- Press release
, François-Xavier Branthôme
Tomato juice, ketchup and gaspacho "Made in Provence"
"Le Panier Provençal" company is one of the three biggest tomato processors in France. The factory produces tomato juices and purées, which until now have been aimed at industrial buyers, but the brand has recently created its own range of finished products intended for end-consumers.
Based in Tarascon (Bouches-du-Rhône, France), the production plant was run previously by Provence Tomates before being taken over in 2019 by the Coopérative Agricole Provence Languedoc. The processing tomato season is currently fully underway, and will not end until September at the earliest. Close on 1,800 tonnes of tomatoes are delivered each day at the height of the harvest, at a rate of seven or eight truckloads per hour. About one hundred people work at the plant in season (17 being permanent, the rest being seasonal workers), divided into four teams that relay every eight hours. "The aim is to work continuously and not have to stop production operations," explained Frédéric Baeza, the plant's General Manager.
This year, 85,000 tonnes of tomatoes harvested in the neighboring départements (Bouches-du-Rhône, Vaucluse, Gard, Drôme and Hérault, see additional information at the end of the article) are expected at the reception points. The factory is France's main tomato processor: its market share in 2018 covered 71% of the hectares planted in these départements and 46% nationwide, accounting for a turnover close on EUR 17 million. But this factory is an essential link for the supply chain and the major retail outlets for tomato products. It supplies 60% of the requirements of pure tomato juice and close on 50% of the demand for purées. This means that Le Panier Provençal accounts for more than 50% of the country's requirements in terms of tomato products that are organic or low in pesticide residue. "The CAPL group is determined to preserve this essential player in the French processing tomato industry, while at the same time paying growers a fair price."
Le Panier Provençal now offers a range of tomato purées produced in Provence and 100% locally grown. This summer, the company increased its offer with new formulas aimed at individual consumers: in addition to traditional sauces, the brand has launched two new recipes, a ketchup and a gaspacho (which should not be confused with its Spanish or Portuguese cousin, the GaZpacho). "These Provence-made tomato sauces are ethically produced and practical, and they make a colorful addition to your cooking and more besides," states the group's byword. "In order to extend our offer initially aimed at industrial operators, we have set up an online website to enable individual buyers to discover our products. We are currently working on developing new products with a summer touch, notably a gaspacho soup and a ketchup, and we have launched a participatory funding campaign on the MiiMOSA platform," explained Alice Mor, in charge of marketing and communications for the CAPL Group.
Partial view of Le Panier Provençal processing plant.
Le Panier Provençal has set up participatory funding campaign in order to launch its two new recipes: an organic gaspacho and a ketchup with no added water or sugar. These are products that complement the range of references already available online.
For the company, participatory funding is a way to raise awareness of its projects and its products. "This is not motivated by any lack of funds, but we see it as a way of promoting our identity and our values. Our customers are our real ambassadors, and we want to involve them in this new project and get them to participate in the success of the campaign."
Industrial contracts that need to be filled
"At the moment, selling to individual buyers is clearly not profitable. It is the wholesale market that keeps us going. We are almost operating in a direct grower market, with the only intermediary being the tomato processing plant." For Le Panier Provençal, it is not an option to compete against the heavyweights of the large-chain retail sector, who already offer diverse ranges of tomato paste. "It is difficult to break into a market that is already well supplied. Even if our product is ethically interesting, such an approach would require colossal means." The company does not fail to point out that the majority of products sold in large retail outlets are as cheap as possible due to the foreign origin of the tomatoes. "Our tomato production is not unlimited, and we have industrial contracts that we must fill, as well as a huge demand." In addition, "tomatoes themselves are becoming rarer, and we are experiencing heavy demand, and production is having trouble keeping up," explained Alice Mor.
The "France Relance" development plan
Le Panier Provençal projects were among the first to be approved in December 2020 for receiving subsidies aimed at extending and amplifying the schemes set up to fund restructuring projects for already existing industrial sectors, as were those of a number of other French food companies, including notably the Louis Martin company, another major tomato processor in the region. These subsidies are intended to enable:
material investments (manufacturing prototypes, installing workshops, setting up production and processing lines, automation equipment, etc.)
immaterial investments (studies and surveys, engineering projects, technical assistance, external advice, etc.)
France Relance supports investments in projects that bring together features of competitiveness, agro-ecological transitioning, value enhancement and job creation, driven by several players of the same industrial sector in order to contribute joint responses to some of the specific economic and environmental issues affecting the industry.
A continuous evaporator for organic products
In order to complete its production tool with equipment that is specifically adapted to its needs, the Le Panier Provençal has installed the "first evaporator specifically designed for organic tomato juice". According to IFT, "the machine is able to preserve the particular organoleptic characteristics of organic and biodynamic products, thanks to the very short treatment time and the minimization of dead spots. Given the particular problems faced by organic product processors, such as discontinuity of supply, reduced quantities, difficulty in planning harvests, uneven degree of ripeness, etc., IFT has created a highly automated system with very fast start-up and shut-down times, especially dedicated to organic and biodynamic products.
The plant integrates an enzymatic inactivation system and a double-effect evaporator. The entire plant is built in stainless steel, product side, frame, stairs and stages, condenser and cooling towers."
Sources: ledauphine.com, echodumardi.com, IFT