places, such as Siberia, India, Africa and Australia honouring the BC business model for being global, quick and agile.
In 2007, a generational change took place. Martin and Karina now took over all responsibilities through their joint company Baltic Control® Group. Hugo and Gun continued to serve the company and to travel around the world visiting partners and business close associates for another 10 years before they both retired in 2017.
Baltic Control® is fundamentally a conservative family business that puts organic growth first, but the Group, by way of exception decided to acquire a domestic competitor – the weight and inspection service company Vejebro A/S located at the port of Aarhus, Denmark. This acquisition was a natural step towards increasing Baltic Control®s market share in Denmark.
The 10s has marked an increasing focus on tighter regulation and increasing consumer demand for higher standards in safety, quality, health, ethics and sustainability in the market place. Through IFIA, the TIC industry has continuously tried to promote and advocate solutions to facilitate this development. Baltic Control® has engaged actively in this process, as Ms. Karina E. Nielsen became a member of the Council in 2011 – a position she has resolutely maintained ever since and after IFIA became a much larger organisation after IFIA merged with CEOC to become TIC Council.
The decade has also marked the beginning of an extensive structural and operational transformation. Many of the activities that were previously handled in Denmark have been outsourced to other Baltic Control® offices around the world. Denmark is a relatively small market with high costs. It did not therefore make much sense to push expansion here. Our offices in Poland, USA, India, Uganda, Myanmar and lately Singapore are now strategic business units where most activities are coordinated worldwide. A lot of resources have also been allocated to investments in IT and infrastructure, so Baltic Control® is well prepared for the future market which will see even more globalisation and regulation.
In May 2017, management of Baltic Control® Group decided to carve out the fast-growing certification activities to a newly established independent company – the Baltic Control Certification A/S – which was headquartered in the centre of Copenhagen. By the end of 2018, the office was too small for the growing number of staff and the company relocated to beautiful and idyllic surroundings in Kongens Lyngby north of Copenhagen.
In 2019, Baltic Academy became a reality due to growing demand for certification-related training and scheme/protocol development. This latest addition to the Baltic Control® Group is an independent company with its own team of experts which has links and expertise from scientific centres within animal welfare and environmental sustainability. These experts keep their fingers firmly on the pulse of any development in this fast-growing area.
For the Pedersen family, it has been and remains an adventure. Every day has its own challenges, but with a loyal team always showing high level of professionalism, the company is able to overcome these challenges and grow from strength to strength.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank our loyal staff, both past and present, for your daily efforts in seeking business opportunities, servicing clients, and maintaining high levels of professionalism, while at the same time spreading positive vibes among colleagues,” says Karina E. Nielsen.
Martin E. Pedersen continues “40 years in the TIC business is quite an achievement. As independent and impartial inspectors, we are often challenged by deadlines, logistics, buyer/seller conflicts, fraud, bad weather, etc. but we have always shown an incredible ability to stay strong and agile no matter what”.
“Over the years, we have been blessed with loyal clients and business partners to whom we also owe a huge debt of gratitude. Without you we would not be able to celebrate this anniversary. It is an honour and hugely motivating to be working with so many passionate and professional people from all over the world”
“The future is hard to predict especially now when we have seen how quickly a pandemic can plunge the world into a global recession. At Baltic Control®, we believe in the future and are confident that, as citizens of this planet, we will all work together to find a way towards a green, sustainable and healthy world which we can proudly pass on to the next generation.”