Lecico takeover by Avril offers organic lecithin expansion opportunities, says MD

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10 Jan 2019 --- Lecico’s takeover by major French-headquartered agricultural company Avril will allow the German supplier specialized in lecithins and phospholipids to strengthen its position in the organics space, with increased European production potential. Lecico is currently specialized in organic and non-GM lecithins (soy, sunflower and rapeseeds), as well as special phospholipids (including milk-based) and nutraceutical products.

The Avril Group will become a global non-GM lecithin leader following the move, which was announced last night for an undisclosed sum. Lecico is the leader in the niche market of organic lecithin. It currently produces approximately 1,000 tons of lecithin, which equates to around 50-60 percent of the company’s overall lecithin production.

“Until now we have been our own producer for what we sell worldwide. We have our own production in Europe which is helpful for a lot of customers, because they are normally sourcing the lecithin worldwide from Brazil, the Far East and India,” Andrea Wolters, Lecico Managing Director tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “Together with Avril, we are able to build our European production for organic lecithin,so this is a very complementary partnership and as a new shareholder, Avril gives us a lot of assistance and finance. Lecico is a relatively small company and often, in the past, had no access to the global players in the industry. With the takeover by Avril this all will change,” she adds.

Following the recent launch of two sunflower lecithin units in France and Romania, along with the successful integration of the specialty ingredients player Novastell, Avril will now further structure and grow its ingredients activities with the acquisition of Lecico, the company announced.

Lecico will join Avril Oil & Ingredient Solutions platform, the dedicated Business Unit of Avril focused on refined oils, specialty oils and ingredients. Through the various subsidiaries of Avril group (Saipol, Lesieur, Kerfoot, Novastell), Avril OIS already offers to the Food, Health & Nutrition, Personal Care and Cosmetic markets an extensive portfolio of vegetable oils and ingredients produced by its European facilities.

Click to EnlargeSource: C. HELSLY – Avril GroupAvril’s acquisition of Lecico will favor numerous synergies and solutions and allow the group to continue developing innovative solutions for its customers. According to Olivier Delamea, General Manager of the Oilseeds Processing and Oils & Condiments Business Lines within Avril: “The acquisition of Lecico marks an important stage in the acceleration of our products and services offer for health and nutrition businesses which is part of the Avril strategy. Avril Oil & Ingredient Solutions platform is expanding its global market reach with a new German team and site that will join the Avril Group.”

For Olivier Tillous-Borde, Managing Director of the Avril OIS platform: “With the acquisition of Lecico, Avril is becoming a global player in non-GM lecithins. Synergies with our existing Ingredients activities are obvious and our joint market reach will be stronger. Avril is dedicated to further developing the Lecico leadership in high-quality organic lecithins. We are very much looking forward to welcoming the Lecico team as they join the Avril Group.”

Based in Hamburg (Germany), Lecico was created in 2007 by Andrea Wolters and Jens Heiser. Lecico is a customer-focused and high-quality service provider in the field of lecithins with broad knowledge for multiple nutritional benefits of lecithins and phospholipids. Wolters was joint shareholder until Heiser’s retirement at the end of 2018. The timeline to sell the business was therefore a lengthy and strategic year-long process, she explains to FoodIngredientsFirst.

Falling under the Avril banner will offer increased expansion potential for Lecico. “The idea is to have our European production, not only in France, but also in other countries such as Italy or even Germany. We have here some smaller crushers. The problem is that these smaller crushers will not invest a lot for additional lecithin productions. They produce oils and a byproduct of the oils is the lecithin,” she explains. “But to get the lecithin out of the oil, you have to make an investment. But if you are only a small organic crusher you will not make it. But we can do this and we take the byproduct from the crushers and we can produce our own organic lecithin. That’s the idea behind it,” she adds. 

For Wolters, the takeover offers significant growth potential for the company. “It will open up many closed doors for us. As soon as we established a European production and even the rapeseed lecithin production we have new products from Europe, so this will help. Novastell (France) also belongs to this group, which is also a small lecithin and phospholipid company. We will share and target markets together, share production and sales networks. We have a worldwide sales network and they have another one,” she explains.

Indeed, Valérie Barrois, Sales and Business Development Director for Ingredients at Avril OIS notes: “Since the acquisition of Novastell by Avril, our team has significantly grown the range of natural ingredients and solutions we can offer to our health & nutrition customers: from vegetable, egg-based and marine phospholipids, through to natural antioxidants as tocopherols, to innovative specialty oils and other bio-active ingredients (folates and vitamin K2). With Lecico joining Avril, we now additionally offer milk-based phospholipids, unique polar lipids with main applications in infant nutrition and used as well for immunity and anti-inflammatory purposes in adult nutrition.”

Click to EnlargeSource: C. HELSLY – Avril groupSet up in 1983 at the initiative of French farmers in order to assure long-term markets for French agricultural products, Avril is the industrial and finance actor of the oilseeds and proteins sectors. The company is present in France and internationally in sectors as diverse as human foods, animal feeds and expertise, renewable energies and chemistry and owns a portfolio of strong brands that are leaders in their markets including Diester, Sanders, Lesieur, Puget, Costa d’Oro, Matines, Bunica, Taous, etc. In almost 35 years, the group has changed in size but its purpose has remained the same; to create sustainable value in the vegetable oils and proteins sector while contributing to better foods for humans and preservation of the planet, says the company.

To fulfil its mission, Avril draws strength from its industrial activities organized around plant production and livestock sectors, and from its financial arm which operates through Sofiprotéol, its finance and development company. In 2017, the Avril Group achieved turnover worth €6.2 billion (US$7.1 billion). It also counts 7,600 employees working in 21 countries. 

Wolters reiterates the advantage of remaining relatively free under the new banner and will stay on as Managing Director of the business. “It’s a different type of takeover when you compare it to one by a US company, who tend to integrate you so soon that you lose your name and everything. This will not happen here. Avril has already bought a few companies such as Novastell. All these companies keep their name,culture, their product and they grow very fast in their specific area, with their own behaviors. This is what Avril does very successfully,” she concludes.

By Robin Wyers

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