Potato processor Agristo has invested 200 million euro in a new French fry factory in Wielsbeke. The family business hopes it can break into the global top five this way.
“Have to generate turnover”
“This is the most innovative French fry factory in the world”, Filip Wallays, who runs the company alongside Hannelore Raes told De Tijd. Pretty much everything is automated, which requires only fifteen people per shift, with five shifts in total, to operate the plant.
It will open a second production line soon and that should enable an overall production of 200,000 tons of frozen French fries per year and another 160 jobs. Agristo has invested 200 million euro into the new factory, which is a sizeable sum for a family business with a 350 million euro turnover and no outside capital.
“The frozen potato food industry requires a lot of capital, with high volumes and low margins”, Wallays said. “Our products are private labels in supermarkets across 120 countries. We sell one kilo of French fries for 60 cents and that is why we need to generate turnover. Our EBITDA is about 10 to 12 percent.”
The goal is to nearly double the company’s turnover to 650 million euro in the next five years. It also wants to increase its market share from 4 to 7 %. “That is the only way we can enter the top five. Our fathers founded the company and we want to make it big”, Hannelore Raes said. McCain is the global market leader with a 30 % share.