Branch organization of primary food processors PFP Europe consists of 4000 companies in six different sectors: oils, vegetable proteins, grain mill products, starches, sugar, and cocoa. Researchers from LEI Wageningen UR carried out a report for PFP that describes the supply chains and special characteristics of these plant-based primary food processors. Several competitiveness indicators, such as production value, direct employment in the industry were calculated, but also indirect employment in farming. Nathalie Lecocq, Director General of FEDIOL (federation representing the European Vegetable Oil and Proteinmeal Industry) is very pleased with the outcome.
Why did you want this research to be conducted?
“We felt that in 2015 there was a lot of focus of food and growth and as primary food processors we are not necessarily visible to customers. Our products are the ingredients of food products and we do not have strong brands. As B2B-companies our product is less visible, and so are our industries. We are not very vocal or present in the media and we needed a way to show our role in de food chain. Not really for the customers, but more for policymakers.”
What are the most important findings in the report?
“First of all the report gives us an insight into the amount of businesses and people in each sector. Just statistics: how big we are? One of the outcomes is that together we are directly good for 120,000 jobs in a few large and many small companies. Indirectly we keep nearly 1 million farmers at work through PFP. That’s an important message to policymakers: through us you indirectly touch nearly 1 million farmers.”
Big numbers indeed. How about the production value?
“The food processing industry is the largest industrial sector in Europe with huge sales. The estimated production value of PFP is 66 billion, which is 8 percent of the total food processing industry. When you look at the change in production value over the years, you can see an overall increase, despite the crisis.”
PFP must be very pleased with these results.
“The outcome is certainly very satisfactory. We have put all the elements together that we expected. Every year we organize an event for stakeholders and policy makers and at these events we could not really say who we are. Now an authority looked at us. We were not aware that indirectly we had such an impact on job creation in Europe. We have already used results like this in communication during our event last November. It is certainly reinforcing our policy message. This year we will go to the European Parliament.”
What went well in the process of the research?
“In the process there was a lot of openness and willingness to understand our suggestions. The LEI researchers were open to listen to our expectations and experiences, all the time remaining an independent third party.”
Are there also things that did not go so well?
“The research took longer than we thought. Mainly because we had to look into sector specific groups and had to go back and forth on how the sectors should be presented. In order to draw the communalities we had to find the characteristics in the different sectors. We had four to five versions in total but with enough patience from the team it all came together. There was no real problem by the way: we managed to finish the research in time for the event in November. You just push harder when the deadline is near. What also helped us was to emphasize the commonalities and putting that together by a third party is better than doing it yourself. LEI helped structuring our message, putting it black on white.”
Would you have another research done by LEI in the future?
“I have also worked with LEI before this research and I would most certainly ask them again in the future, just like PFP Europe I guess. The reactiveness and responsiveness are good and LEI can cover many issues.”