Avril is an international French agro-industrial group, specialising in human nutrition, animal nutrition, renewable chemistry, and renewable energy. The group was founded in 1983, by producers of oilseeds and protein crops, to assure market growth. Avril’s primary purpose is the economic development of oilseed products – rapeseed, sunflower, soybean – and protein products – peas, field beans, lupin. In 2014, Avril processed half of the rapeseed and sunflower grains collected in France Green Runner Waist Pack.
Formerly known as Sofiproteol, the group adopted the name of Avril in 2015, as a result of a new structure of its governance and its legal framework. As a limited partnership with share capital (société en commandite par actions), this operation was intended to ensure the group’s independence and to have the agricultural sector represented as the focal point of its growth strategy. Thus, Avril enables a distinction between industrial and financial activities. The financial activities are clustered around Sofiprotéol
Avril operates on a model of integrated sectors, which is unique in the French and European agro-industrial business world. The group systematically reinvests profits within agricultural sectors. Its goal is to ensure a fair distribution of added value for the entire chain, from producers to consumers.
Avril has a presence in 22 countries and employs 7,200 employees. In 2014, its turnover amounted to 6.5 billion euros and its net profit to 44 million euros.
In 1962, an agreement with Dillon Round led to a massive influx of US soybeans, exempt from European customs. Soy, rich in protein, is needed as livestock feed. In June 1973, following an exceptional drought, the US government decreed an embargo on the export of seeds and oilcake. This caused prices to soar, reflecting an interdependence of French and European farmers.
In 1974, a Protein Plan is launched in France under the leadership of a young farmer and unionist, Jean-Claude Sabin, backed by the public authorities. The goal being to increase the production of oilseed rape, sunflower, peas, flax and field beans through creating a chain of French vegetable oil and protein. Two interprofessional organizations emerged : the National Interbranch Union of Protein-rich plants (UNIP) in 1976 and the National Interbranch Organisation of Oilseed and Oil fruits (ONIDOL) in 1978. These organizations merged in 2015, giving birth to Terres Univia.
In the 1970s, the National Syndicate of Agricultural Techniques (CNTA), a key player of the Protein Plan, became the industrial tool of the French oilseed sector. Its bankruptcy in 1983 undermined the sector most tied to production. To refloat, the interprofessional organizations decided to create a financial fund: Sofiprotéol.
The new company has been considered as a financial player in the French sector of vegetable oils and proteins. Its shareholders have included many agricultural stakeholders: UNIP, ONIDOL, and the French Federation of Oilseed Producers (FOP), bringing together nearly 100,000 producers.
Sofiprotéol had five employees in 1983. It was chaired by Jean-Claude Sabin, with general management entrusted to Philippe Tillous-Borde, an agricultural engineer specialized in industrial investments. Together, they ran the company for nearly 20 years.
From the beginning, the objectives of Sofiprotéol were to financially secure production for the various players in the sector and to ensure an industrial outlet for oilseeds and protein crops. It first played the role of a financial institution as development bank in the sector · · . Then, in the following years, the company took over assets in the field of crushing seeds, seeds, and packaging of edible oils. This was the beginning of extending the agricultural sector with the construction of an industrial chain, from farmers, to seed storage agencies and seed producers.
In search of French rapeseed markets, ONIDOL with the French Institute of Petroleum (IFP) launched the first studies establishing a biofuel based on methyl rapeseed esters in 1987. After three years of experimentation, Diester® was launched in 1990.
From 1991 to 1995, the EU allocated FF300 million to support innovative projects in non-food applications of farming products, including biofuels. In 1992, France authorized the incorporation of biofuels in diesel up to 5% and to 30% for company vehicles. Sofiprotéol developed industrial activity through involvement in the management of biodiesel production facilities. This was the beginning of the biodiesel industry, marked by the construction of the first plant in Compiègne in 1988.
In 1993, Sofiprotéol opened a large rapeseed and sunflower seed crushing factory in Grand-Couronne, near Rouen. With a capacity of 360,000 tons, the site supplied a new factory dedicated to the production of biodiesel in 1995. During this period, Sofiprotéol augmented and extended its sector strategy by developing its work in oleochemistry, biotechnologies, animal feed, and nutrition.
In 1996, Sofiprotéol created Novance in partnership with Rhône-Poulenc Chimie. Novance produced products derived from vegetable oils for non-food applications, such as glycerin. In 1998, the Group took stake in Glon Sanders, a leader in the French animal feed sector and a major outlet for oilseed · . Glon was fully acquired in 2012. With the 2003 acquisition of Lesieur and Puget in 2004, the group became the primary manufacturer of edible oils in France. Between 2007 and 2008, six new units tripled the production of biodiesel, thanks to the Biofuel Plan launched by French public authorities.
The 2000s were marked by a Sofiprotéol surge. The group changed the development of its businesses. In 2007, Sofiprotéol created two major business divisions: Oilseeds, responsible for enhancing vegetable oils, and Animal Products, developing the group’s activities in the field of nutrition and livestock production with related expertise : biosafety, nutritional specialties, etc…
The group has strengthened its international position. With the 2008 acquisition of the Belgian company Oleon, the group has been the European leader in oleochemistry. With the 2010 acquisition of Expur in Romania, the Group gained a firm foothold in the oilseed production basin of Eastern Europe and the Black Sea. In 2011, Lesieur Cristal was acquired, Morocco’s leader in not only oils and seeds, but also soaps. Through the Green Morocco Plan, Sofiprotéol supported a strategy to develop Moroccan industries based on rapeseed, sunflower, and olive oil.
