Serving the Earth is about taking responsibility for the impact of our investments
Article by Xavier Dorchies, Head of Sofiprotéol
Continued global warming and the ongoing health crisis, as well as soaring raw material prices…the agricultural and agri-food sectors faced multiple challenges in 2021, and once again this year had to demonstrate their adaptability and innovative capabilities.
As innovators of responsible sectors, we continue to support these sectors, as we have done for almost 40 years. Our objective remains to offer tailor-made financing solutions, while supporting the agricultural, food, and environmental transitions, in line with Avril’s purpose: “Serving the Earth”.
The year 2021 enabled us to achieve a new level of growth, while at the same time consolidating our fundamentals.
Investments of nearly €70 million carried out in 2021 are in keeping with our strategic ambition. They confirmed our fundamentals and the relevance of our model in the three main areas of activity in which we invest: Upstream vegetable and animal products including their marketing, primary food processing industry, and ingredients – Downstream vegetable and animal products.
Our strategic orientations are organized around three main areas. These include conducting structuring operations, supporting innovation and competitiveness, and contributing to the development of healthier and more sustainable food.
We carried out structuring operations within our various sectors. Firstly, this was done in the field of upstream vegetable products via Limagrain Europe, which we confirmed as Europe’s leading seed company for rapeseed. Secondly, in the downstream animal sector, we contributed to the structuring of the meat sector of the cooperative group Eureden from Brittany, and by helping to secure its market opportunities. In addition, with the Delin family business, we continue to support local food products while perpetuating label products and regional agriculture as well as keeping livestock farmers working on the land.
We also supported innovation to increase the competitiveness of value chains. Supporting innovation particularly involves finding solutions to major transition concerns. To this end, we invested in the organic farming sector by co-financing storage capacity for organically grown products. We also worked with the LSDH Group to support food transition by innovating in the field of vegetable protein, using raw material originating in France and backing the construction of their industrial facilities. Furthermore, we assisted the agricultural transition by supporting seed research and co-financing R&D programs to develop vegetable proteins that are more robust in light of climate change and bio-aggressors.
Finally, we contributed to developing healthier, more sustainable food. With Cosucra, we consolidated its primary food processing industry of pea proteins for human consumption, and in the ingredients market with Solina, which markets ingredient mixes to enhance the value of meat and to develop a complementary offer based on vegetable proteins.
In 2022, we are giving greater priority to the impact of our investments
2022 already holds optimistic prospects for us. We will be there to meet our partners’ requests for development in the short and medium term. Although financing may be the tool, we will continue to give priority to the project and to the concrete impact of our investments. We also know how to provide flexibility to support our partners over the long term and offer the shareholder base the necessary stability.
We shall accompany the transitions in support of the competitiveness of the sectors. In view of the changes in meat consumption, the animal sectors must adapt. This is what we propose, thanks to the structuring of meat processing tools as well as to the transition towards feed derived from local raw material for farm animals.
In response to the rising demand for vegetable proteins, we will support the move towards a local, vegetable-based food supply. We will achieve this by supporting varietal selection, production, storage and processing, in particular of legumes, a species at the heart of agricultural and food transitions.
We intend to expand our strategic priorities. Our first investments of the year are in line with these orientations. Our role remains decisive both upstream and downstream of the value chain. This is why we will continue the work we already initiated. We shall constantly be mindful of the importance of integrating ourselves into a changing context, so that each request can be met with an appropriate offer.
Taking action regarding the impact of our investments, in line with Avril’s purpose, “Serving the Earth”. This also implies identifying new extra-financial criteria: a common base, focusing on issues of safety, governance, and decarbonization, as well as specific criteria associated with our various sectors of intervention. It is also important to define future trajectories for each partner based on these criteria. Finally, we will implement financial incentives linked to our interventions.
2022 also requires capitalizing on our DNA to enrich new perspectives. These include broadening the dialogue, encouraging a more virtuous dynamic, catalyzing and sharing best practices to ensure that our partners’ investments are made over the long term, and giving them meaning and method, in order to best promote their development.
We shall further assert our positioning and our values. The food industry must be highlighted: its resilience, its attractiveness – in 2021, it was the subject of nearly 100 transactions – its commitment to the territories, but also its efforts for sustainable innovation that require relevant investments, taking into account their non-financial impact. Our expertise as a long-term sectoral investor, deeply rooted in the agricultural world, focused on innovation, and enriched by our industrial culture, has earned us the legitimacy to develop our positions and provide this strategic support.
Find the summary of the Sofiproteol press conference.