Novacel bets on its spectacle lenses made in France – Le Journal des Entreprises
Priding itself on having one of the three “most modern” factories in Europe, the ophthalmic lens manufacturer Novacel wants to move from know-how to “telling people”. Supplier of a good third of some 13,000 French opticians, the company created in 1994 in Château-Thierry in the Aisne, sells 9 million lenses each year, out of the 45 million produced, all manufacturers combined. The one that ranks third in the market, after Essilor and BBGR, now wants to make itself known to the general public.
“There are still market shares to conquer in France”, explains Jenkiz Saillet, CEO of Novacel. Hence the desire to strengthen the communication strategy to increase the notoriety of its lenses. “We are very little known to the general public, because consumers when they buy glasses are not interested in the lenses, but rather in the frame. For the past few months, we have therefore been multiplying Made in France type shows, communications on social networks, because we know that consumers today prefer local manufacturing when they can.”
Made in France, the founder of Novacel, Roger Duning, bet on it, “at a time when everyone was saying that it was heresy to produce in France, with the cost of labor being higher”, recalls Jenkiz Saillet. A successful bet: “We see it all the more today, with the health crisis and the war in Ukraine, we can no longer depend solely on the international market”. In steady growth since its creation, Novacel has seen its turnover increase from 40 million euros 15 years ago, to 150 million in 2022. And the progression will increase further, predicts Jenkiz Saillet, who is betting a lot on the promotion of its French manufacture, labeled Origine France Garantie in 2015. But also, the excellence of its glasses, produced on a state-of-the-art site, where 630 employees work, on 16,000 m². “80% of our activity is automated. Every year, we invest 5 million euros to renew the machines”, explains Jenkiz Saillet, CEO of Novacel. “For 20 years, there have been major industrial developments and innovations, such as the thinness of the glass, the resistance, the weight, the treatments to clean them better, the protection against blue rays, the glasses that are tinted in the sun etc.”
This know-how notably enabled Novacel to join forces, in 2018, with a global brand, Leica, known for its cameras. “Leica wanted to launch a new eyewear activity, we were selected to do so under brand license”. A partnership that allows it to position itself in a high-end segment. At the same time, the glassmaker wants to open up more to exports. Currently, this represents 10% of its turnover, and it expects 15 to 20% by the end of 2025. “We have subsidiaries in Belgium, Switzerland and Germany, and we are starting to export to Spain, Greece and Portugal”.
Consequences of the energy crisis
In parallel with this commitment in France, Novacel is working on its prices not to be “out of step with the rest of the market”. Prices that had to be increased by 5 to 8% depending on the glasses, to cover some of the additional expenses linked to the energy crisis. At the end of 2022, the three-year electricity contract came to an end, at 50 euros per MW. “Since the 1er January, we pay 450 euros per MW, with an annual consumption of 9,000 MW. This surge in energy is at the heart of our concerns, because we are in continuous growth, so we manufacture more and the increase in our prices does not cover the additional expenses”. A reflection is underway for the installation of photovoltaic panels above the site car park, “we have abandoned the idea of wind power, because it is very complicated with regard to town planning rules and also profitability”. Committed to an eco-responsible approach since 2017, the SME has managed to reduce water consumption by half in 5 years, and electricity consumption by 25%: “Every time we replace our machine, we strive for less energy-consuming machines as much as possible. For electricity, we still have a margin to reduce it”.