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Annual Report 2021


Chairman and CEO statement

We would like to start this letter with an expression of sincere thanks: the trustful collaboration with you has never been more appreciated than during these dynamic times. “Creating tomorrow together” is a deeply rooted credo of Bühler – and together we have achieved reasonable results in 2021 and strengthened our financial stability for the future.

Business model

The business model illustrates Bühler’s value creation process for its customers, employees, bondholders, business partners, and owners and underscores its aim to balance humanity, nature, and economy in every decision as it develops solutions that unlock sustainable business opportunities in the global food, feed, and automotive industries.  

Our strategy

2021 marked the first year of the implementation of our Destination25 strategy, our pathway for creating real impact for a better world. For the years to come, we have set goals for improved profitable growth while balancing humanity, nature, and economy in every decision and thereby delivering impact on the purpose that binds us together – our commitment to reduce climate change and generate solutions that unlock sustainable business opportunities in the global food, feed, and automotive industries for our customers.

Business review

Continuous innovation, even during challenging times, is a key pillar of our success. On this foundation, we took important steps in 2021 in implementing our commitment to reduce climate change and generate solutions that unlock sustainable businesses. And we brought our innovation to a next level by reinforcing our position as a solution partner to our customers. While the pandemic continued to present challenges, we successfully secured operations, supply chains, deliveries, and services to our customers. With a positive turnaround of orders, stable turnover, and profitability, our financial position in 2021 was improved and we are very satisfied with the outcomes of the year. Despite an ongoing challenging economic environment and strained supply chains, we remain optimistic and expect a continuation of our profitable growth. 

Annual results by business

Johannes Wick, CEO of the Grains & Food (GF) segment, explains in this video that the business experienced a particularly good year and a strong recovery. Order intake grew 12.2% to CHF 1.8 billion, coming close to the pre-coronavirus levels of 2019, and turnover was stable at CHF 1.7 billion. All business areas within GF contributed to this positive development. Regionally, the upturn was the strongest in the Northern Hemisphere. All businesses reported milestones, be it with new orders, the insects business, the start of operations, Mill E3, and market launches such as new optical sorting and scale platforms. New strong partners add to GF’s innovation ecosystem, and the joint venture with Premier Tech has proven an immense success. With our new Belgium technology partner Vyncke, we are now able to provide integrated solutions for low carbon food plants.

Germar Wacker, CEO of the Consumer Foods (CF) segment, explains in this video the recovery experienced by the business in 2021, mainly driven by its ability to integrate solutions along complete value chains and by the upward trend in the baked goods market. CF reported an increase in order intake of 6.5% to CHF 584 million. Turnover went down 11.3% to CHF 509 million due to time lags between orders and commissioning. The Chocolate & Coffee and the Confectionery business reported stable orders. Wafer and Biscuit experienced accelerated demand from Europe starting in the second half of 2021. A growing number of customers approached Bühler in 2021 with requests to improve their ecological footprint, via reducing new lines with ovens that consume less energy, or through retrofits and the establishment of recovery systems. Customers are also seeking close partnerships for product development and to collaborate on innovation. 

Samuel Schär, CEO of Bühler’s Advanced Materials (AM) segment, explains in this video that all businesses of AM grew in 2021, driven by strong market trends – the strongest being the growth of electromobility. Order intake grew by 36.8% to CHF 620 million, and turnover grew by 14.9% to CHF 509 million. The Grinding & Dispersing business reported record order intake, mainly attributed to the boom in lithium-ion batteries for electromobility. The Die Casting business profited from the recovery of the automotive market both for traditional parts, and thanks to the growing electromobility market. The Leybold Optics business for vacuum-coating equipment for optical thin-film layers also made a strong contribution to AM due to strong developments in the semiconductor and telecommunications segment, ophthalmics, the rising need for laser technology, and again, the electromobility sector where coated glass improves battery life.

Partnerships with purpose


Ian Roberts, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) says 2021 was a milestone year in terms of making partnership a core competence at Bühler, which has been building ecosystems and partnerships for over a decade. He cites the Protein Innovation Center jointly opened by Bühler and Givaudan in Singapore, and the partnership with the Deutsches Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik (DIL), a research institute focusing on food technology and food science, based in Quackenbrück, Germany. It features a food safe pilot plant with extrusion and cooling facilities to make plant-based meat structures where production can be scaled to full industrial levels. Another key example is the Protein Industry Alliance in China, where a group of companies drive the transition to more sustainable protein sources working with Jiangnan University facilities and technology provided by Bühler. Bühler is also working more closely with key venture capital organizations, such as Big Idea Ventures, Icos, and Sean O’Sullivan Ventures to select the start-ups where Bühler’s expertise can provide the best critical competence. Watch the video to learn more about the next phase of the company’s journey of working across ecosystems and working with partners. Here are a few examples of such partnerships.


