The company, which has just bought out one of its Irish suppliers, is aiming for 400 million in turnover this year. Here are the four keys to understanding the strategy of this Lot-et-Garonne phenomenon.
We mentioned in our columns this week a flagship company of the Agenais, whose evolution is through external growth: De Sangosse (Pont-du-Casse) has indeed bought the company Biovitis, after the acquisition of Agronaturalis Ltd in England.
Another flagship of the Agen economy is developing by buying companies, especially abroad, it is Méricq – a major player in the fish market. This week André Abadie (President of the Méricq Group) and Bruno Sachet (General Manager) traveled to Ireland to sign the acquisition of Breizon, based in Galway in Connemara.
Again, Méricq is not his first asset. Other companies have already joined the group (such as Béganton or Kermarée), a move that illustrates the strategy of the company Agen: value creation implies external growth.
Growing up for what?
The acquisition of Breizon also responds to certain principles. The first is to ensure the identity and values of the family group. “Breizon (Breiz means Brittany and Izon, Ireland) was founded in 1970 by the Trahan family, originally from Brittany, in Connemara. These are two family businesses that unite, Loïc and Guénael Trahan continue the adventure together with the Abadie family” , indicates a press release from Méricq. Speaking to Agen’s business leaders this Friday, General Manager Bruno Sachet emphasized that this ‘inter-family’ dimension was the driving force behind this rapprochement.
The second principle guiding the Agen/Galway operation is access to the resource. “Breizon is a gold nugget in the shellfish sector, emphasizes Charlotte Abadie (marketing director of Méricq). The company is number 1 in lobster in Ireland. It has direct access to produce from the Irish coasts and employs 200 fishermen. We are therefore going to consolidate our offer in live crustaceans, lobsters, king prawns, periwinkles, cakes, lobsters, etc. Breizon (18 million euros annual turnover) was a supplier to Méricq, which can thus strengthen its range of local products.
Frozen food in sight
Third idea for Méricq: more frozen products thanks to Breizon, who has a long experience in this field. Frozen foods now account for 30% of the global seafood market (or “seafood market”). However, this activity represents only 2% of Méricq’s turnover (about 337 million in 2021). The acquisition of Breizon strengthens its position in this segment – a sine qua non if Méricq is to develop further.
Finally, the fourth element, the necessary internationalization of the company Agen. Founded sixty years ago in Agen, the company grew in the southwest and then in France. Its size (median among major companies in the global market) and the ferocity of its competitors condemn it to go to another dimension. The Irish establishment is a first step, so we can expect other overtures abroad. A natural evolution: in Estillac, in its stock-market auction room, Méricq brokers have been buying and selling seafood products for a long time.
And the crisis?
In addition to the external growth aimed at Europe, the boom in frozen products (so new warehouses in perspective, etc.), there is another area of development: e-commerce (sales on the Internet) which today accounts for 8% of today’s turnover – an irreversible “lockdown effect” on consumption patterns.
And the crisis in all of this? Méricq is no stranger to it. If 150 trucks deliver 34,000 parcels to customers every day, we can imagine that the rise in fuel prices is confusing finances… If we know that Brexit has caused a thousand and one problems for the fishing industry, if we knowing that Russia was a major player in the supply of cod etc etc, some days were probably hard to live near Estillac. But even in heavy weather a good helmsman knows how to keep the ship afloat…
Méricq has set itself the target of achieving a turnover of 400 million euros by 2022. From a small fish, the Agenais has become a medium sized fish, so still smaller compared to its Asian and American opponents. Carnivorous competitors, also looking for external growth…: from now on, Méricq could rightly work up an appetite… His family model, and thus his independence, is undoubtedly the most precious of all treasures to be protected.