Francisco Rodríguez already had two things very clear in 1959 when he founded Industrias Lácteas Asturianas (Ilas). One, that milk itself was not a big business, and, second, that neither was the domestic market. With these approaches registered the brand Reny Picot as the flagship of the company and the Camembert cheese as its main offer to give a French air to your project.
Today, 60 years later, the president and owner of the group reaffirms his philosophy. "When you make a soft drink or sell water, you start with the advantage that you have a cheap raw material and that you can allocate a very important part of your income to promotion or advertising, when you have to buy an expensive raw material, such as milk, has the need to develop products with greater added value to achieve higher yields, and more when currently the cheap white label has become an added threat against the profitability of companies.
His is a medium-sized company in the sector: he buys more than 300 million liters of milk compared to almost one million liters collected by the French multinational and leader, Lactalis (Puleva, Lauki, President …), but its turnover reaches 700 million euros, basically for the sale of cheeses, special milks and butter. In 2017 it had an operating result of 33 million and a net profit of 3.4 million. More than half of its sales are made outside of Spain, which has made Ilas the Asturian dairy multinational, the first and the only Spanish dairy company with a strong industrial presence in the world. The group projects investments of 18 million euros to continue growing, mainly in the United States and Latin America.
The philosophy that the president of Reny Picot has chosen to grow it has been based on developing a production policy in each country where it is, either with newly created factories or with the acquisition of facilities already in operation. "Commercial policy is important, but much more is to do it from production plants, in strategic areas that allow you to access other markets more easily."
In 1980 they entered Mexico with the construction of a plant in Chihuahua, in an area where cattle ranches of the Mennonites operated, a Christian Anabaptist group of Germanic origin dedicated to agriculture that had the need to release large amounts of serum.
At present, the plant has specialized in the production of demineralized whey, as well as soft cheese cheeses destined mainly to the countries to the north and south of Mexico or for other plants of the group. In the eighties, the Asturian company put its feet in the United States with the construction of a plant in Michigan, called Old Cheese, for the production mainly of soft cheese. In the nineties he acquired a small company in the south of France, La Chèvrefeuille, dedicated exclusively to goat cheeses with sales focused on that country. With an eye on the eastern markets, but also to have a more competitive position in the EU, in 2007 they settled in Poland with the Ciechanow cooperative, with cheddar cheeses and mozzarella as the main offer. At the time of its landing in Poland, the group played with the advantage of having cheaper raw material, a situation that currently no longer exists when prices have been equated.
Expansion in Spain
In the Spanish market, the expansion policy of the group has focused on investments for the expansion of its facilities in Asturias, basically in Anleo, and with the constitution of two companies dedicated to the production of cheese, Lácteas Castellano Leonesas in Ribera del Fresno (Badajoz) and Industrial Quesera del Guadarrama in Madrid.
Among the projected investments, Francisco Rodríguez will allocate some six million to improve facilities in Asturias and another 12 million to grow abroad, especially in South America. More than a decade ago, Ilas tried to settle in the Brazilian market with a local partner, but the operation was frustrated at the last minute. At this moment, the group works in its installation in Argentina, probably with the purchase of a local industry. It also deals with the expansion of the company's facilities in Michigan (USA).
The company does not close to other markets, although its presence is much more limited. In China he tried in the nineties, but ruled out installing an industry and maintains agreements with two marketers for the sale of special infant milks protected by the Government of the country. They also discussed the possibility of settling in Morocco, but in the end opted to develop a commercial policy to distribute processed cheeses made in Asturias.
Those responsible for the Asturian group were already a decade ahead betting on innovation and diversification of markets and products. Following his initial philosophy that milk was not a business, at present the liquid milk sales of the group only account for 10% of its turnover. In this diversification of supply, the group is the main producer of butter with more than 25,000 tons, of which the bulk is destined for export. The Asturian company was the main supplier of butter to the French market when in recent years there was a shortage there due to the global supply crisis and a sharp rise in prices. In the group sales as a whole, butter accounts for 30%. Cheeses are also prominent, from cured sheep to soft cheese, which together account for 50% of turnover. Then there are their special milk for children, production that is concentrated in the Asturian plant.
In the sixties, as now, French cheeses enjoyed a fantastic reputation. "That was the reason why we chose a commercial brand with a certain French connotation: René Picot", says the company. "But, once in the presence of the industrial property agent, the official proposed the alternative of changing Reny Picot since, not being a proper name, it was easily registered." Taking advantage of the fame of the products of the neighboring country was born Reny Picot SL.