Lesaffre deploys its seeds internationally – Le Journal des Entreprises

Specialist in yeast and fermentation, the northern group Lesaffre (€2.2 billion turnover, 11,000 employees worldwide and 2,000 in France) has become a key global player during its 170 years of development. Historically, the group was built through bread making which still represents two thirds of the activity. The other third corresponds to three areas: taste, health and industrial biotechnology (including in particular research on yeasts to produce bioethanol). The company with a strong international presence is also keen to maintain its roots in the North. “The group’s roots are here, underlines Brice-Audren Riché, CEO of Lesaffre since the beginning of last year. The Lesaffre campus that we inaugurated in October 2022 is a great showcase!” Last year, the group brought together 700 employees previously spread over eight different sites in the Lille metropolitan area. This modern building, located on 19 hectares of land straddling the towns of Marcq-en-Barœul and Marquette-lez-Lille, not far from the Lesaffre factory, brings together several teams specializing in research. 60% of the area of ​​the 23,000 m campus2 is dedicated to R&D with laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. The largest installation carried out is a biofoundry. This set of analytical infrastructure, robotic equipment, software and data management systems enables high-throughput synthetic biology to be carried out. In a single day, 10,000 tests can be carried out whereas it took a month to complete them. “We will therefore be able to accelerate the group’s innovation capabilities, points out Brice-Audren Riché. Lesaffre has equipped itself on this campus with state-of-the-art equipment which allows us to accelerate innovation, in particular thanks to new technologies”. At the same time, another campus that was built in the same geographical area demonstrates the group’s desire to strengthen its roots in the north of France. It concerns Lesaffre’s fermented beverage business. This Fermentis campus welcomes more than 50 employees who already work there and will be inaugurated soon.

Three factories under construction

The group is growing externally and internally. “Our ambition is to have growth that is both sustainable and responsible, says the CEO. We want to continue our activities in all the regions where Lesaffre is present. We will continue to make external acquisitions if opportunities arise. And our internal development takes place with new customers through new products and the construction of new factories”. Three major projects are underway. One in Brazil, a country in which the manufacturer has already been active for more than thirty years and manages a bread-making and nutrition-oriented innovation center. The production of this site, which will begin next year, is intended to serve customers in Brazil. In Indonesia too, a plant is under construction with a launch scheduled for the end of the year. It will be dedicated to the Asia-Pacific market with the group’s desire to reduce the ecological footprint of its products. “The closer we get to our customers, the less transport they have to do to get supplies from us,” says Brice-Audren Riché. For this Indonesian market, Lesaffre will work on its traditional bread-making activity by manufacturing fresh and dry yeasts.

The third large-scale project again concerns Hauts-de-France with a production unit that will be built on an industrial wasteland in Denain, in the North. “The public inquiry has just ended and we should have the authorizations to start the work this year”, announces the general manager. The Gnosis by Lesaffre subsidiary, which designs nutritional active ingredients for the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical sectors, will manufacture chonrotoin sulphate there, an ingredient used to relieve joint pain. Currently produced in China from shark fin cartilage, this substance will be able to be designed by Lesaffre from a fermentation process. “We will obtain the same product with the same benefits, but with a natural production, therefore without animal origin” analyzes Brice-Audren Riché who adds that the entry into production of this site will start in 2025.

Decarbonize and limit water consumption

The CSR approach (corporate social responsibility) is another axis of Lesaffre’s strategy. “We therefore want to produce as close as possible to our customers, we are convinced that fermentation and micro-organisms are part of the solution to feed 9 billion people on the planet in 2050 in a healthier and more sustainable way, thanks to products that respect the environment” explains Brice-Audren Riché. A desire that has motivated several recent projects such as the partnership with the Engie Solutions entity of the French energy group which will carry out and operate the maintenance of a waste heat recovery unit at the Lesaffre plant in Marcq-en-Barœul. Thanks to the installation of two high-power heat pumps which will be commissioned in 2025, the heat created by the fermentation activities will be reused. Lesaffre will thus be able to cover 70% of its heat needs, avoid the annual emission of approximately 30,000 tonnes of CO₂ and reduce its water consumption by 150,000 m3 per year. “The group is committed to a process of controlling its carbon footprint and its energy consumption, recalls the managing director. We are making an investment in a biomass power plant on our Normandy site specializing in biotechnology and more particularly in drying of ingredients”. This new boiler will be put into operation this year.

Another example concerns the Australian subsidiary of Lesaffre with the inauguration last November of a new facility entering into a logic of circular economy. “This is a molasses extract workshop which will allow us to recover, in our treatment water, the beneficial ingredients which we can then use to suppress industrial dust, as fertilizers or for other apps again”.

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