Åke Hantoft looks back on his Arla journey
Åke Hantoft looks back on his Arla journey
After almost four decades as an elected member in Arla and having dedicated his whole life to dairy farming, Åke Hantoft has sold his farm and is retiring as chairman of Arla Foods. Spending time with his family, building a new house and enjoying a much quieter lifestyle await as he bids a very fond farewell to life as Arla chairman.
“It has been a huge honor to serve as chairman of Arla Foods. I will miss all the great people I have met and worked with throughout my journey with Arla – farmers, employees, customers, consumers and business partners. Together we have achieved a lot, but there is still much more to do and I am confident that Arla will continue its success without me. For my part, I am looking forward to spending much more time with my family,” Åke Hantoft says.
Ake first became an elected member of the dairy cooperative 37 years ago and since then, has juggled life as a busy dairy farmer, with his roles at Arla. Splitting his time between the company and the cowshed, combining the two very different roles have been a recipe for success, as Ake explains.
“Spending time being hands-on with my farm has given me insight to undertake the board work at Arla. The roles have complemented each other very well but my first passion is being a farmer, and I have enjoyed spending a day on the farm whenever I can,” he says.
The courage to lead
Åke Hantoft’s journey as an elected member of Arla Foods began in 1981 in Laholmskretsen, Halland. In 1985 Åke became a member of the Board of Representatives and appointed member of the Board of Directors in 1998, before finally becoming chairman in 2011.
“To lead and have the courage to lead suits me. I am not afraid to make mistakes. If we get it wrong, we'll go back and make sure to get it right. I am a very open and emotional person that will stand up for what I believe in. During the entire journey from the district council to the chairmanship I have focused on achieving results together with all the other farmer owners through open discussions,” Åke says.
Throughout his time as a board member, he has worked closely with Arla’s management on developing the company and creating growth to the benefit of current and future farmer owners. The relationship between the management and the Board of Directors is a topic that is often up for discussion amongst Arla’s farmer owners.
“The relationship between the chairman and CEO, as well as between the board and management, is one of mutual respect as we all work to create the best possible solutions for Arla as a whole. We all have the company’s best interest at heart and in all parts of the company I have seen the professional relationship between employees and farmer owners. The task of the Board is not to be involved in the details of daily work, but we exercise control and set the strategy that is going to drive Arla forward. To do that we need to have confidence in the management and the employees, which we have in the Board of Directors,” Åke says.
In his years as the chairman of Arla Foods, Åke has attended hundreds of meetings with Arla’s farmer owners, which has beena constant source of inspiration for him.
“Being on the frontline of meeting our members is a part of the role that I have always enjoyed, both in good and in tough times. What I hear from our farmer owners is always in the back of my mind when making decisions. I have travelled to many different countries and I am grateful that this has given me the opportunity to meet so many talented people, both owners and employees, who have all inspired me,” he says.
Time for transition
As the chairman of Arla Foods amba, Åke has spent a lot of time away from his farm attending meetings for Arla all over the world. His wife, Anna-Karin, has been running the farm, when he has been away on business.
“My wife, Anna-Karin, has given me the security I need at home. I know it works when I am away and that has enabled me able to let go of the farm. Nevertheless, I can confess that on one occasion there was an urgent text that I actually responded to at a board meeting, but that is the exception to the rule!” says Åke Hantoft.
Monday 2 July this year will be a day of transition for Åke Hantoft. Jan Toft Nørgaard will take over the role as chairman of Arla Foods amba, and on the same day Åke and his wife will hand over the keys to their farm to the new owner, a 26 year-old local female farmer.
“For many years I have lived and breathed Arla. I have been away from home about 140 days a year and spent much time talking on the phone. It is now time for me to take a step back and do something else. It is incredible to see the next generation take over the milk production at our farm, Ösarp, and to hand over the reins to someone, I hope will get as much pleasure and enjoyment from it as I did.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Arla’s management, the Board of Directors, employees and of course all of the farmer owners that has made the cooperative what is it today. It has been a pleasure to be part of Arla’s growth and development and I have no doubt that the company will continue to go from strength to strength. I wish you all the very best in the next chapter of Arla’s journey under the chairmanship of Jan.”
Reception to say Farewell to Åke Hantoft
On Friday 29 June a farewell reception is being held at Arla Head Quarters, Viby Denmark, to recognize Åke’s great contribution throughout his 18 years long career in Arla and seven years as Chairman of the Arla Foods Board of Directors