Givaudan and Bühler collaborate on a number of projects with the aim to find better, healthier, and more sustainable ways of feeding up to 10 billion people by 2050. In April 2021, the two partners opened the state-of-the-art Protein Innovation Centre in Singapore. It welcomes food processing companies, start-ups, and university researchers from across the Asia Pacific (APAC) region keen to co-create plant-based food experiences that do good and feel good. The Protein Innovation Centre will not only enable the development of more plant-based protein products across Asia, it will also ensure that products can be scaled to the production volumes required to create a positive environmental impact on food chains.

The Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich is an interdisciplinary scientific research group which aims to generate a better understanding of global ecology in order to inform and address biodiversity loss and climate change. Tom Crowther spoke at the Bühler Networking Days event in 2019 and at the Generation B Climate Week event in 2020. Tom also advises Bühler to ensure our actions and programs, such as the Carbon Accelerator Program, have a positive impact and consider all elements of sustainability (such as biodiversity, land use etc.).

In 2020 Bühler positioned two UNITECH interns in the Crowther Lab to support their mission to eliminate lack of knowledge as a barrier to successful restoration. The interns were able to reach out to restoration organisations all over the world and share the research of the Crowther Lab, to ensure restoration projects are successful. This partnership and holistic thinking will support Bühler with their Carbon Accelerator Program and ambitious goals to reduce energy, waste and water by 50%. 

The Scale It Up! innovation challenge helps start-ups to accelerate and scale their project, product, or solution from a first version to a scalable product ready to be launched. Bühler, Cargill, Givaudan, and Puris, all leaders within the food system value chain, will support the start-ups on their journey with their expertise and access to their network and first-class facilities.

Bühler started its partnership with Big Idea Ventures in 2020 to accelerate the success of promising start-ups creating sustainable meat alternatives. Big Idea Ventures is a global hybrid venture capital firm focused on solving the world’s biggest challenges by supporting the world’s best entrepreneurs. Through their “New Protein Fund I”, the company has invested in and accelerated 65 alternative protein companies globally. Big Idea Ventures runs six accelerator programs annually in New York, Singapore, and Paris. 

Icos is a collaborative venture capital firm working at the intersection of digital and sustainable industry. By bringing corporations and start-ups together and facilitating strong partnerships with investors, Icos aims to build an ecosystem that helps to accelerate and scale-up sustainable solutions.

Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley (SFNV) is a not-for-profit association that strengthens and promotes food system innovation, both within Switzerland and across the globe. SFNV’s diverse member organizations collaborate to address the most pressing challenges in food, agriculture and nutrition, and co-create innovative solutions that drive better planetary and human health. Bühler, ADM, Firmenich, Givaudan, Nestlé, ETH, EPFL as well as cantons, accelerators and more than 40 small and mid-size enterprises and start-ups make up the SFNV ecosystem.

The North Carolina Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL) is a pilot plant accelerating plant-based food research, ideation, development, and commercialization. As a partner and equipment provider to NCFIL, Bühler can engage with the plant-based food innovators of tomorrow and help these food companies and entrepreneurs get their products to market quickly and effectively.

The World Business Council for sustainable development (WBCSD) is a global, CEO-led organization of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world. The member companies come from all business sectors and all major economies, representing a combined revenue of more than USD 8.5 trillion and 19 million employees. The global network of almost 70 national business councils gives all members unparalleled reach across the globe.

In 2021, Bühler has contributed to the newly released Pathfinder Framework. The intention of the framework is to revise previous existing standards to give a more comprehensive understanding to companies on the method to measure, verify and report emissions associated with a product over its life cycle. As a result of the work done with the WBCSD working group, it is the intention to use this framework for the assessment of its products’ life cycle emissions in the future, starting next year. 

Bühler and Jiangnan University founded the Future Food Center in 2020, which is equipped with Bühler’s twin screw extruders PolyCool 50 and BCTM-30 for small-scale research on plant-based foods. Jiangnan University and Bühler established the Protein Industry Alliance (IPIA) and held the Future Food Summit in May 2021 with industry partners such as Givaudan, Glanbia, Wufangzhai, Haidilao Research Institute, Dongsheng Biotech, and Jinnong Biologicals.

Bühler has been a partner of this cross-industry start-up accelerator since 2014 and joined MassChallenge Switzerland as a founding partner in 2016. Since 2016, MassChallenge Switzerland has been a leader in helping startups across Europe grow their businesses by accelerating 492 startups across multiple industries that have raised more than USD 600 million in funding and generated over 16,000 jobs.

