PROSPER De Mulder, chairman of the Doncaster-based PDM Group, has died at the age of 94 following a short illness.
Born in a small village near Stoke on Trent on July 20 1917, Mr De Mulder moved to Doncaster with his family in 1926 when his father purchased a fallen stock collection business.
He joined the family business in 1933 at the age of 16 and soon began looking at how he could improve the business and focused on adding value to the by-products generated by the collections. The first processing equipment was purchased and installed in 1935.
From humble beginnings at the Ings Road site in Doncaster, the business grew to one with a national footprint. The company now handles more than one million tonnes of raw material each year, employs over 1,000 people and turns over in excess of £200m per annum.
During a period of growth in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, what set Mr De Mulder apart from his competitors was his vision and technical capability. Under his leadership the company introduced a range of pioneering technologies and became widely recognised as one of the European market leaders.
Focused on innovation, Mr De Mulder introduced technology and processing systems that none of his competitors had, such as processes that increased the volume of valuable fats and proteins recovered from the meat by-products.
During this period, PDM Group expanded rapidly through a combination of organic growth and through the acquisition of companies operated by major multi-national household names such as Unilever and Croda.
The firm’s dedication to innovation has continued up to the present day. While the company is still the UK’s leading rendering business, it continues to introduce industry-leading technologies to the marketplace. In 2001, it opened a revolutionary biomass to energy plant in Widnes which provided a disposal solution to national foodchain crises such as BSE. Last year, PDM opened its first ReFood anaerobic digestion plant which turns food waste into renewable energy and organic fertiliser.
Through Mr De Mulder’s vision and energy, PDM developed to become the largest by-product processing company in the UK with an unrivalled reputation for innovation, creativity and customer service.
Away from PDM, Mr De Mulder led a full life in Doncaster. He was an active member in the local Freemasons fraternity, as well as having a keen interest in boating and flying having gained his private pilot licence in the early 1950s.
Mr De Mulder was very much the company’s patriarch, continuing to hold his position as chairman until his death. He remained actively involved in the company until his late 80s, when he could often be found on site six days a week. The company still has the De Mulder family at its heart, with his sons Prosper (Nick), Anthony and grandson Richard continuing Mr De Mulder’s vision.
A very affable and gregarious character, Mr De Mulder always placed great strength in the traditional values of honesty and integrity. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends.
He is survived by his sons Prosper (Nick) and Anthony, his grandchildren Victoria and Richard and four great-grandchildren. His wife Jean predeceased him in 2003.