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Based on provisional results, AGRANA generated operating profit (EBIT) of € 151.0 million in its 2023/24 financial year (1 March 2023 to 29 February 2024), which is in line with its guidance of a very significant improvement compared to the prior year (2022/23: € 88.3 million). Earnings per share rose to € 1.04 (prior year: € 0.25).

Consolidated revenue amounted to € 3,786.9 million (prior year: € 3,637.4 million).

As previously communicated in the Q3 results published in January 2024, AGRANA sees itself confronted with an increasingly challenging business environment since the fourth quarter of 2023/24 and forecasts EBIT for the 2024/25 financial year which will be significantly below the comparable figure in 2023/24. This decline in results will already become apparent in the first quarter of 2024/25.

The Management Board of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG has today also decided – subject to a corresponding resolution passed by the Supervisory Board – to propose a dividend payout in the amount of € 0.90 per share for the 2023/24 financial year (dividend for 2022/23: € 0.90 per share) to the 37th Annual General Meeting to be held on 5 July 2024. This corresponds to a dividend yield of 6.7 % based on the closing price on the balance sheet date (29 February 2024).

The publication of the Annual Report 2023/24 and all the details relating to the annual results for 2023/24 and to the outlook for 2024/25 will take place as scheduled on 14 May 2024.

Change of leadership at AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG: CFO Stephan Büttner (50) was appointed as the new CEO: On 1 January 2024 he will be taking over the role of Markus Mühleisen (57), who will leave the company at the end of the year before the scheduled end of his term in office as CEO on 31 May 2024. Furthermore, Stephan Büttner’s existing term of office, scheduled to conclude on 31 October 2024, has been extended until 31 October 2028.

Stephan Büttner has already held various management roles as part of the AGRANA organisation since 2012 and has played a decisive role in its success to date. As CFO on the Management Board, he is currently responsible for the areas of Finance, Equity Investment Management, Legal Affairs, Compliance, Procurement, IT, Organisation and Investor Relations as well as for the Fruit Division. As the new CEO, he will also be taking on responsibility for the areas of Strategy and Business Policy, Sales Coordination, Public Relations, Human Resources and Corporate Secretariat.

After graduating in commercial sciences from the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Stephan Büttner initially worked at KPMG AUSTRIA GmbH. After moving on to Raiffeisen Ware Austria AG in 2001, he worked as CEO at its subsidiary Ybbstaler Fruit Austria GmbH from 2004. He has worked for the AGRANA Group since 2012. As CEO of AUSTRIA JUICE GmbH, a joint venture of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG and Raiffeisen Ware Austria-AG, he successfully managed the merger of AGRANA Juice GmbH and Ybbstaler Fruit Austria GmbH. In 2014, he became CFO of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG and has also been CEO of AGRANA Fruit since May 2021.

In the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year (the three months ended 31 May 2023), AGRANA, the fruit, starch and sugar company, achieved very significant growth of 23.1 % in operating profit (EBIT) to EUR 63.5 million. Revenue increased by 9.0 % to EUR 966.1 million. “We have made a successful start to the 2023/24 financial year and are especially pleased with the continuing healthy profit trend in the Sugar segment and the good performance in the Fruit segment, where structural measures to boost profitability of the fruit preparations business are already producing results. In the Starch segment, the expectation of a challenging financial year was proved correct in the first three months. EBIT declined significantly in this business segment, due especially to a lower ethanol performance driven by sales prices,” explains AGRANA CEO Markus Mühleisen.

Results in each business segment for the first quarter of 2023/24

Fruit segment

The Fruit segment’s revenue in the first quarter was EUR 401.1 million, up 11.2 % from one year earlier. The revenue expansion both in the fruit preparations and fruit juice concentrate businesses was the result of price changes. EBIT of the segment as a whole increased to EUR 24.4 million in the first three months of the financial year (Q1 prior year: EUR 19.9 million). The earnings result in fruit preparations was significantly above the year-ago level. The improvement was attributable mainly to a positive business performance in the Europe region. The fruit juice concentrate business as well further grew its earnings compared to the already very good year-earlier quarter. This was driven by improved contribution margins of apple juice concentrate made from the 2022 crop.

Starch segment

The Starch segment’s revenue of EUR 317.1 million in the first quarter was steady year-on-year (Q1 prior year: EUR 319.1 million), as lower sales volumes coincided with higher selling prices. Across most product categories, customers now are not fully utilising sales contracts that were concluded in fall and winter 2022 against the backdrop of the then-prevailing tight availability and resulting high market prices. Demand for native and modified food starches as well as saccharification products is more restrained, even in the normally stable food market. Many customers are facing weaker consumption and are increasingly running down their inventories. At EUR 22.1 million, EBIT in the Starch segment was down significantly from one year earlier (Q1 prior year: EUR 29.3 million). A key reason lay in the low-margin ethanol business, as a result of a considerable decline in Platts quotations.