Partners in Food solutions (PFS) is a nonprofit organization which aims to strengthen food security, improve nutrition, and increase overall economic development across Africa. Corporate partners from the food industry such as General Mills, DSM, Cargill, Ardent Mills, Smucker’s, and Hershey encourage their employees to volunteer and support food entrepreneurs in 11 African countries with their expertise. Bühler joined the initiative in 2013. In 2021, 67 employees have supported 76 PFS projects. In total, Bühler employees volunteered 1,577 hours in 2021 and passed on their know-how to 49 companies in Africa. By sharing their expertise, the volunteers were able to assist local entrepreneurs in growing their business, support a supplier base of more than 152,215 farmers, and unlock over USD 2.6 million of investment capital.

One Young World (OYW) was the catalyst for the Generation B movement in 2016 and continues to be a source of inspiration and long-term partner. One Young World is a non-profit organization that gathers young leaders from around the world to develop solutions to the globe’s most pressing issues. Bühler sends delegates to the summit every year to inspire members of the organization to drive change. One of these change vehicles is Generation B.

In 2019 Bühler and Generation B hosted the first OYW Caucus, a local version of the OYW Summit, with founder Kate Robertson attending in person in the CUBIC. In 2021, Bühler and Generation B held their second OYW Caucus, this time in partnership with Arosa Tourismus, where 400 young and young-at-heart leaders from companies and universities all over Europe came together to contribute to the OYW Switzerland Caucus in Uzwil and Arosa on June 19 and 20. The Caucus tackled three questions; how we can create start-ups with sustainability at their core, how we can evolve corporations to be sustainable, and how we can make entire industries more sustainable, using tourism as an example. 

UNITECH was founded in 2000 for the academic and corporate worlds to jointly develop a group of talented young engineers to enable them to manage future challenges in global industry and to help bridge the gap between the corporate and academic world. Bühler have partnered with UNITECH since 2014, and currently have 15 UNITECH Alumni working for the company.

The UNITECH Diploma is awarded to students who complete an academic exchange at one of the partner Universities, complete three coaching modules and an internship at one of the corporate partners. In 2021, Bühler continued to employ UNITECH interns to run the Carbon Accelerator Program, business development projects focusing on plant-based proteins, data science and Bühler’s product development process. 

Bühler and the Deutsches Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik e.V. (DIL), a research institute focusing on food technology and food science, teamed up in 2020 to develop new production technologies for alternative protein products. New sustainable plant-based proteins have a significantly less environmental impact and a lower CO₂ footprint than the animal meat value chain. It is therefore essential to explore and identify alternative and underused sources of protein and develop efficient technologies to convert these into attractive, marketable products. A key technology to unlock this opportunity is extrusion. High moisture extrusion enables the conversion of plant proteins into food products with textures similar to meat. It is a technology in which Bühler leads the market. The DIL campus in Quakenbrück, Germany, provides state-of-the-art food safety labs, pilot plants and research capabilities. With DIL, Bühler has a partner that can provide food grade tests and production labs combined with extensive analytical services. 

Premier Tech and Bühler established a fifty-fifty joint venture called Bühler Premier Tech to create new cost-effective packaging solutions and achieve greater success in the global market.

Bühler and Premier Tech entered this strategic partnership in August 2019. Both companies are proud to have worked together in the sole interest of forming a fifty-fifty joint venture located in Wuxi, China. This highly strategic decision aims to jointly develop industrial flexible packaging solutions destined for the food and feed markets in China, but also for emerging markets in general. 

Bühler and Hosokawa Alpine Group from Germany have signed a strategic collaboration agreement to accelerate and strengthen the production of healthier and sustainable plant protein solutions. Together, we will provide customers with the most efficient value chain for pulses being processed into protein ingredients.

As the leading solution provider in pulses processing, Bühler offers solutions for the intake, cleaning, dehulling and grinding of pulses, and further food processing with its extrusion technology, which texturizes plant-based proteins into products with fibrous texture similar to meat. Hosokawa Alpine complements the production process by adding its leading technology for the dry separation of pulses’ protein: fine grinding and air classification. 

The combination of Bühler’s upstream pulses process and Hosokawa’s process for size reduction and classification produces the highest yields of high value protein concentrates. Ultimately, with this partnership we will be able to offer customers process technology and expertise along the complete field-to-fork pulses protein chain.

Future Food Initiative was launched by ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) and EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) together with Bühler, Givaudan, and Nestlé as the first partners on board. Its goal is to expand research and education in the area of food and nutrition sciences by bringing competences from academic and industrial research together.


Bühler follows international standards of corporate governance. Its corporate governance activities are based on the principles of the Swiss Code of Best Practice – an instrument for clearly defining internal powers and responsibilities and optimally designing the interaction between the Board of Directors, the Executive Board, and the Group Internal Audit.  


2021 in review

Annual Announcement 2021


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