couv un 3692 1 170x224 - Agrial's recipe for resisting the crisis - L'Usine Nouvelle

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“It’s an unexpected year”. Arnaud Degoulet, the president of the Agrial cooperative is relieved. With a turnover of 5.957 billion euros in 2020, down 2%, the Norman agricultural cooperative has come a long way. “The year was marked by the Covid-19 health crisis but also by epizootics of swine plague and avian influenza as well as by climatic hazards with consequences on the collection of cereals”, the manager notes.

The recipe for Agrial’s good results? “The multi-specialty”, explains Ludovic Spiers, the general manager of the cooperative.

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11 agricultural productions

The group, which has more than 22,000 employees worldwide, is positioned in eleven different agricultural productions, in four agro-food value chains (milk, meat, fruit and vegetables and drinks) and relies on five types of distribution networks. “We are seated in many markets and many sectors, which reinforces our solidity”, praises Ludovic Spiers.

In 2021, the group was thus able to count on the boom in food consumption in supermarkets (GMS) to offset the decline in exports and the loss of outlets in out-of-home catering. Supermarkets, in France and abroad, represent 49% of the cooperative’s sales. “This channel is growing by 2% in 2020”, specifies Arnaud Degoulet. An increase supported in particular by the group’s flagship brands such as Soignon or Florette, which for the first time includes the ranking of the favorite brands of the French. “This year has shown us the importance of having strong brands to resist“, analyzes Ludovic Spiers.

The agricultural group generates 50% of its turnover through its own brands. “We have always ensured this 50/50 balance with private labels and this has proven to be particularly relevant in 2020”, adds the manager.

The success of mozzarella

The out-of-home catering segment, which represents 20% of the group’s turnover, limited the breakage by falling by 17% (against 33% for all other food manufacturers). “Almost half of our milk production, which represents 2.4 billion euros in turnover, is destined for mozzarella. This cheese has continued to be sold because pizzerias are among the restaurants that have been able to maintain an activity “, details Ludovic Spiers

Beyond its performance, the group implemented a savings plan from the start of the pandemic. The goal? Reduce fixed costs by 40 million euros compared to the budget. Arnaud Degoulet testifies: “This has happened, for example, by reducing trips, canceling events … ” Overall, Agrial posted a gross operating surplus of 232.5 million euros. “This is one of the best performances of recent years, in particular thanks to this cost reduction plan”, he analyzes.

External growth projects in the pipeline

On the investment side, even if the group has maintained a plan of 288 million euros over the period 2020-2021, it has reduced it by 60 million euros. “We still have external growth ambitions for the future”, however reassures Ludovic Spiers. The milk sector is the one that most attracts the attention of Agrial managers. “With the crisis, there are a lot of companies looking for new investors. A lot of information is coming back to us on the subject. Our good financial health allows us to look at these files carefully”, adds the general manager.

At the beginning of April 2021, the cooperative entered into exclusive negotiations to acquire Salaisons du Mâconnais, an SME specializing in dry pork meats which achieved a turnover of 33 million euros for 3,700 tonnes of dry sausage sold. .

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