Ecotone aims for a billion in turnover
by Horst Fiedler (comments: 0)
For more than 15 years, the Wessanen Group, now called Ecotone, has been gearing its goods production towards organic. According to Eike Mehlhop, managing director of Allos Hof- Manufaktur GmbH, one of seven subsidiaries in Europe, almost 90 per cent of the turnover, which amounted to around 700 million euros in 2020, is now generated with organic products. By 2025, Ecotone sales are aimed to rise to one billion euros.
New products to enhance expansion
Not only the recent acquisitions of Little Lunch and Danival, but also a cornucopia of new products to be distributed every year point in the direction of expansion at Ecotone. Mehlhop, who sits on Ecotone's European Management Board, expects 20 to 30 new products annually for the German brand Allos. The company started in March with unsweetened mueslis and spreads; in the second half of 2021, new products from the cereals segment and the plant-based drinks produced in northern Italy are to be added.
Allos entered the market for plant-based drinks relatively late, but now ranks third in Germany, just behind Provamel, as Mehlhop explains with reference to Biovista figures.
The tea brand Cupper, which is also managed by Allos in Bremen and is reminiscent of the Unilever brand Pukka in terms of its presentation, is not primarily intended for the organic specialised trade. Cupper is already the market leader at the drugstore chain DM.
Ecotone is on the lookout for more organic producers
Little Lunch is also intended for conventional distribution channels. According to Mehlhop, the founders of the ready-to-serve soup producer, who continue to work as managing directors after the takeover, generated around 25 per cent of their turnover through their own web shop. Since the shop was created in-house, Ecotone can benefit directly from the founders' know-how and optimise its digital marketing.
Despite the targeted expansion - the company is on the lookout for further takeovers of organic producers - there is no influence by the French private equity company PAI Partners on the operational business of the subsidiaries, as Eike Mehlhop assures. "We are free in our decisions," says the Allos managing director.
In addition to the financial investor PAI Partners, which now holds 60 percent of the shares in the company, and the individual investor Charles Jobson, 150 Ecotone employees are involved in the company. The goal is to grow with the organic market, if possible a little stronger.
Focus on suitability for grandchildren
Ecotone aims not only to produce organic food, but also to meet the full range of requirements for a sustainable company. In this context, Mehlhop highlights the company's B Corp certification, which also formulates criteria for corporate governance, employee rights and environmental, social and customer impacts.
At Allos Hof-Manufaktur, for example, in addition to a profit-sharing scheme for employees and a transparent supply chain, great efforts are being made to use environmentally friendly materials in packaging. For example, 88 per cent of the Tetra Pak containers for plant-based drinks are already made from renewable raw materials. Across the Group, two people are working exclusively on further improvements in packaging, Mehlhop said.
Ecotone focuses on organic, vegetarian, fair trade and nutritionally valuable products. By changing the company name from Wessanen to Ecotone, the ecological orientation of the company should become visible. An ecotone (also fringe or edge biotope) is, according to Wikipedia, a transitional area between two different ecosystems or landscapes. The claim "Food for Biodiversity" underlines the company's action maxim.
- Headquarters: Lyon (F)
- Turnover: approx. 700 million euros (2020)
- Employees: 1,600 (of which 260 in Germany)
- Subsidiaries: Abafoods (I), Allos Hof-Manufaktur (D), Biogran (E), Bjorg & Co (F) Bonneterre & Co (F), Wessanen (Benelux), Wessanen (UK).
- Organic share of production: 85 % (target 95 % by 2030)