They are often called ‘French fries’, but the popular potato snack is as inherent to Flanders as can be. Made from the best potatoes in the entire European potato belt, the crispy delicacy is Flanders’ most famous local product. “No better place to build a new fries factory” must have been the exact thought of Aviko. In 2019, the Dutch potato processing company started constructing a new EUR 200 million plant in the town of Poperinge (West Flanders).
Once it’s completed, the new facility will produce 175,000 tons of frozen fries and 11,000 tons of dried potato flakes per year. With the first production planned for April 2022, the new site is soon to be fully operational. Discover why this project received a nomination for the 2022 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy presented by Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT).
Founded by 32 potato farmers in 1962, Aviko has grown to become a global player. Processing about 2,000 Kt potatoes a year, the Dutch company is one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of fresh, frozen and dried potato products and one of the top 4 global market leaders. With 2,500 employees across 13 production locations in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Poland and China, Aviko is able to offer over 100 distinctive potato specialties in more than 110 countries.
“At Aviko, we connect people, cultures and tastes by bringing joy to tables all over the world. We believe in the enormous potential of our products and the impact we have as a food processor on quality, service, innovation and sustainability throughout the entire production chain,” says Tanya Hené, COO of Aviko Group. “The new plant in Poperinge will do just that.”
The investment in Aviko’s new Flanders-based facility – their largest to date – will really stand out. To meet increasing global demand for frozen potato products, Aviko made every effort to impress. COO Tanya Hené is proud that the new plant will be one of the most efficient and sustainable fries factories in the world:
“Our new state-of-the-art factory in Poperinge is equipped with the most innovative and effective machinery with minimal waste and maximum energy efficiency. This allows us to focus on the highest level of safety and wellbeing for our employees, suppliers and contractors, while ensuring the highest quality of products and services for our customers and consumers.”
Where better to build a huge fries factory than in Flanders? Belgium’s northern region is ideally located in the middle of the so-called European potato belt, the combined acreage of Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. Tanya Hené: “After carefully considering the possibilities in terms of cultivation, logistics and the market, Flanders proved to be the most suitable for capacity expansion. The region has the best potatoes, the required expertise and an ideal working climate. Additionally, the ports of Zeebrugge, Antwerp and Rotterdam are close by to serve our overseas markets in Asia and South America.”
“What’s more,” Tanya Hené continues, “Aviko already operates a factory nearby: in Proven, Flanders. That facility will now focus entirely on the production of potato specialties.” Along with the production of frozen fries, 45 of the 270 employees will relocate to the new factory in Poperinge. “By keeping close to the existing plant, we will be able to optimize the use of raw materials, storage capacity and the exchange of knowledge between both plants.”
But that’s not all. “We were welcomed here with open arms by the local and regional authorities, Flanders Investment & Trade as well as Belgapom, the Belgian potato trade and processing industry association,” Tanya Hené recalls. “Their support has significantly contributed to our decision to invest here.”
Since 2002, Aviko is a member of Royal Cosun, a Dutch agro-industrial group that processes arable crops and other vegetable raw materials. Tanya Hené: “As part of Cosun's strategy, we will continue to accelerate in the fast-growing and capital-intensive global potato market. In particular, we are eager to pursue our geographical growth in Western and Eastern Europe and China.”
The new factory in Poperinge will significantly contribute to Aviko’s urge for expansion. “The planned capacity increase will enable us to take full advantage of the rising demand for frozen potato products and to achieve our ambitious growth targets. Initially, the new facility will create 150 jobs. But, if necessary, the site has been designed to double capacity in the future. And of course, we remain focused on product and process innovation,” the COO concludes.