What on earth made BIOAGRUMES switch from flowering pot plants to citrus forcing, while also introducing organic plants with ready-to-eat fruit and leaves?
While working as a production manager in Provence, Frédéric Sérusier realized the potential of citrus and the lack of French production. Thus, he created his company near Angers in 1997 and began to acclimatize citrus imported from Sicily. In 2010, he made the first strategic shift to become the citrus production specialist in France and switched a portion of the production to organic in 2014. To this end, the company started to work with the San Giuliano French Agronomy research institute INRA in Corsica, known for its expansive citrus collection.
Today, BIOAGRUMES grows more than 100,000 plants, with 56 varieties of the citrus genus: orange, grapefruit, limes, clementines, tangerines, kumquats, combava, cedrate, etc. Both production and complementary imports from Sicily are marketed by Agrumes de Méditerranée, their sister company.
The arrival of new majority shareholder Christophe Reineri in 2017 gave impetus to a new company strategy. “Our aim is to become the first European supplier of organic ready-to-eat citrus, in addition to Mediterranean plants for the high-end urban market: plants with fruit, but also leaves and flowers,” says Christophe. To achieve this goal, the company is working towards three goals:
- Fulfill European food safety requirements to sell ready-to-eat products. Growing organically is not enough to claim that fruit, leaves or flowers are ready-to-eat. We have started implementing food safety measures with the objective of obtaining the MPS-fruit and Vegetable certification. We are also developing partnerships with Southern European growers equally committed to sustainability and food safety, either through GlobalGap or MPS-Fruit & Vegetables, to complement our product range.
- Diversification is the second goal: BIOAGRUMES will continue diversifying its citrus collection but also develop a comprehensive range of edible organic Mediterranean fruit and/or leaves, like figs or laurel.
- Innovation and securing our parental material: The company’s development plan includes the creation of a propagation unit and expansion into a new greenhouse. The propagation unit will allow BIOAGRUMES to come to market earlier, but also to implement new propagation techniques and grow species and varieties that are more cold-resistant, adaptable to northern markets.
Although not located in Southern Europe, the company benefits from several competitive advantages such as unique niche market positioning, a wide range of product, excellent customer’ service thanks to its proximity to the market and, perhaps most important, the absence of the bacterial disease Xylella fastidiosa, which facilitates BIOAGRUMES to grow organically.
Christophe is very enthusiastic about the company’s development prospects. “Our first contact at IPM confirmed the relevance of our strategy and leads us to be optimistic. I feel confident that our present choices will create value for BIOAGRUMES, our partners and the end consumer. Our brand promise is to offer high-quality, healthy and tasty products, perfectly suited to both ornamental and culinary usage”.
Author: Marie-Françoise Petitjean