Le Gouessant cooperative (in Lamballe, 738 employees, 4,000 members, 2017 sales: €510 million) has performed well in a context of significant changes in agriculture and in a highly competitive market. In 2017, the cooperative generated a net profit of €11.5 million,the same level as in the previous financial year, driven by egg production and the organic sector. Between 2018 and 2019, €22 million was allocated to business development, including €5 million for organic production and €5.5 million for vegetable and aquaculture feed activities. It should be noted that 35% of the group’s income is redistributed to producers.
Terres de Breizh
In the context of major changes in agriculture and in a highly competitive market, Le Gouessant is the link between the breeder and the consumer that it seeks to consolidate by creating local value. Its brand, Terres de Breizh, created in 2012, meets this objective by promoting the products of its farmers to offer a 100% local Breton product.
It all started with potatoes, in a net and then in a tray, to adapt quantity to demand. Eggs and meat products (ham, bacon and pork strips) followed. In 2018, 4 references of pork sausage products based on natural and herbal pork roasts were launched. The meat comes from the cooperative’s farms, all located in Bretagne, under the name “Fermes 4 Soleils” (127 members).
Free-range chicken farming
The cooperative’s good results are driven by the egg business. in fact, the health crisis in the northern European countries has had a positive impact on the Breton group’s production. With changes happening in the egg market and the abolition of cages, Le Gouessant supports its farmers who wish to move towards alternative production (including free range, organic, labels). These business transformations also require transformations in buildings, with downtime during construction work (6-9 months). So the cooperative helps them financially.
Organic food production is also growing by 20% and the cooperative is investing in its dedicated production lines, in Noyal-sur-Vilaine, for example, to develop production capacity, or in Chateaubourg in building a silo.
Le Gouessant is investing €3 million in Lamballe to improve its fresh vegetable processing plant, where 65 people are currently working. Its annual capacity has grown from 7,000 to 20,000 tonnes. This investment will also bring the creation of 5 or 6 jobs within two years.
Previously, this unit only worked with fresh cooked vegetables that were ready for use. It has diversified into blanched and precooked vegetables, initially tubers. A steam treatment system without addition of fat and without pasteurisation or sterilisation helps the vegetables preserve their organoleptic qualities.
Carrots, potatoes, turnips, sweet potatoes and parsnips are now available in different formats, including cubes, strips and chips, but also in quarters and half or whole vegetables. The potato is peeled, cut, cooked and cooled on the same line, which reduces transfers.
Le Gouessant also wishes to expand its customer base, which today is limited to the Breton agri-food industry. The group wishes to grow beyond Bretagne and is focusing on restaurants and catering, with specific products and packaging, and why not supermarkets.
The plant is also certified organic. Organic vegetables make up less than 5% but are a growing market. For this new challenge, the cooperative has launched a new brand: Légum’party, whose vegetables are 85% Breton and 100% French…
Le Gouessant has teamed up with Arvalis – Institut du végétal, and Météo France to purchase the software Taméo, an exclusive crop management tool that combines precision agronomics and meteorology for plots to improve crop yields in real time. Two other modules analyse the enhancement and quality of the fertilisation and spraying of products. The application is available on computers, telephones and tablets. It records up to 25 personalised plots.
Taméo is available for winter wheat. Eventually, it will incorporate new breeds, corn, barley, etc. With this software, Le Gouessant shows its drive to support members for a sustainable and profitable crop management solution.
Sources : Ouest France – 11/12/2017, 12/03/2018, 01/06/2018 & 11/10/2018, Lettre Economique de Bretagne – 26/10/2018, Usine Nouvelle – 28/09/2018, Paysan Breton – 21/02/2018
Photo credit : Le Gouessant