How did the Univeg Group start?
Univeg is the second largest group in the world in the fresh fruit and vegetables sector and the first excluding bananas. It operates in 25 countries around the world and employs over 9 500 employees. 85% of its activities are devoted to fruit and vegetables, representing over 2.6 million tons, but it also works in the flower and plant sectors, conveniences, transport and logistics, generating a total turnover of €3.3 billion. Before founding the Univeg Group in 1987, Mr Hein Deprez was a mushroom producer based in Flanders in Belgium. He wisely decided to expand into the processing, production and logistics sector so he bought out a certain number of his customers. He then developed a policy of merger and acquisition of successful foreign companies (Bocchi, Seald Sweet, Bakker, Alara, Atlanta, Katopé, etc.). This expansion can be explained by strong growth that is both internal and external. Mr Hein Deprez is currently the chairman of the board of directors of the Univeg Group, Théo de Kool is the CEO and Francis Kint is the CEO for fruit and vegetable activities.
What does Univeg represent in France?
In France, Univeg is based at Rungis and it groups Univeg Katopé France (import-export of French, European and overseas products, 85 000 tons and €85 million per year), Univeg Katopé Agrisol (ripening and distribution of green and yellow bananas, 42 000 tons and €45 million per year, objective 50 000 tons), Delta Stock (group logistics and sale of logistical services, €6 million) and Champaris (fruit and vegetable wholesaler on the producer’s floor, €13 million per year). Since 2011, we are a multimodal ultramodern platform of 10 000m2 (7 000 m2 storage under controlled temperature, 2 700 m2 banana ripening room, 1 000 m2 packaging, 1 500 m2 offices, 15 automated docks with levellers, a quality laboratory, etc.). So in the same place, we handle storage, packaging, ripening, order processing and from here we supply French large and medium-sized retailers, wholesalers in independent networks or on markets, as well as the large European distributors. In this sense, we are innovative because we integrate these different functions and products. We also have a branch at Avignon (7 people) distributing the same products. Our arrival at Rungis came about with the acquisition of Katopé, a major group in the sector of exotic in and off-season fruit, set up in 1969 by Jacques Azoulay, and of Champaris in 2008. There was synergy with Univeg in terms of know-how, sourcing and commercial positioning. It was an opportunity for us to enter the French market and to adapt our businesses to this market. We ultimately want to become established with French producers as we have already done in other EU countries.
How do you see your development?
We are simultaneously a producer, importer, exporter, distributor and logistician. At the sourcing level, we are local, European and global, doing business in about 50 countries, on every continent, with all types of fresh fruit and vegetables. We have some strong lines (avocado, mango, pineapple, lychee) to which we have incorporated Univeg products (apple, pear, grape, stone fruit) and the Agrisol know-how in bananas. We control the ripening of bananas, avocados, mangos, pears and stone fruit and we are thinking of developing perfect ripeness, where we want to be the forerunner and leader in France, with a “ready to eat” line, like we have elsewhere in Europe (Germany, England, Benelux). We are also going to expand in France through a national network in strategic locations.
What is your analysis of the fruit and vegetables market?
The fruit and vegetables market is still growing and the trend is positive, but it is subject to many problems and constraints. We wish to play a role in the development of markets and consumption. This market varies significantly depending on the products, and it needs to be monitored, like bananas (where we are the largest European ripening facility with 550 000 tons), which have been steadily declining, whereas exotic fruit are growing. The market needs to be revived through added value and greater proximity to meet consumer needs.
What do you think of Rungis Market?
Rungis is the strategic food distribution centre par excellence, an exceptional showcase with an international reputation that has more or less become a trademark. That is why we decided to set up at Rungis. I’ve known this market for a long time from when I used to assist my father, who was a wholesaler in the flower sector. I have seen it evolve and I think it should constantly innovate to develop. The fruit and vegetables market needs new impetus and we play a role in this by providing our strategy and know-how.
Nicolas Morinière (age 47) was born in Paris to a family of flower producers. His father, Jean-Claude, was a wholesaler-producer in cut flowers at Rungis Market (C1), and responsible for many inter-trade organizations. A graduate of Sup de Co Paris with an Executive MBA from HEC, Nicolas Morinière started working in 1990 for Pomona as product manager and left the group in 2002 as director in charge of import companies. He was then recruited by Carrefour to reorganize the group’s global sourcing based at Valencia (Spain). He joined the Univeg Group in 2007, in charge of integrating Bocchi and Katopé, and became CEO of Univeg in France one year later. Nicolas Morinière is a board member of CSIF (association of French importers), and a member of the fruit and vegetable and banana sections.