07 May 2018 --- French-headquartered group Tereos is undergoing some significant transformational changes. In the first months of 2018, the merging of the sugar beet, potato starch and alfalfa cooperatives into a single entity was unanimously approved.
This new organization is the culmination of a process of harmonization carried out over fifteen years, which ensures that all cooperative growers enjoy the same conditions, particularly about prices, operational regulations and the payment of dividends and indemnities, enabling them to create long-term value from their production. It comes amid dynamic shifts on the market, including the ending of the EU Sugar Regime, which presents sugar and isoglucose suppliers with increased export opportunities.
Tereos’ turnover breaks down as follows: 54 percent from sugar and sweeteners (46 percent beet and cane sugar; 8 percent starch sweeteners from cereals), 9 percent from starch and other cereal derivatives, 5 percent from alcohol and ethanol, 13 percent from “coproducts” including vegetable proteins & energy and 9 percent “other.” But 48 percent of the company’s R&D budget is dedicated to nutrition.
“The big challenge for us, but also the big opportunity, was to go from being a net import position in Europe to having an export situation,” says Eric Villain, Marketing & Sales Director at Tereos. “We are talking about moving huge volumes from Europe to outside and you need networks to achieve that.” For Tereos, participating in these export opportunities is key. “For us, this goes with our value proposition, which is to be able to meet the demands of our customers not only in Europe but more widely speaking. It is about helping our customers to grow internationally,” he tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
Villain stresses that you don’t become a huge exporter from Europe to the rest of the world without increasing your capabilities regarding exports, logistics and management of product flows. “We have been improving on this for years so that we have the front-end and logistical capabilities so that we can export more than we have done in the past.” Logistical preparation is also key, he adds. “This needs to be integrated on the international side. It is about a combination of supply chains, trading and key account management that we modified and improved.”
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Eric Villain, Marketing & Sales Director at Tereos
But the ending of the EU Sugar Regime does come amid a period where sugar itself is under the spotlight, with reformulation efforts proving to be the order of the day. For example, the UK has now begun implementing a levy on sugary soft drinks. How then can a sugar supplier such as Tereos remain relevant in this environment?
“We try to be as pragmatic as possible, because there are some things that we don’t want to do, such as deny the concern around sugar consumption. First of all, we need to listen to our customers and reduce our consumption of sugar in Europe. So it’s our role to help the industry achieve this,” says Villain.
This type of market dynamic is fueling the need for reformulation, where Tereos takes both its tradition in sugar and combines that with knowledge in starch and sweetener derivatives. “For example, we have unique know-how in the synergies between starch sweeteners and sucrose, and we also operate with stevia extracts and sweet fibers – we want to help our customers reformulate if they need to do so,” he notes.
For Villain, there are three major themes at work on the market right now to meet the needs of ultra-connected consumers: better-for-me, better-for the-planet and back-to-basics. “Better-for-me is very connected with healthy aging desires and that’s a huge driver of many possibilities regarding innovation,” he explains. “Better-for-the-planet” addresses the global concerns around sustainability. “The consumer is saying that they understand that they need to behave differently for the planet,” says Villain. “They may feel that they are not always prepared to do what they need to change to reach that goal, but they are willing to participate. So companies and politicians need to help consumers to achieve their goals and act accordingly.”
For Villain, sustainability presents Tereos with an opportunity to highlight a “field to consumer” connection that, “as a cooperative agro-business we are already doing well – and of course a call to intensify our efforts and improve further.” The “back to basics” trend relates to a consumer who is more willing to understand what is on their label and what the ingredients are. They don’t just want to read the label; they want to understand it and have a guarantee with the product. “This means changing how you develop new products or existing pieces. This goes along with the drivers who make the reality that we now have consumers who are super-connected to the product. The level of transparency that you must deliver now is very high,” he adds. For Villain, the rise of organic products ties all of the three consumer themes together.
Organic aligns with all of them. Also, the consumer should feel more connected to the organic product from the field to the finished product. It is a good example of what we can do to improve this relationship,” he adds. With this background in mind, it is unsurprising that organic product development will be key to the Tereos R&D pipeline. This presents challenges from a supply-chain perspective as sourcing enough organic materials requires keen practices.
While Tereos is well known as a sweetening solutions company, there are several other fields where they play a role, including the plant-based proteins space. Under the brand name Le Sauté Végétal, Tereos offers a gourmet specialty based on wheat and chickpea that was initially launched for the foodservice sector but is now being rolled out to B2B applications. “It’s a very clean label product that offers a versatile solution to our customers who want plant-based alternative proteins.
“The pieces, in the different shapes available, are texturized in such a way that it can be used in an amazing variety of ready meals, for example,” he explains. Ingredient applications are now being developed for Le Sauté Végétal. “The product is ready to be cooked and so you have the possibility of directly using the product. From an industry perspective you need to adapt it to make it fit all the applications, which is what we are in the last stages of now,” he concludes.
This type of innovation illustrates how a cooperative can look far beyond its base to adapt to today’s new dynamics.
By Robin Wyers
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