Pinguin and Noliko Flags Still Fly High As Operating Arms of Greenyard Foods

While Pinguin NV officially changed its name to Greenyard Foods on Sept. 1, the Westrozebeke, Belgium-headquartered holding company’s operating units will continue to conduct frozen vegetable and fruit business under the Pinguin banner. Its canned vegetable and sauces division, likewise, will carry on as Noliko.

The multinational company, which operates 15 factories in six countries across Europe, recently redeployed virtually all profits – and then some – from the sale of its Lutosa potato processing division to McCain Foods by repaying bank debts and making acquisitions from UFM and Globus to secure the production facilities and real estate assets of a number of operating companies. As such, Greenyard Foods now owns 100% of D’Aucy Polska in Poland and Bajaj Hutoipari in Hungary, in addition to 56% of the shares of Vallee de la Lys SAS and Moreac Surgeles SAS in France, for which it paid EUR 21.5 million.

Meanwhile, shares of Scana Noliko Real Estate were acquired from Food Invest International NV for EUR 40 million. This brings Scana Noliko production sites in Bree and Rijkevorsel entirely into the Greenyard Foods fold.
The company aims to continue to strategically buy up factories where possible and practical, optimizing investments per production unit and throughout the network of manufacturing facilities to accelerate efficiency improvements, it stated in a recently press release issued on Aug. 30.
It was an especially busy summer for the organization, both on the real estate buying side and Lutosa carve-out fronts. It took almost a year to finalize the sale of the potato division, during which time the company’s share value rose by more than 50% from EUR 8.5 to EUR 14. If that was not enough to make stockholders happy, a dividend of EUR 2.4 per share was paid in September.

As for the weather, which of course is of crucial importance for all parties in the vegetable processing industry, a late-arriving spring in northern Europe and extremely wet and cool conditions in southern Europe delayed the maturation of most plantings by three weeks. As June rolled into July, almost no crops had been harvested, with the exception of spinach.

“But in the end we had a sensible summer, with plenty of sunshine,” said Herwig Dejonghe, chief operations officer of Greenyard Foods. “It was not too warm, not too cold, not too wet and not too dry in Belgium, the Netherlands, France and the UK.”
There was concern among processors that September might be too dry, but those worries were washed away during the second week of the month when steady, gentle rain began falling in West Flanders, northern France and southern Holland.

As for peas, reported Dejonghe, the harvest occurred in a very short period of time. “The crop matured too quickly and as a consequence was harvested a bit too hard. In fact, many fields were not harvested, which means there will probably be a shortage of soft, high-quality peas on the order of 15% or so,” he speculated.

The bean and corn season started poorly in southern France due to a wet spring, and the same held true in Hungary for peas and the initial corn crop.

“In general the first harvest of cauliflower and broccoli during the summer was good,” noted the chief operating officer. “Especially in Poland, due to extreme heat, a difficult second (autumn) harvest is expected. The harvest of beans in Belgium, the north of France and the UK commenced very well this year, in quality and quantity. This is necessary after the large shortages last year.”

He cautioned on Sept. 10, however, that with only 50% of the year’s anticipated harvest accounted for, anything can happen before the end of the year. “Early frost in late September or early October could cause problems for beans and corn,” he said. “Cauliflower, beans, sprouts, beans carrots and celery are harvested until Christmas, so who knows what the future holds.”

Dejonghe, who has worn many hats at Pinguin over the years, including that of chief executive officer, is pleased at the way the company has evolved from a mid-size, family-owned enterprise into a large multinational concern that happens to be Europe’s second largest processor of frozen vegetables. He works closely with Marleen Vaesen, a former senior vice president with Sara Lee who joined the then PinguinLutosa team  as ceo last November.

“We continue to consider potential acquisitions that could fit within our structure,” he told FrozenFoodsBiz.com. “I look at operational possibilities from a corporate perspective, while Marleen’s valuable expertise is in the marketing, financial and managerial sectors.”

But most of Dejonghe’s time at the moment, now that a raft of major deals has been done, is to concentrate on all things agricultural on behalf of the entire group. “One thing of equal importance to our frozen and canning businesses is that all of our raw materials come from farmers’ fields. So my main job today, apart from looking after the general interest of the company, is farming -- from drilling to harvesting, I’m passionate about it.”