The history of Conserve Italia is deeply linked to the evolution of the co-operative movement in the Emilia-Romagna region and to the partnership with its members who have committed themselves to develope the production processes and sales activities in order to guarantee a significant market position for its products and brands.
Today the co-operative system, of which Conserve Italia is part, is made up of a series of complex and articulated links. These go from the farming cycle (seeding, planning and harvesting), to the raw material processing cycle, to logistics, right through to the sales activities, with the sales of the Groups’ branded products as well as private label products.
Conserve Italia was formally founded in 1976, however the initial process had already begun ten years earlier. In 1966 a group of farmers and fruit growers co-operatives (Paf, Copra and Solar) joined together to create the CALPO Consortium (“Cooperative Associate Lavorazione Prodotti Ortofrutticoli”, Co-operatives Association for the Processing of Agricultural Fruit and Vegetables Products).
In 1972 Valfrutta S.p.A. was acquired. This introduced the integration of an industrial and sales structure that changed the lives of the co-operative partners.
The acquisition of the private company, Valfrutta S.p.A., with two plants – one in Cotignola (RA) and the other in Barbiano (RA) – represented a significant moment in the Groups history. The main co-operatives in Ravenna area realised that this vertical integration, which had never been seen before, was the best way forward. It enabled them to produce and sell directly through the management of the entire supply chain, from fresh harvested produce to finished goods on the shelf. It also represented entry into the processed fruit and vegetables market, yet another channel for the co-operatives which were predominantly used to supplying fresh produce, hence a complementary activity.
Important elements in the relationship between the co-operatives and its members include the obligation of conferment (supply) of the produce (raw materials) by its members and the agreement on agricultural production planning which also respects the development plans of each member. This operational planning method ensures that the Consortium functions in a balanced way between all of the single members.
The principle of participation and responsibility of the members is still today deeply rooted in the strategic orientation and it is one of the points of strength of the Consortium.
After the creation of Calpo the co-operative developed quickly both in terms of production capacity and in the widening of the product portfolio, increasing at the same time the supply basin for raw materials, which bought in new co-operatives and members.
In 1976, Conserve Italia was founded, as the sales organisation for the sale of Calpo’s and 14 other co-operatives’ products. The original idea to create a national Consortium for sale of products was based on the productive and sales structures which existed in Italy at that time.
The national presence of several co-operatives for the processing of agricultural produce in the same sector, with membership control, implied direct competition between one and other.
The limited product ranges by single co-operative, compared to the modern distribution requirements and the absence of consolidated brands represented an opportunity to create added value by ensuring a product/brand supply proposition through a single sales organisational structure: Conserve Italia.
The Consortium members soon realised that there was a need to not only sell together, but also to plan and develop a common system for production (plants) so as to standardise the finished products. A management system for company operations, including quality assurance, finance, logistics, purchasing, etc., was created so as to ensure a global management approach.
Conserve Italia’s global managerial approach and the compactness of its members ensured rapid growth in a very short period and leadership positions both nationally and at a European level.
Nationally, the fundamental stages of development were the acquisition of the two plants at Mirandola (MO) from the Belgian company Mon Jardin (1979) followed by the acquisition of the company Salfa S.p.A., producer of fruit juices, nectars and soft drinks with the Derby brand.
In 1994 the acquisition of the company Massalombarda Colombani S.p.A. (former Federconsorzi), to which the brands Yoga and Jolly Colombani belonged, further contributed to increase the industrial dimension of Conserve Italia (with four plants located in Emilia-Romagna) as well as a significant increase in the sales activities in Italy.
In 1996 Conserve Italia made two other acquisitions, one of which was the plant of (former) La San Prospero S.r.l. di Imola (BO), specialising in the production of fruit purees for nectar production.
In March of 1999 the Group acquired, from the Antonio Campana S.a.S., the plant at Mesagne (BR) for its tomato production. This plant specialised in the production of purée and tinned tomatoes (peeled).
The process of internationalisation of Conserve Italia began in 1983.
Mediterranean Growers Ltd was founded in the U.K. with the objective of selling the Consortium’s products in Great Britain and Ireland.
In 1998 the company Conserves France S.A. was founded with its headquarters in Nimes in the South of France. The company is the result of the merger between Otra S.A. acquired in 1990 (famous for its brand Barbier Dauphin, specialising in the production of tomatoes, ready meals and French specialities as well as a plant for sweetcorn and tinned vegetables) and Verjame S.A., acquired in 1997 (with the leading French brand for preserved fruit - St Mamet). Conserve France S.A., has three production plants which are all located in the south of France; Vauvert, Saint Sylvestre and Tarascon.
In 1991, Conserve Italia acquired the German company Warburger GmbH, producer of preserved vegetables, located in the city of Warburg in the Westphalia region. Today Warbuger GmbH operates as a sales subsidiary for Germany, Scandinavia, Holland and Austria.
In 1996, the Group created the Konserwa Polska Sp.zo.o. company in Poland in order to develop its sales activities in Eastern Europe.
In September 2003 Juver Alimentación S.A., leader in the Spanish juice market, was acquired from the Swiss multinational, Hero.
