HAMBURG, GERMANY — The Stern-Wywiol Gruppe was ranked among the 50 most innovative medium-sized companies in Germany for the second time.

The “Innovations-Champion” ranking is determined by the management consultants Munich Strategy in cooperation with the news magazine WirtschaftsWoche. Over 3,500 German companies with annual sales between €10 million and €1 billion took part in the evaluation.

“We don’t think of innovation just in terms of products; for us it starts with the strategic orientation of the company,” said Torsten Wywiol, chief executive officer of the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe, on receiving the award again. “As an independent family business, we create structures and personal scope that stimulate the curiosity, readiness to invest and creativity of each individual employee.”

In the past few years the ranking has demonstrated that more and more small and medium-sized companies are adopting this concept of innovation: 47% of the top 15 enterprises have implemented strategic innovation and are benefiting from more sustainable returns than through product or process innovations alone.

This company orientation was therefore one of the decisive criteria for the final selection of the 50 Innovations-Champions. The basis for assessment of the companies is the “innovation score”: two-thirds of this score is calculated from the innovative power of the companies, and one-third from their performance.

At Stern-Wywiol Gruppe, 12 independent specialist firms develop, produce and distribute ingredients and additives that simplify and enhance the production of foods and animal feed.

They include Hydrosol, Mühlenchemie, SternMaid, SternVitamin, Sternchemie, SternEnzym, HERZA Schokolade and Berg + Schmidt. Each individual firm has specific competence of its own — in baked foods, dairy products, deli foods, meat, fish, chocolate, flavorings, lecithin, enzymes or vitamins. In many branches of the food industry, the outstanding competence of these specialist units has made them leading worldwide suppliers in their fields.

The heart of the group is the Stern-Technology Center in Ahrensburg, near Hamburg, where research and applications technology are centralized under one roof, the company said.

It is there that over 100 employees of the German companies are engaged in applications research and development and use their knowledge and interdisciplinary cooperation to create new, customized solutions. The facility in Ahrensburg is complemented by applications laboratories and technology centers in the foreign affiliates and partner firms.

“With this model we have set ourselves apart from the major raw material suppliers in the global ingredients markets and now play a pioneering role in respect of appropriate applications and customer care on the spot,” Wywiol said. “That shows itself in the fact that Munich Strategy’s close innovation ranking is made up largely of IT and technology companies, and we are one of the few representatives of the food industry.”