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Puratos rakes in US$2.2bn with ambitions to expand African footprint

Coinciding with the celebration of its 100th anniversary, Belgium-based Puratos has expanded its African footprint with two new joint ventures in Kenya and Ethiopia, active in bakery, patisserie and chocolate. This year, the supplier has reported a turnover of €2 billion (US$2.2 billion), with aims of reaching five billion by 2030. Speaks to Olivier Tilkens, Regional Director Africa at Puratos, about the company’s spearheaded sustainable chocolate model and international Bakery School Foundation supporting the upward movement of underprivileged young adults.

“Puratos Kenya started activities in January 2020 and will cover Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, taking over activities from our previous distributor Papyrus. Papyrus has been our exclusive distributor for several decades in Kenya allowing us to benefit from a considerable knowledge of the market. In order to capture the growth opportunities in East Africa, investments will follow, including a production facility with a powder and a wet line in Kenya,” explains Tilkens.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, Puratos officially incorporated Puratos Ethiopia, which spans Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Eritrea. Puratos Ethiopia is a joint-venture with Dachi Manufacturing, an Ethiopia-based manufacturer and distributor. As part of the agreement, Puratos Ethiopia has taken over the existing assets of Dachi Manufacturing, which includes manufacturing equipment at the company’s factory, located in the suburb of Addis Ababa (with powder, wet and sugar paste lines) and its distribution network.

Today, the group notes over 90 percent of its turnover is generated outside of Belgium, of which nearly one third is produced in emerging markets. “Our centenary is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to our vision and values: a robust scientific approach, a constant quest for innovation, with health and well-being as the cornerstone and a deep-rooted belief in the valuable role that food plays in society,” says Daniel Malcorps, CEO of Puratos.

In most recent developments, Puratos debuted Smoobees, a novel creation that taps into the importance of texture. Smoobees are soft beads that offer a creamy texture and rich taste, which enables formulators to incorporate flavor in baked goods without injection equipment.

“We are already looking at the next 100 years in terms of innovation, sustainability and expansion,” he concludes.

Quality for sustainability
For its centennial anniversary, Puratos emphasizes that the traditional way of working in the chocolate industry does not provide a sustainable future, while noting that the prices paid for cocoa are too low. “This forces many cocoa farmers to stop cultivating cocoa and convert their plantation or simply to quit agriculture completely. In recent years, the industry has focused on helping farmers produce more cocoa, but this has resulted in even lower prices,” the company states.

“We train our farmers and help them to deliver cocoa beans of superior quality,” Youri Dumont, Business Unit Director Chocolate at Puratos, tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “We reward our farmers for their superior quality cocoa beans by providing them with an additional and sustainable income. The Cacao-Trace program guarantees a premium price and our unique Chocolate Bonus of €0.10 (US$0.11) per kg sold, 100 percent paid back.”

“Fermentation is a critical process to develop the beans’ natural flavors. It’s a process of about six to eight days, in which the white sweet pulp surrounding the cocoa beans will evolve thanks to natural biochemical reactions. It helps to remove the natural tannins and acids present in the cacao bean,” he explains.

Puratos bakery schools
When Puratos began operating in India, it recognized the lack of educational opportunities for underprivileged students. At the same time, Puratos noticed the challenge in finding qualified technical advisors, while its customers faced serious shortages of skilled bakers, pâtissiers and chocolatiers. In support of this cause, the company inaugurated its international Bakery School Foundation, which is divided into four semesters and spread across two years amounting to approximately 1,600 hours and 36 themes.

“We wish to offer an intensive yet adapted learning curve to our students while acknowledging that many of them are new to the world of bakery, patisserie and chocolate,” Philippe Arnauts, Puratos Communication Manager, tells. “We start by explaining the equipment and ingredient interaction before moving to more technical and practical lessons. This all helps our students face the market reality, such as decoration with vegetable cream, chocolate tempering, frozen technology concepts, sourdough baking and much more.”

“Courses about hygiene and food safety, good manufacturing practices, food quality, storage and shelf life, food labelling, raw material and ingredients are included. Our curriculum also offers English courses. Digital communication and how to display and present finished goods are taught alongside topics such as people and sales management, and worldwide trends through information supplied by Puratos’ Taste Tomorrow platform,” he adds.

Field activities have been incorporated within the Bakery School curriculum to provide students practical learning experiences. “Therefore supermarket, bakery and industry visits as well as immersion in the Puratos subsidiaries are also organized,” Arnauts highlights.

“The students are asked to pay a fee of INR 200 (US$2.81) per month for a period of 23 months (US$64.58). Once the course is completed, at the time of graduation, the bakery school foundation pays them back double that amount, 10,000 INR (US$156.18). Such an approach ensures that families are fully implicated in the Bakery School students’ education,” he explains.

Today, the Bakery School Foundation has already invested in bakery schools in India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. By 2030, the Bakery School Foundation aims to enroll 1,000 young people from developing countries

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