Wednesday, 16 December, 2020 - 09:45

"A fresh start!" - Editorial of Christoph Büren, President of the VIVESCIA Group

‘New impetus & time for action’ was the unifying theme I announced for 2019/2020. That impetus was provided and implemented by our new management team of Olivier Miaux and Jean-Luc Jonet. As a result, last year was indeed a year of action at VIVESCIA. And I am delighted with what we have achieved. A new and reconstructed VIVESCIA is now emerging, despite the adverse effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic, which continues to impact every sector of the economy in many different and unprecedented ways.

But we have proved resilient. In fact, we have done better than that; we have made progress.  

This progress has been achieved thanks to all the efforts by every VIVESCIA team in France and worldwide. So on behalf of the Board of Administrators, I would like to begin by thanking every member of every team for their commitment, resilience and inventiveness in coping with this unique situation, particularly during the national lockdown in the spring of 2020. All of us are proud to have contributed to keeping the agricultural and food chains working smoothly. By this, I mean all the employees of the Cooperative, its upstream agricultural subsidiaries and its downstream agrifood subsidiaries, including VIVESCIA Industries – Malteurop, Délifrance, Grands Moulins de Paris, Nealia, ARD and Kalizea. It is an honour to provide leadership for this body of men and women who have responded to the Covid-19 crisis with unity, solidarity and responsibility.
I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the solidarity initiatives our teams have engaged in for the benefit of medical staff, the vulnerable in society, some of their colleagues on short-time work, and our companies through donations of personal protective equipment, the production of alcohol-based hand sanitiser, donations of flour and patisserie products, and by foregoing benefits and bonuses, as well as donating paid leave entitlement for the benefit of others. This has been a very impressive demonstration of the spirit of solidarity that drives our Group and our cooperative values.
This health crisis has become a long-term issue for us all, not only in France, but also in the rest of Europe and the rest of the world, and there is no doubt that it is testing our teams. But it is also proving to be an incredible catalyst for our collective energy. You will find many examples of that energy in action elsewhere in this 2019-2020 annual report. In reporting the events of this most unusual year and sharing our minor and major successes, we have chosen fi ve key words that reflect our mindset and dynamic commitment: cooperation, transformation, solidarity, entrepreneurship and sustainability. Together, they provide a very practical illustration of the new VIVESCIA that we are giving shape to together.

The annual results for the Group are by no means commensurate with the efforts made, and I share the natural disappointment of our teams. We were in the midst of a transformation process – and beginning to see its first tangible benefits – when the global health crisis severely impacted our malt and frozen bakery businesses, which are highly exposed to the food service markets.
Despite this challenging context, our other manufacturing activities (milling, animal nutrition, maize processing, research and biotechnologies) have performed strongly, with some even achieving historic highs. The entrepreneurial spirit they continue to show is an inspirational example for every part of our Group. The Cooperative – the cornerstone of our Group – achieved its targets for the year, and implemented its transformation plans, including its flagship Logistics Performance Plan, at the same time as ensuring the continuity of service essential to cooperative members.

The immense work done by elected representatives and employees and the associated intense programme of meetings have helped us to identify issues of strategic importance for our future. We are currently finalising the Cooperative roadmap for the period to 2025, which is focused on competitiveness; its Logistics Performance Plan is the key part of achieving that goal. The Cooperative must take the changing diversity profi les of cooperative members and their needs more into account. It must also connect farms more effectively with VIVESCIA Industries subsidiaries and accelerate sector-specific initiatives by listening even more closely to the expectations of customers and consumers. Its role as an interface with end customers must be stepped up to source grain that meets expectations in terms of quality and quantity, and generates greater added value for cooperative members in what remains a very fragile agricultural environment.

The foundations for a strong and profi table future are now in place.

To create an efficient, enterprising and sustainable VIVESCIA for its cooperative partners, shareholders, employees, customers and consumers, two essential conditions must be in place: sufficient financial resources and talented men and women.

The first of these is very defi nitely in place! That is because, in July 2020, we completed the five-year refinancing programme for the Group – the Cooperative and VIVESCIA Industries – we began in the autumn of 2019. Finalised in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, it is a clear sign of the confidence our financial partners have in VIVESCIA, and it is our duty to live up to that confidence.

We have also met the second condition: our new management teams are now up to speed and ready to maintain our momentum transparently and responsibly.

Our roadmap is clear, and so are our action plans: we will continue with our restructuring and upskilling projects, at the same time as accelerating the implementation of performance improvement plans across all our businesses and leveraging innovation to support and facilitate the profound changes underway in agriculture and agrifood, the most important of which are combating climate change - which directly influences issues like agroecology and biodiversity - and consumer expectations.

The creativity, adaptability and tenacity demonstrated by our teams this year bode extremely well for the future. The pathway to that future will be intrinsically linked to our ability to think with agility, form partnerships, and constantly accelerate the pace at which we take action and adapt in response to what is an uncertain economic outlook. The Board of Administrators and I are totally and uncompromisingly determined to successfully deliver the changes we have begun, and to continue the impressive pace of transformation we have already achieved.

Christoph Büren, President of the VIVESCIA Group