"Without the help of Objective 2 from the ERDF, our growth strategy would not have been as far-reaching"
With 80% of the national market in feuille-de-brick pastry,
Sofrabrick, located in Gonesse with 48 employees, could take it
easy. But then there is the zest and strength of character of
Mylène Castro, joint founder of the business with her husband,
Marc, in 1984. When Marc died in 1994, the market was booming: the
catering industry, which was seeking to reinvent itself, was now
beginning to use the pastry for its produce.
This was only the start, because two years later this wheat flour pastry, which originated in north Africa, is similar to filo pastry and is widely used in Tunisian cuisine, made a triumphant debut in the French mass-distribution market, and sales took off. Feuille-de-brick pastry production in France now stands at 2000 tonnes, with Sofrabrick accounting for over 1600 tonnes of this output.
The young couple’s masterstroke was to produce on an industrial scale, whereas up until then this product had been produced by hand. Fifteen years after the company was set up, Hubert Boujdid – who joined as sales manager in 1994 – was given the task of ushering in a vital stage: relocating the company to new head offices – but still in Gonesse, in the Val d’Oise – and implementing a new process that would lead to fully automated feuille-de-brick pastry production. This was a world first and a technological leap forward that doubled the company’s production capacity, which currently stands at 12 million packets each year. So you might say that Gonesse was included in the ERDF Objective 2 at the right time! “It took us three months to put the file together, which had three aims: modernize our production facilities, develop new products, and expand the company and increase its competitiveness,” explains Hubert Boujdid. “It’s clear that without ERDF assistance we would have been 30% over budget and wouldn’t have been able to put the whole of the plan into action. We would have had to build a smaller plant and would not have been able to carry out all the internal conversion work required to bring about automated production. We would have had to do this over a 5 or 6 year period, whereas in fact we can maintain our competitive edge, even give it a shot in the arm”.
A result that was worth the effort. But most of all, the sales manager believes he received effective guidance from local partners, Gonesse town council in particular, as well as from representatives at the Val d’Oise Préfecture and representatives from a specialist R&D company.
At the same time, and despite steady annual growth (10% to 15%), in 2000 management sensed the dangers of concentrating production on a single product. So Mylène Castro bought out a filo pastry production unit that enabled the company to offer a full range to the mass-distribution market.
This was the second major period of external growth for Sofrabrick following the acquisition of a small feuille-de-brick site at Deuil-la-Barre in 1989. The three sites were then amalgamated into the new plant on the Grande Vallée business park in Gonesse, a prestigious site located just a stone’s throw from the golf course and management expects to see a substantial growth in turnover in the region of 20% to 25% per year.
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