Gelpass opens up to new horizons
14 September 2020
La Gazette Nord Pas de Calais 7 february 2020 | Baptiste REGENT
Translated by Gelpass
It’s the story of a vegetal lover who chose the path of entrepreneurship rather than agriculture. Meeting with a passionate and exciting business leader, François Dequesne, founder, and co-leader of Gelpass.
The story begins in 1995. With his first experience in the frozen foods world, François Dequesne created Gelpass, a company specialized in frozen vegetables. He was only 25 years old. “After my studies at the Institut de Genech, I could have taken over the family farm, but my father told me not to.” Alongside its historic partner, Pasfrost, the company based in Armentières delivers frozen vegetables to industrialists, especially to players in the baby food market.
Diversification of the activity
In 2002, Vincent Sepieter joined the company. And the following year, Gelpass’s industrialization began with the acquisition of the Francep plant in Brive-la-Gaillarde, a forest fungus specialist. “The site produces vegetable-based side dishes for customers in the group. We have since invested €24 million in the plant, which employs 60 people.” This was followed in 2008 by the acquisition of the Garnier company in Mions in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, specialized in frozen fruit, whose activity will be repatriated to the Brive-la-Gaillarde plant.
However, the growth strategy deployed by François Dequesne and Vincent Sepieter must face the stagnation of the frozen vegetable market. “The market is competitive and it is not a bed of roses for our customers. As a result, we cannot invest as much as we want.” Diversification in the fresh and dried has thus naturally imposed itself on our entrepreneurs. And to carry it out, Bpifrance entered into the capital of the holdings of the entrepreneurs to the tune of 22% in 2018… with two acquisitions in 2019. “Through our holdings, we took over Délivert, a 5,000 m² and 50-person plant in Brittany that processes 3,500 tonnes of vegetables, pulses, cereals, and condiments per year. The aim is to produce more elaborated products in the fresh market. At the same time, we acquired La Compagnie des produits sauvages, an entity with 8 employees that produces dried mushrooms. We will create a range dedicated to restaurateurs that will be sold live via a commercial site.” François Dequesne added: «Our strategy is to consolidate our activity while developing local agricultural sectors around new products.»
Opening up to new markets
In the future, the story of Gelpass will also be written internationally. This is at least the ambition of its leaders. “Exports represent 5% of our turnover. We should be at 20%. The French plant market is suffering, opening up to new markets – US, China, Middle East…– is therefore a major growth axis for the company. ” In this sense, the company multiplies its presence at specialized fairs around the world. In any case, the development of Gelpass will be based on the values inherent in the history of the group, which are food safety, product quality, and customer satisfaction, but also and above all by relying on teams as passionate as François Dequesne and Vincent Sepieter. “We are entrepreneurs, not financiers, otherwise we would never have acquired the Délivert plant, for example. We saved 50 jobs there. If it’s not us, the banks don’t follow! We are committed to developing projects with passionate people, to working with collaborators, partners, farmers who love their job. If we succeed in our projects, it is thanks to our teams. Vincent and I are in the field, we go to customers with our employees, we wet the shirt every day and we are happy to do it. We are the conductors, but without good musicians, we could not move forward. And vice versa.” A benevolence towards their employees that results in the deployment of a social responsibility approach.