Livestock farmers in France can now purchase their animal feeds on a computer screen using the internet. The online ordering system is one of a series of investments initiated this year by a company that describes itself as the only French feed manufacturer to operate truly nationally.
Glon Sanders is the animal nutrition arm of the Glon group in France. For calendar year 2007, it reported producing some 2.62 million metric tons of feeds. Its activities provided 56.2% of the annual turnover of 1.46 billion registered by the whole group. An overview compiled this year has referred to the group's animal nutrition interests involving 23 production sites in France (out of 30 mills internationally), serving approximately 23,000 farmers nationwide.
Feeds bearing the Sanders brand were reckoned to have been eaten last year by one in every four laying hens and one in every 15 chickens nationally, as well as every eighth pig produced and 20% of the country's cattle. This ruminant fraction was said to have risen to 30% when a second brand called Vigala was included and the calculation then was extended to cover the equivalent of more than 4 million metric tons of mixed feeds commercialised in France on the basis of group products. Market coverage on this basis also increased to 21% for broilers and 28% for pigs.
Some 100,000 metric tons of feed under the Vigala brand were delivered in 2007, according to group accounts. The brand itself completed its national roll-out this year by being made available through 100-plus distributors across France and Corsica. But the Glon Sanders boast about national operation relates to the fact that it has already become organised in seven regional divisions from the north of the country to the far south, with a new operational centre for the western region outside Brittany in 2008.
A major change at group level occurred in 2007 when the ownership was diversified. While Sanders feeds have existed in France since 1936 and feed manufacturing had been started by André Glon in 1947, later taken up by his sons André and Alain, the modern history of Groupe Glon begins only in 1998 with the coming together of previously separate groupings Glon and Louis Sanders. One of the facilitators of this merger at the time was investment firm Sofiprotéol. But the shareholding of Groupe Glon remained family-owned. This changed last year with an agreement for a new structure.
Sofiprotéol would create a vehicle called Sofial to acquire 60% of newly formed Glon Sanders Holding while the Glon family held 35%. In turn, the holding enterprise would become the owner of Groupe Glon.
Refreshed for capitalisation, the group has engaged on a round of investments with targets including the modernising of all its existing feed mills in France with the aim of making efficiency improvements to control their costs of production. Additionally, plans have been unveiled to construct a new mill at Landrecies, north of the country. It represents a price tag of about €7 million, said the Glon announcement and it will specialise in feeds for ruminants.
In September, journalists attending the annual SPACE livestock exhibition in northern France were told that the French feed group's annual budget for 2007-2008 had allocated a total of €36.5 million to agrifood industrial investments. Besides the Landrecies mill project, the budget was making some €6.6 million available for research and development. There were also moves in the areas of pig production and egg products.
However, the announcement that most captured the headlines was that Glon had backed a series of internet initiatives. One of these has the name of Fermatel and promotes the online recording of poultry sites (broilers and eggs) so their owners or managers can see more easily how the enterprise is performing and how its performance compares with similar farms elsewhere.
The second example brings internet ordering of feeds to the French market. Sanders calls itself the first feed manufacturer in France to offer its clients the ability to order their next delivery online at any hour of the day or night, seven days a week. All that the farmer needs to do is visit the company's website and register online with the farm's details.
After that, access to the site is free of charge and it can be used both to place a new order and to check the history of former purchases from the company. A telephone helpline is part of the service.
The online shopping opportunity has been developed by Sanders in association with French internet information company Agranet. Initially, it was launched for ruminant feeds in the Brittany area of north-west France. As the directors of Groupe Glon have made clear, however, this is simply the precursor to a national availability for buying all feed types through the Web. With 23 mills in action and another one due to be ready next year, the group is confident of being able to deliver to any area of the country within a few hours of the order being received.