In 2012, Jean-Philippe Puig succeeded Philippe Tillous-Borde as head of group. In 2015, the group adopted new governance and a new identity. Industrial activities were assigned to the limited partnership with share capital (SCA), Avril
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. Sofiprotéol remains as an investment company under the control of Avril Group.
In 2014, the Oilseeds Division of Avril Group generated a turnover of 4.58 billion euros.
Avril Group is the largest producer of table oils in France (Lesieur, Puget, Fruit d’Or, Soléou, Guénard), Morocco (Lesieur Cristal) and Romania (Bunica). By contributing to 1.2 million tons of oil in 2014, Avril participated in the daily supply of 75 million individuals. The group also manufactures oil and vegetable based sauces and condiments.
Avril produces under the brand Diester, a fifth of 11 million tons of biodiesel consumed annually by the European Union. It is the leading European producer of biodiesel. Diester is incorporated at a rate of 8% in the fuel used by all French diesel vehicles. Diester is a first-generation biofuel, made from rapeseed and sunflower vegetable oil.
Avril invests in research to develop second-generation biofuels. The target being to market biofuels from the inedible parts of plants and agricultural waste (lignin, cellulose) in order to produce food and energy. In 2013, The group launched a production of biodiesel based on animal fats and waste oils
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. The group participates in BioTfueL, a program that develops biodiesel and biokerosene from forestry waste (straw, wood, etc.). Avril also initiated Institute PIVERT, in Picardy. Institute PIVERT is the first European center developing plant chemistry based on oilseed biomass, collaborating with hundreds of researchers.
Through the 1996 creation of Novance and the 2008 acquisition of Oleon, Avril has dominated the European market of oleochemistry. Oleochemistry is a branch of “plant chemistry” developing chemical molecules, commonly referred to as bio-based molecules. Avril manufactures and markets a range of bio-based molecules from vegetable oils (rapeseed, sunflower, palm, soy, coconut). Among other molecules, Avril produces glycerol, a biodiesel byproduct. Glycerol is a non-toxic liquid, with a sweet taste, that is used in many pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food products.
Through Lesieur Cristal, Avril produces soaps in Morocco, marketed under the brands Taous and El Kef.
In 2014, the Animal Products Division of Avril Group generated a turnover of 1.82 billion euros.
Through Sanders, Adonial, and others companies, Avril produces and sells rapeseed and sunflower press cakes. Extracted from oilseeds, these solid residues are rich in protein. Crushed and mixed with other ingredients (protein, grains, vitamins, etc.), they are intended to feed farm animals such as pigs, cattle, poultry, and rabbits. One hundred million chickens are fed annually by Avril. European rapeseed and sunflower press cakes are a substitute for American soybean press cakes.
Avril, under Sopral, also markets specific products for the nutrition of pets, such as dogs, cats and horses.
Biosecurity covers all preventive hygiene methods to minimize the infection and spread of diseases in livestock. In 2014, the group created Mixscience and Theseo, both having developed a reputation in France and abroad, around products and services for the hygiene of animal shelters, breeding material and treatment of water, air and surfaces.
Since 2005, Avril has produced and marketed eggs known as Matines. Through Ovoteam and 3 Vallées, Avril supplies eggs for the agribusiness industry.
With Abera and Porcgros, Avril is also engaged in the pig industry, through slaughtering and meat cutting.
Sofiprotéol assists with loans and equity investments for over a hundred companies, representing approximately 80
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,000 employees in the agro-industry and in related sectors such as dairy processing. Sofiprotéol is committed to its partners on a permanent basis. The company strengthens the equity of companies, supporting them in their strategic decisions and modernization.
Following restructuring ratified in 2015, the shareholders of Sofiprotéol – Crédit Agricole, Natixis, Unigrains – became more involved. With a capital base from 70 to 330 million euros, Sofiprotéol intends to expand its scope of action to new sectors of agro-industry.
Sofiprotéol is committed in the following activities:
The historical shareholders of the group are:
With the restructuring, a new player entered into the group’s capital in 2014: Fondation Avril.
Avril Group is a limited partnership with share capital (SCA) comprising two categories of partners:
By adopting the status of a limited partnership with share capital (SCA), historical shareholders of Sofiprotéol, the oilseed producers intend to remain at the heart of the project led by Avril.
The Supervisory Board is composed of eight members, six of which represent FIDOP, FOP, and Fondation Avril. Within this council also sit two elected staff members of the group. The Supervisory Board is currently chaired by Jacques Siret, President of Terre Univia.
The Management Board of Avril Gestion has nine members:
The Executive Committee is headed by the Manager of Avril Group and general manager of Sofiprotéol, Jean-Philippe Puig, board-elected.
The executive committee consists of 7 other members:
Avril Group is committed to pay 35% of its dividends to a foundation bearing its name and recognized as a public service by decree on 11 December 2014.
The foundation supports causes of general interest and is attached to three sustainable development goals:
The foundation is chaired by Philippe Tillous-Borde, co-founder of the Group in 1983. Appointed July 2015, Philippe Leroux is the director. Former director of the French Development Agency (AFD), Jean-Michel Severino is treasurer.
La France Agricole