As Managing Director of the Food Division of the French Euralis Group, Boris Bourdin sees the huge impact of changing consumer trends every day.
Founded by farmers as an agricultural and food cooperative group back in 1936, Euralis has today grown into one of France’s food giants.
Within its agricultural division alone the €1.5bn company now works with 12,000 farmers across the southwest of France in diverse sectors such as field crops, seeds, vegetables, wine, cattle and poultry. Meanwhile its food division operates eight factories across France, supplying a vast range of meats to the domestic, European and international market. Among its best-known brands are the Montfort and Rougie foie gras products, where the company works with hundreds of specialist fattened duck farmers. In recent years international expansion has further bolstered the company’s position as world leader in foie gras, with sites in Bulgaria, Canada and China.
Another of the group’s brand is Euralis Semences, a European leader in multi-strain seeds such as maize, sunflower, rapeseed, sorghum and soya. The company’s seed business has developed strong international credentials with ten European subsidiaries and two major food processing sites in Spain and the Ukraine.
As Manager Director of the Food Division Boris Bourdin sees the impact of fast-moving consumer trends every day. For instance, he says one notable trend is the emergence of flexitarian or ‘casual vegetarianism’, an increasingly popular plant-based diet that’s mostly vegetarian yet still allows for the occasional meat dish. He adds that consumers in general are increasingly willing to try new products, such as more natural products. “People want fresh food, they want to be cooking at home, they want to be consuming more natural foods.”
To be successful in this climate he says it comes down to offering “transparency and choice” for the consumer. “They want to know exactly how products are made and where they are coming from. It’s really important to build up that trust and the way you do that is by consistently delivering on what you say. Our vision as a business is to be best in class and we have the capability to follow these trends and respond appropriately to them.”
Bourdin, who was previously CEO of various group brands at Danone before joining Euralis, says the sheer pace of change in markets is a huge challenge in itself. “Natural barriers between certain food markets are disappearing fast, and that goes for where consumers are buying products from too. Today everyone wants these products at their fingertips. That means they could be going to a supermarket, to a butcher, to a restaurant, to a fast food chain. It’s a complete mix, and given the size of our business that actually represents a big opportunity for us because we have the scale to respond.”
He adds that continued innovation is another principal driver of growth, underpinned by partnerships with major players in agricultural chemistry, while at the same time fulfilling environment responsibilities is crucial too. “For more than 80 years our cooperative group has built its reputation on solid, lasting foundations, and values which form the very DNA of our group. In accordance with its values, our group has been a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact since 2005 through which we support principles on human rights, workers’ rights, respect for the environment and action against corruption. Our practical approach is based on real achievements, experimentation and innovation.”
Meanwhile Bourdin says having a strong digital offering is also key to success in today’s market. “Our job today isn’t just to get the right product into the right outlet at the right time, but also to help our consumers along their own digital journey. Countries such as UK are still ahead of the game in terms of its online retail market, but here in France we are following the same trend and catching up quick. Even more specialised and luxury products such as foie gras are seeing increasing demand online.”