Ardo and VLM Foods Join Forces in North American Market
Ardooie, Belgium-headquartered Ardo NV has acquired a majority stake in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, Canada-based VLM Foods Inc., a marketer of processed foods in North America with sales of EUR 129 million (US $143 million) last year. The deal, which includes a controlling stake in Compañia Frutera La Paz S.A., Costa Rica’s largest IQF pineapple producer, will enable Ardo to significantly broaden its frozen tropical fruit range.
Founded in 2001 as an international food trading company, VLM Foods is well known in the North American market for supplying an extensive range of food products which includes meat and dry goods as well as frozen vegetables and fruits. Expert in food safety and import compliance regulations, it is one of only seven companies to have been selected to pilot the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforcement agency’s Trusted Trader Program that provides unique trade facilitation measures for highly compliant firms.
Ardo’s leadership in sustainable agriculture, quality processing and product innovation capabilities should further VLM’s market penetration as the team solidifies a stronger foundation for growing Ardo’s export business in the United States and Canada.
Jeff Preston will remain president of VLM Foods and become regional director for Ardo in North America. VLM founder Marcel Lessard, who sold his controlling share, will remain as a board member and foster the development of Compañia Frutera La Paz, which employs approximately 300 people and rang up sales of about EUR 25 million (US $28 million) last year. The San Carlos-based unit continues to be led by Luisa Chacon, its general manager and founder.
Jan Haspeslagh, managing director of Ardo, commented: “Being the European leader in fresh-frozen vegetables, herbs and fruit, Ardo offers a broad product range, thorough agricultural knowledge, technical manufacturing competence and professional product innovation capabilities. VLM Foods, on the other hand, has proven its professional market knowledge and its dynamic business model. This combination sets the scene for building the ideal platform to supply high quality, sustainable and value added products into the North American market.”
Jeff Preston, president of VLM Foods, added: “In addition to commodity vegetables, retail, foodservice and industrial sector opportunities, we will look to expand new areas including IQF herbs and value added products such as organics and a wide range of innovative items available in the extensive Ardo portfolio. Existing sustainable agriculture programs at Ardo can be leveraged into increased opportunities with the right marketing approach in the North American market.”
With sales of EUR 868 million (US $961 million) for the 12-month period ending in June of 2017, the family owned Ardo Group is Europe’s leader in the production of a full line of fresh-frozen vegetables, herbs and fruit for retail, foodservice and industrial clientele. Employing approximately 3,800 people, the company has 20 production, distribution and packing units in eight European countries, ensuring optimal sourcing from the continent’s most productive growing regions. The Group annually markets 780,000 tons of finished products – including pasta, potato and rice items – to customers around the world.
Ardo’s vertical integration model controls the entire production chain, from the selection of seed to packing and distribution. Its differentiating expertise on raw material and sustainable processing, along with a flexible structure, enable the ongoing development of new products that meet both changing and traditional market needs.
The company’s business dates back to the 1950s, when it began growing and trading vegetables at a family farm in the West Flanders region of Belgium. In 1977 the Ardooie site hosted its first vegetable freezing plant, which has since been expanded many times and serves as Ardo’s flagship factory to this day.