FrozenFoodsBiz BUZZ

Rest in Peace Luc Van den Broeke, 1944-2023, Co-Founder of Lutosa

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FrozenFoodsBiz is saddened to report the recent death of Luc Van den Broeke, who passed away at the age of 79 in Beveren-Leie, West Flanders, Belgium, surrounded by loving family members. His life was celebrated and last respects were paid by friends and relations during a funeral service at Saint Peter’s Church in Olsense on November 8.

A highly regarded pioneer of the Belgian and European frozen potato products industry, Luc co-founded Van den Broeke – Lutosa with his brother Guy in the fertile farmland region of Leuze-en-Hainaut in 1978. It was there that the company’s state-of-the-art flagship factory, later connected by overhead tunnel to a large-capacity coldstore, was built. There was nothing like it on the continent, and expansions followed at sites in Sint-Eloois-Vijve and Vanelo to keep up with growing demand for Lutosa’s innovative products.

Already by 2003 the company’s per annum output had skyrocketed from 16,000 tons to approximately 240,000 tons. Exports of fries and more than 50 specialties ranging from Potato Noisettes and Pom’Pin to Tartiflette and Gratin Dauphinois were being shipped to customers in 55 countries. Concurrently, sales offices were expanding across Europe to the Middle East, North and South America and Asia. Today Lutosa products are exported to 146 countries, while production capacity in 2022 reached 645,000 tons.

“Mr. Luc,” as he was called at Lutosa, grew up in the potato business. His grandparents were potato merchants in the 1920s, and his parents were wholesalers and bulk exporters in the 1950s. They also wisely entered the storage business.

During an interview with this writer on the occasion of Lutosa’s 25th Anniversary in July of 2003, Luc commented: “While we had plenty of know-how in potato buying, wholesaling and storage, we started here [in Leuze] disadvantaged with old equipment and with absolutely no experience in industrial production. The strong foundation laid 25 years ago rested mainly on our expertise in raw material procurement and storage, along with a can-do attitude In terms of timing as the factory was taken over at a very good moment since the frozen potato and vegetable sectors were gearing up. This important turning point in industrial development took place about 10 or 15 years later in Europe than had been the case in North America. We were in the right place at the right time.”

But indeed it was more than geography and timing, as Luc and Guy Van den Broeke were the right-minded entrepreneurs to breed success from hard work built on a foundation of rich clay loam soil that made their home base one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Merging the best of what careful cultivation the good earth has to offer with industrial automation, distribution logistics, sales and marketing prowess is what made the Van den Broeke name legendary in Belgium.

The highly successful and profitable Lutosa company was sold to the Pinguin frozen vegetable group in 2007. It operated as Pinguin-Lutosa until 2013, when the Lutosa assets were acquired by McCain Foods.

Reportedly, the sale of Lutosa earned the Van den Broeke brothers approximately €175 million. Luc, who was a former chairman of the Belgian Royal Flying Club and a pigeon racing enthusiast, remained active in various agricultural societies until recently. May he rest in peace.

— Reported by John Saulnier