CLEAR-CUT STRATEGY

Spain 2020 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

The largest oil distributing company in Spain, Acesur has plans to consolidate its position in northern Europe and further expand into the US and Southeast Asia.

Gonzalo Guillén
BIOGRAPHY

Gonzalo Guillén has a degree in business from the University of Wolverhampton and a master's degree from IE. He started his career in Acesur, a leading agri-food company in the Spanish olive oil and seed oil sector, and worked his way through different departments to later become its export director. In 2002, he become the CEO of the company.

What have been the main achievements of Acesur?
What sets Acesur apart from other olive oil companies is its focus on exports. At present, more than 50% of our turnover comes from exports. We sell in more than 100 different countries. What also sets us apart is the fact that we are extremely integrated along the entire chain. We manage 1,000ha of olive plantations. We are able to offer food-traced olive oil to our largest customers in Australia, the US, China, Japan, and the UK.

What regions are of specific interest to you in terms of expanding your brand?
We have a major opportunity to grow in the US market as well as China, Taiwan, and other parts of Southeast Asia. At the same time, we aim to consolidate our position in northern Europe, namely Ireland, the UK, Germany, and France.

What is the role of the public sector in helping Spanish companies achieve international recognition?
I do not think we can expect much from the public sector; this is something we have to do ourselves. Looking at Spanish olive oil brands in the world, volumes have multiplied by 10 as compared to 25 years ago. Production in Italy, however, has remained stable. 25 years ago, we were not in the EU, and it was not possible to sell packed olive oil easily outside of Spain. Meanwhile, Italy was part of the EU, which meant Italian companies became more experienced than Spanish companies; however, for the past four or five years, Spain has exported more packed olive oil than Italy. Italian brands are stronger and have a larger presence, but we are catching up in terms of quality, branding, and marketing.

Acesur has invested in Triple Extra, which is a new control process. Can you tell us more about it?
This is part of our vision to be the most honest and transparent olive oil company in the world. Every bottle of extra virgin olive oil that we produce is checked and approved by official, independent laboratories according to strict physical, chemical, and organoleptic standards. Olive oil is the only food product that must abide by an organoleptic taste law, and it is extremely complicated. Worldwide, this law has created somewhat of a mess. The sector is fighting to change this law or make it more objective. We send samples to two independent taste labs that give us the okay through detailed results and a certificate. We also analyze the physical chemicals and offer customers food traceability so they can understand where the olive oil came from, the types of olives it was made from, and how it was produced. This is something exclusive to Acesur.

Does your intention to diversify into solid oils represent a change in the market?
The reason why solid oils, for example, are becoming more popular is because people are moving away from palm oil. We see big demand for new solutions, since we are the largest oil distributing company in Spain. We have a patented solution to solidify oil in a natural way. We can offer solidified extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, or refined olive oil, as well as a blend of different vegetable oils. This is great for factories that produce pastries, ice cream, cookies, and other products. Our brand is called Olinostrum, and we are working together with other factories to test it and improve it. It is still too early, though we are on the right track. We are also investing in sauces and vinegars, as well as other dressings.

What are your main objectives for 2020?
We have a clear strategic plan that focuses on increasing our exports. We want 60% of our turnover to be sourced from exports. One of our large projects is to increase our vertical integration. By 2025, our goal is to have 50% of our needs produced and controlled by us. Today, that figure stands at 25%.