The progressive increase in Conserve Italia’s activity and industrial dimension has also been accompanied by plant rationalisation and specialisation.
This process also enabled, in 1994, the merger by incorporation of the third degree consortium into a second degree consortium which meant that production plants were thereafter managed by Conserve Italia.
During the same period a rationalisation was also carried out for all of the foreign companies of the group, with the creation of a controlling company S.E.C. S.A. (Société Européenne de Conserves) with its headquarters in Luxembourg; 100% controlled by Conserve Italia.
The legal personality of the company Conserve Italia is that of an Agricultural Co-operative, whose stakeholder base includes 50 Associates of which 48 are co-operatives which bring together over 14,000 agricultural producers (farmers).
A more recent phase of the Group’s development was the construction of a new plant in Pomposa (FE). This hi-tech plant, with a total area of 440,000 sq.m. is number one in Europe for its dimensions with a capacity to process over 350,000 tonnes per year of produce (tomatoes, vegetables and preserved fruit).
The plant, inaugurated in June 2003, represents an important landmark for the Ferrara economy.
In September 2004 Conserve Italia acquired the Cirio and De Rica S.p.A. company following to its bankruptcy. Conserves Mediterranean S.p.A., a holding company, was created for the acquisition; 51% Conserve Italia and the remaining 49% underwritten by 3 investment banks, financial partners.
The brand Cirio is the leading brand in the tomato market in Italy which therefore enabled Conserve Italia to gain an even more dominant leader position. The industrial assets of acquisitions included two plants in Italy, one in Caivano (NA) and one in San Polo (PC), as well as a third plant in Portugal controlled by the company Sopragol S.A..
Due to market demands and the need to strengthen operations, the following actions were undertaken during 2005/06:
- closure of Konserwa Polska company in Poland and the appointment of a local distributor for sales activities for the Valfrutta brand;
- closure of the holding company Société Européenne de Conserves;
- cessation of activities in the Portuguese company Sopragol S.A. for the Cirio and De Rica S.p.A. activities.
In July 2006 Conserve Italia acquired the remaining 49% share package of Cirio and De Rica S.p.A., hence completing a phase of its external growth.
In 2007 Cirio De Rica S.p.A. was incorporated in to Conserve Italia and the San Polo (PC) plant was partly sold (production area) and partly reconverted into a new Logistic Distribution centre for the Group.
In 2008 Conserve Italia's industrial plan has been completed with the sale of the Caivano plant in Naples, former plant of the Cirio De Rica S.p.A., to the Giaguaro Group.
Starting from 1st of April 2009 Mediterranean Growers Ltd changed its legal personality of a subsidiary trading company to a trading agency: this transition strengthens Conserve Italia's position. The business in Great Britain and Ireland is commercially managed in the UK with all the logistics and the administrative activities now are carried out from the headquarter located in Bologna (Italy).
April 26th 2009 the procedure of liquidation of the company Konserwa Polska Sp.zo.o. was concluded.
On 27th April 2009 the new company Tera Seeds S.r.l. consortile was created pursuing the aim of developing a direct role in the management of the seeds. Tera Seeds is controlled for 90% by Conserve Italia and for 10% by Agrintesa.
Starting from 1st of July 2010 Warburger GmbH changed its legal personality of a subsidiary trading company to a trading agency: this transition strengthens Conserve Italia's position. The business in Germany, Scandinavia, Holland and Austria is commercially managed in Germany with all the logistics and the administrative activities now are carried out from the headquarter located in Bologna (Italy). With this operation ends the rationalization phase of the corporate structure of the Group.
In December, 2013, Conserve Italia sold the brand De Rica to the company Generale Conserve, based in Genoa. The transfer of ownership went into effect in May 2014.
Starting from February 2014 Warburger GmbH changed its company name in Conserve Italia Deutschland GmbH, after moving the head office from Warburg to Frankfurt.
The sale of the business unit "fruit" of the company Conserves France has been completed on September 30th 2015. It was made of the factory of Vauvert, specialized in processed fruit, and the brand St Mamet.
Two new companies were founded in 2015 and 2016, Conserve Italia Australia Pty Ltd and Conserve Italia USA Corporation, with the aim of supporting and developing sales in the Australian and US markets.
Finally, June 2021 saw the completion of the leasing of the OPOE (Organizzazione Produttori Ortofrutticoli Europa) business complex in Dodici Morelli di Cento (FE), specialising in the production of tomato purées, pulps and semi-finished products. On 1 February 2023, Conserve Italia became the owner with the Court of Ferrara - Bankruptcy Section - deciding in its favour.
Over the past 40 years Conserve Italia’s turnover has grown from 12 million Euro (1979) to 891 million Euro in 2022.
Today, thanks to the integration process that has taken place over the years, Conserve Italia Group operates successfully in all of its markets in a coordinated manner with a unique group strategy.
The Groups’ objective is that of creating added value to its products (fruit, vegetables and tomatoes) with a policy investment on the brands Valfrutta, Yoga, Derby Blue, Jolly Colombani, Cirio in Italy and Juver in Spain, hence creating a franchise with consumers.
What appeared, thirty years ago, to be a challenge in the agricultural world has become a European reference point for the agricultural industry: Conserve Italia.