Grandfather Jan Verkleij started his cheese business in 1936, buying cheese from the farmers to sell at the famous cheese markets in Woerden and Gouda. From these humble beginnings, he soon went on to build his own cheese warehouse on Oost IJsselkade in Oudewater where the cheese was stored. These were hard times, with everyone doing their utmost to expand the business.
Jan Verkleij had six children, most of whom helped in the business from a young age.
His oldest son, Jac Verkleij, had always worked with his father and after finishing military service joined him on a permanent basis. He sought to expand the customer base, looking over the borders as well. The first customers in Belgium were quickly signed up. After years of working in the cheese business and having focused on imports from Eastern Europe, in the 1990s he changed course.
In 1990, he joined up with Henk van de Poll and founded the company Vepo Foods in Oudewater whose main business was grating cheese. In 1992, Jac Verkleij bought Poll-Food, a factory where cheese was sliced and cut into portions. There were now two production locations, in Oudewater and Bodegraven respectively, which are still in operation today. Further expansions and refurbishments quickly followed and in 2009 Jac Verkleij opened a new storage depot. The companies now continued under one new name: Vepo Cheese. At that moment, he officially transferred the business to his three children, who had already been actively involved for many years.
Today, the business is headed by Mark Verkleij and his sister Marlou. In 2013, after 25 years in the business, Jan retired from the family firm.
Cheese and the business have always been at the heart of the family. From a very early age, they had been actively involved, with Jan and Mark turning cheese in the warehouse and driving trucks, while Marlou often helped in production.
After completing his Small Business studies at the HEAO (Higher Professional Business Education) and after spending six months travelling around Australia and New Zealand, Mark joined Poll-Food. From 1995 onwards, he got to know the company and the cheese market well. He is now General Manager and head of the Management Team.
Marlou completed her EBP (European Business Programme) studies at the HEAO during which she spent two years studying in France. After learning Spanish and Italian, in 2000 she went to work in the commercial department at Vepo Foods. France and Spain were her markets and she was able to learn a great deal about the company’s daily operations. Today she is Commercial Manager.