Marleen Vaessen:

“Pressure from retail no more than in other segments”

The competition authorities are agreed, and the shareholders voted positively. This means the merger between Greenyard Foods, Univeg and Peatinvest has been completed since June. Now it’s up to the companies to carry out the fusion. The three companies, each with “a strong position within the sectors”, together should be able to service the consumer better. We spoke to Marleen Vaessen, CEO of the new company (right), about the merger, and in particular the developments in the sector.

Following the merger, will the focus on the markets change?
“Western Europe remains the focus. We want to guarantee the full product range year-round there. For fresh, that means you can always source, and for frozen that you buy enough during the harvest season.”

We also hear a lot about Asia and China. Are those important markets for you?
“We are active in China, Australia and Japan with frozen, and in India with fresh. Those markets aren’t fully developed yet. We are active there, but the bulk remains in Europe.”

Univeg's head quarters in Sint Katelijne Waver, Belgium.

Within the sector, there’s a lot of talk about the pressure retailers put on prices. Greenyard Foods supplies a lot to supermarkets. How do you view that development?
“We cannot deny that prices are under pressure. We feel it too. I don’t think this solely applies to fresh produce, but that there is huge pressure on other categories as well. There is enormous pressure on retail, resulting from the competition between the supermarkets, and that pressure is passed on to suppliers. But I do not believe there is more pressure on fresh produce than on any other segment. Fruit and vegetables are an important part of supermarket revenue, and play a major part in what supermarket a consumer chooses.”

Does the merger between Delhaize and Ahold have consequences for Greenyard Foods?
“It’s still early days. We don’t know what will happen yet. The merger has now been announced, Ahold and Delhaize are good clients of ours, but at the moment it’s still too early to really be able to discuss it. We will see how the situation evolves. In the Netherlands, there is no Delhaize. In America, Delhaize and Ahold are reasonably complementary. There’s only a real overlap in Belgium. But we will see how the situation will develop.”

Within Europe, we’ve seen the situation surrounding the Greek debt, with the increasing political tension that goes with it. In addition, Russia has extended the boycott. Do such developments have a big impact on business?
“Greece is only a small part of the European economy, about 2 percent. We don’t have any activities in Greece, so the effect was only indirect. For Russia, the impact was more direct. About 2 percent of our frozen sales went to Russia. So the immediate loss was rather limited. But of course we also saw that the market came under more pressure.”

So for you, the boycott signified a loss. In Bonduelle’s annual report, it said that the boycott had a favourable effect because the Russian consumer is buying more preserves. Where does that difference come from?
“Contrary to Bonduelle, we don’t have our own production location in Russia. We exported from Poland, and so the border was closed for us. With their own production in Russia, Bonduelle is not affected by that. But over the years, we’ve seen that relations with Russia always go up and down. So the Russian market will be back, and then we’ll get to work there again.”

More information:
Greenyard Foods Group
Marleen Vaessen

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