With more than 30 years of experience the company is ranked among the world’s top five companies in its business. We are talking about Frulact - an innovative group in the supply of added value ingredients for the food & beverage industry, with a global presence across three continents and nine business units in five countries. In an interview, given to the Manufacturing Journal by the CEO of the company- João Miranda, we had the opportunity to learn more about the secret of Frulact’s success and popularity.
Ready to risk:
the way to international success
Maia, a small municipality in the subregion of Grande Porto in Northern Portugal, counts nowadays among the most industrialized districts of the region. It is precisely here that Frulact has its headquarters. Initially a small company, founded in 1987, it started as a mixture of expectations and dreams. The mastermind behind the venture, Arménio Miranda, a man of vast experience and expertise in the development of dairy products, together with his two sons: João- whose sense of entrepreneurship helped to develop the business and Francisco - who followed in his father‘s footsteps, decided to launch an innovative project... The moment could not have been better. The market, especially in the sector of dairy products and ice-cream, was ready to embrace innovative ideas; the largest manufacturers were looking for new solutions trying to differentiate themselves and produce at higher standards. It was exactly this very requirement of the market Frulact decided to invest in. Once settled in Portugal the company started to take steps towards internationalization; only a few years after its establishment the decision came to expand – in Maia was built the new Frulact’s plant - now with the aim of going global. The portuguese market seemed to be too small to compete with other players in the area, it did not guarantee a secure future in the sector that was about to grow and increase its international presence. Frulact took the risk- it invested in human capital, in competences and in productive capacity- and expanded. By going international, the company gained the necessary economic scale and ensured its own existence and future. The dimension the company attained is really surprising. Today it has eight manufacturing plants equipped with modern technologies and appropriate infrastructures - three of them in Portugal - (in Maia, Tortosendo and Ferro), others located in Morocco (two), France, South Africa and Canada. Frulact has a strong commercial presence not only in Europe, Africa and North America but also in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, among others. All of these accomplishments are a consequence of hard work, spirit of innovation, strong will of the founders and the ambition to be among the best – a dream that found its fulfillment.
Products, Clients, Priorities
Nowadays Frulact is one of the largest companies in the fruit preparation business and it is positioning as a global company in the supply of food ingredients. In most cases its products are used as added value ingredients for the food industry: dairy, ice-cream, desserts, beverages and plant-based alternatives. Among its customers are the largest multinationals, global players from the agri-food industry as well as small and medium companies. Frulact focuses on B2B markets, trying to build long term relationships and staying loyal to both clients and suppliers, this being, in the words of João Miranda “the only way to mitigate risks and to keep up with the upcoming business challenges”. There have been lots of small suppliers, that took the risk to stay with Frulact - those have always been supported. Building and increasing credibility in the international markets is not an easy task as it requires a lot of fieldwork, evidence of differentiation, food safety and high quality standards – features that build up the image of the company, ensuring Frulact´s competitiveness and customer satisfaction.
Commitment to innovation
Frulact strives for the continuous improvement of its processes. It is exactly the focus on New Knowledge and innovating its processes, products and people that counts towards achieving the company’s ambitions and priorities. The Group is widely known for its commitment to new technological and scientific solutions - the access to new knowledge helps to guarantee the sustainability of the business. The ongoing cooperation with the research centres and S&T units is oriented towards the market and its clients - trying to exceed their expectations and needs. Analyzing the market and, consequently, anticipating the trends is the way the company chose to build the future on. Another focal point is the constant evolution – both of the products and of the people. The initiatives include ventures like: Innov Days or Summer Academy, where team members undergo specific trainings. We can also mention the Mini MBA Program, organised together with Porto Business School or projects like Frulact Talks, where the knowledge is shared among stakeholders. The constant evolution of the collaborators has always been one of the key ideas to guarantee success. Frulact invests also in attracting young graduates, people whose fresh perpective and open mind often question the “status quo” of the company bringing at the same time new and creative solutions and fostering the necessary changes. These new ideas that challenge existing methods help to develop better products and services - and achieve sustainable results.
Investments & Future plans
During the past ten years Frulact has invested an amount of over 100 million euros. The investments included mainly improvements in the quality and quantity of the fundamental resources and competences that support the development of the company. We are talking here of the Industrial Manufacturing sites and of Frutech – The Group’s Research, Development and Innovation Centre, opened in 2012 with the purpose of providing all technical and human resources required to support the Group´s growth strategy based in RDI, which remain at the heart of the Group‘s business strategy. At Frutech the team of over 55 highly qualified technicians works to create new products and to give technological support to all business units of the company. The Group is going to continue its investments in manufacturing sites and in emerging technologies, thus aiming to increase productivity and food safety. Technological innovation has always been one of the most significant interests of Frulact Group, something the company strongly invests in – and what keeps it at the forefront, assuring at the same time high levels of competitiveness. The most important aims for the next future are though the three following: growing operations at a global scale, being recognized as the most innovative company in its business and reaching the TOP 3 players in the sector.
Social projects and special achievements
The Group participates also in various social responsibility projects, promoting social and economic development, especially in the regions where it has activity. It supports numerous local initiatives that contribute to the mitigation of the social exclusion of the elderly and disadvantaged. As an example, we can name the support that Frulact gives to two nonprofit organizations (NPO) in Portugal: the first one - Centro Zulmira Pereira Simões (CZPS in Roriz Barcelos) provides support for the elderly people and those in need of care; the other - Associação Cordas (Association Cordas in Tortosendo) is targeted at providing well-being to children with special needs. The idea is to participate the resolution of emergent social problems and in this way to give back to society. Frulact holds various awards and certificates, all of them are a source of pride, joy and a great accomplishment for all; at the same time they also develop and strengthen the sense of corporate responsibility. One of the latest prizes Frulact has been awarded was the “Best Digital Operational Process – Digitalization of the shop floor” in the category of Portugal Digital Awards. The prize clearly shows how Frulact managed to develop its business and operations in order to meet the new challenges which are taking place in the agri-food sector.