Consolidate for the next growth phase

by Patrick Dupuis

Interviewed in colloboration with Guylaine Gagnon

Gaétan Desroches has a favourable view on the future of La Coop fédérée and its network. “We are at the stage of consolidating and integrating our new acquisitions,” he says, “yet without putting our growth, member services and the longevity of our network on hold.”

What objectives have you set for yourself as Chief Executive Officer of La Coop fédérée?

Our organization has changed its mission and has given itself an ambition to better describe its activities and translate its business objectives. Our mission consists of staying rooted in the agriculture sector by counting on our collective strength. La Coop fédérée must contribute to feeding the world. Therefore, based on a profitable and responsive cooperative model, the enterprise will be recognized as a leader in Canadian agriculture and agri-food sectors, and in the retail sales sector in Eastern Canada.

Describe to us the Retail and Innovation sector, recently created within the structure of the enterprise.

We have rebalanced our business divisions. We now have three of them: agriculture, retail and innovation, and meats (Olymel). Each one generates sales of about $2-billion. The Retail and Innovation division is an important shift and unites Sonic Energy, the hardware stores (BMR and Unimat) and farm machinery as well as innovation and growth. Thanks to its Sonic, Unimat and BMR logos, La Coop fédérée offers energy products, in particular adding value to biomass, and hardware to farmers and all types of consumers, whether they are members of the cooperative or not.

Now that the BMR acquisition is completed, what will be the next marketing step?

Unimat franchise stores are now served by BMR and several cooperatives have transferred their activities under this name. With BMR, La Coop fédérée is now the second player in the hardware sector in Quebec.

After just over a year on the job as CEO, how is La Coop fédérée’s financial situation?

It is sound and completely under control, but there are still some logistical challenges to tackle. We have accomplished several acquisitions throughout the past seven years. They were necessary to ensure our growth and benefits for members.

What is the next development segment for La Coop fédérée?

Our roadmap has many elements to it. To better balance our pocketbook, to prepare for employee succession and career fulfillment, to pursue our retail shift, especially with BMR, and to continue to implement a robust cooperative pork network in both the Eastern and Western parts of the country. Let’s add the optimization of what we offer through our network to our cooperatives and the development of our urea plant project in Bécancour with IFFCO.

Tell us about developing the agriculture sector outside Quebec.

It is really in Western Canada where we will see significant development. We have retailers and co-enterprises there. We want to establish a synergy with Olymel, which produces one million pigs every year in Saskatchewan through its affiliate, Olysky. Feeding them requires 350,000 tonnes of grains and producing this grain requires fertilizer, which is an important asset for the urea plant project in Bécancour.

How will IFFCO allow us to be more competitive in the marketplace?

The plant project, if it is completed, will be one more link in our value chain, which will extend from the manufacture of fertilizers through to the shelves of grocery stores where you will find the pork meats produced by the network. The goal is to increase the profitability of the network and to share the wealth that is created among member-producers and users.

What is the next big challenge for La Coop fédérée?

Other than succession for the next generation, it would be to get the population interested in agriculture. It is essential in developing the value chains that extend from the farm to the table. By putting these elements in place, we are once again further positioning ourselves as leaders. 

Patrick Dupuis's picture

Patrick is Deputy Editor at the magazine Coopérateur.Agronomist graduated from McGill University, he also studied sustainable development. He works at the Cooperateur for over twenty years.