Belgian Pork Group Flexibility – a key requirement

by Jörg Schiffeler
Saturday, October 19, 2019
The Belgian Pork Group processes 90,000 pigs a week. The ham is in great demand – both at home and abroad.
Photo: Westvlees
The Belgian Pork Group processes 90,000 pigs a week. The ham is in great demand – both at home and abroad.

The Belgian Pork Group serves as a middleman between the farmers and traders. The aim is to satisfy customers' wishes.

The Belgian Pork Group (BPG) is the holding company of an international meat group. Jos Claeys heads the network of seven production sites. He set up the group in autumn 2015 based on his own private company, Westvlees, and the Covalis Group cooperative. It represented a new departure. 

The aim of both companies was to take a forward-looking approach to the market. Working closely together in the group are the (in some cases highly specialised) companies Comeco, Covameat, d'Hulster, Lovenfosse, Locks and Westvlees. This collaboration is why all the production sites remain in the network to this day. As Sales Manager Glenn Coolsaet explains in an interview with fleischwirtschaft.com, the success formula is based on meeting customers' individual needs in familiar supply chains by offering a high degree of specialisation. In concrete terms, this means, for example, the fully automatic cutting of half-carcasses, made-to-order cuts and pre-packed meat according to customer requirements, or the production of cooked and smoked meat products.

Responsible for exports and other segments: Glenn Coolsaet, Sales Director Industry, at the group's headquarters in Westrozebeke, Flanders, the site of the Westvlees slaughterhouse and cutting plant.
Foto: jus
Responsible for exports and other segments: Glenn Coolsaet, Sales Director Industry, at the group's headquarters in Westrozebeke, Flanders, the site of the Westvlees slaughterhouse and cutting plant.
The Belgian group is an established player – not only in its home country where it enjoys a market share of 38 per cent. Half of the production is exported. The main destinations are Germany, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom. There is a daily delivery to the British market. Any goods which are ordered from Westvlees in the morning are delivered that same evening. This is a situation which is not expected change, regardless of that happens with Brexit.

Referring to the referendum, Sales Manager Coolsaet remains optimistic about the future, despite the clouds on the horizon. At 45 per cent, pork self-sufficiency in the British Isles is at such a low level that the government will need to find a solution. Special measures for fresh food are under discussion on both sides of the Channel.

The ban on exports to some Asian countries following the ASP cases last year is impacting negatively on the balance sheet. Every crisis, however, presents opportunities for further development, as the Group headquarters is keen to point out. The company succeeded in impressing new customers at home and abroad with its flexibility and new cutting programmes, as the sales manager explains. New products have also been developed under the partnership.
„Volume is important, but added value is what drives us.“
Glenn Coolsaet, Sales Manager
"But flexibility requires specialists," says Coolsaet. The Belgian Pork Group is therefore investing heavily in initial and further training for its employees. Three meetings are held per year with each employee to ensure they remain motivated and suitably challenged. The group also maintains close links with its suppliers. The sales team pays visits to the farmers, for example.

It organises audits and consultations, and it supports a sustainability project organised by the BPG every year. This is part of a code of conduct aimed at taking a responsible approach to raw materials (above all cattle and pigs), the products, mankind and the planet. Together with the breeders of the former cooperative, the Belgian Pork Group has initiated various fattening programmes. The main focus is on genetics, feeding and animal welfare. The resulting meat is free of antibiotics and carries organic or Certus and QS certification.

As part of the development of these standards, the "Taste & Welfare-Garantie" was established to complement the Group strategy. Partners, customers and consumers can then be assured that the meat is of the highest quality, has an excellent taste and has been processed in accordance with environmental protection measures.

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