PARIS (Reuters) - France's largest poultry group LDC aims to more than treble its volumes of plant-based products by 2026 and is open to acquisitions in the sector as part of a plan to boost earnings by 40% in the next four years, it said on Tuesday.
The market for plant-based food has soared in recent years, attracting major investment from global agrifood groups, including Nestle, PepsiCo and Archer Daniels Midland, hoping to capitalise on a trend towards healthier eating.
"Our ambition is to accompany the flexitarian movement with the aim to reach 10,000 tonnes of products (from 3,000 tonnes currently) by 2026, for sales of 60 million euros ($64 million), just through organic growth," LDC's new chief executive Philippe Gelin told reporters.
"In addition we will be open to all opportunities that could arise in terms of external growth on these products," he added.
Yet plant-based meat will remain a small part of LDC, which is focused mainly on fresh poultry and ready-cooked dishes.
The group, which made 5.1 billion euros of sales in 2021/22, up 14.5% year-on-year, is aiming for 7.0 billion by 2026, and a 40% rise in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) to 560 million euros.
Gelin declined to give guidance for the 2022/23 financial year, saying there were too many unknowns at this stage, both in terms of volumes and prices.
LDC expects a fall in group poultry output of 12-15% in March-August due to France's worst ever bird flu crisis.
It still needs to pass on to customers a large portion of the higher costs it is facing due to the recent surge in the price of grains, which make up most of the diet of poultry, Gelin said.
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(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Mark Potter)