After serving as an aircraft engineer in the South African Air Force during the Second World War, Molenaar teamed up with fellow serviceman, Jock McKenzie, to start “Molenaar & McKenzie”. Three years later though, the pair went their separate ways and Hugo was joined in the business by Guus, his mechanical engineer brother. H.G. Molenaar was founded in January 1949.
At first, the company provided mechanical and engineering assistance to farmers and general industry in and around the South African town of Paarl. Early photographs show teams repairing huge boilers, as well as the construction of the Molenaar factory, which the company built itself.
One of H.G. Molenaar’s major early contracts was to help equip the developing fish processing industry on the West Coast of South Africa. This work led to further projects in the 1960s, which took the company into what was then known as South West Africa (Namibia).
Through earlier involvement with Pickstone Farms, Hugo already had a network of contacts among farmers in the Western Cape. As the deciduous canning industry developed in the late 1940s through to the 1960s – with the formation of companies such as Ashton Canning in Ashton and SA Preserving (now a thriving concern known as Del Monte Fruits South Africa based in Tulbagh) – there came a growing need for fruit handling, peeling, coring and canning machinery. H.G. Molenaar fulfilled that need.