Sugar segment

Revenue in the Sugar segment was EUR 247.9 million, up 20.0 % from the first quarter of the previous year. This growth was driven by a substantial increase in sugar selling prices. EBIT, at EUR 17.0 million, represented a marked improvement from the year-earlier period. The Sugar segment’s very good EBIT in the first quarter of 2023|24 reflected the significantly increased sugar sales prices in particular, as well as many reorganisation measures taken previously.

Provisional, unaudited operating profit of EUR 158 million

The preparation of the consolidated financial statements of the AGRANA Group for the period to 28 February 2023 reveals a provisional, unaudited operating profit of EUR 158 million, which is therefore significantly higher than the Company’s own guidance (“up to + 50 % compared to prior year”).

The provisional consolidated earnings before interest and tax (EBIT)* for the 2022/23 financial year (1 March 2022 to 28 February 2023) amount to EUR 88 million (2021/22: € 24.7 million). EBIT takes into account impairment charges taken against assets and goodwill in the amount of EUR 91 million which were recognised in the half-year financial statements (prior year: net exceptional items expense of EUR 70 million). Group revenue will amount to EUR 3.6 billion (2021/22: EUR 2.9 billion).

AGRANA’s Management Board currently forecasts a very significant improvement in EBIT during the ongoing 2023/24 financial year (more than + 50 %). The assumption is that consolidated revenue will increase significantly (by more than + 10 % and up to + 50 %). Key uncertainties however remain the war in Ukraine and its consequences.

The 2022|23 annual results and the 2022/23 annual report will be published as scheduled on 17 May 2023.

*After exceptional items and share of results of equity-accounted joint ventures

Positive consolidated EBIT guidance for the full 2022|23 financial year remains unchanged

Besides the ongoing war in Ukraine and the volatility on energy and commodity markets, the rising costs of capital in particular necessitated an impairment test of the cash generating unit Fruit to coincide with the end of the first half year (31 August 2022). This resulted in non-cash impairments of assets and goodwill in the amount of € 91.3 million on the operating profit (EBIT) in the first half year 2022|23 (1 March to 31 August 2022).

The operating profit before any exceptional items and results of equity-accounted joint ventures of the Group in H1 2022|23 was better than anticipated and, at € 86.5 million, was considerably higher than the prior year level (H1 2021|22: € 41.0 million). One of the drivers of the strong operational performance was the improvement in ethanol operations. It was also possible to return the Sugar segment to profitability. Revenue in H1 2022|23 rose by nearly 26 % to € 1,792.3 million.

The guidance of a very significant increase (by more than +50%) in consolidated EBIT in the full financial year 2022|23 remains valid despite the asset and goodwill impairment charge (EBIT 2021|22: € 24.7 million). A significant increase (ranging from +10% to +50%) in the operating profit before any exceptional items and results of equity-accounted joint ventures is forecast (operating result 2021|22: € 86.5 million).

The above guidance is based on assumptions that the war in Ukraine remains regional, physical supplies of energy and other commodities are sustained and that the sharp rises in prices, particularly in the commodities and energy sectors, can be passed on in revised customer contracts.

Provisional consolidated EBIT 2021|22 prior to war-related extraordinary items forecast to be around EUR 95.5 million

The AGRANA Group previously anticipated EBIT in the 2021/22 financial year (1 March 2021 to 28 February 2022) to amount to at least EUR 86.6 million (guidance: a significant increase of at least 10 % compared to the prior year). On the basis of provisional, unaudited figures, the Group would generate EBIT prior to extraordinary items associated with the Ukraine war of around EUR 95.5 million (EBIT 2020/21: EUR 78.7 million). Group revenue will amount to around EUR 2.9 billion (2020/21: EUR 2,547.0 million).

The outbreak of the war in Ukraine on 24 February 2022 represents a relevant event for AGRANA as at the balance sheet date of 28 February 2022. Based on the current status of internal impairment testing, Management currently anticipates a largely non-cash impact on EBIT related to asset and goodwill impairments in a range of EUR 65 million to EUR 85 million. The consolidated audit performed by the appointed auditors is presently ongoing at the level of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG. It is therefore not possible at this point in time to exactly define the actual scope of the impairments necessary.

The 2021/22 annual report will be published as planned on 13 May 2022.

In the first three quarters of the 2021/22 financial year (the nine months ended 30 November 2021), AGRANA, the fruit, starch and sugar company, generated an operating profit (EBIT) of EUR 76.0 million (Q1-Q3 prior year: EUR 84.3 million). Revenue was EUR 2,169.6 million (Q1-Q3 prior year: EUR 1,965.3 million).

With solid business performance in first nine months, AGRANA remains on track to achieve significant EBIT growth for full financial year
Markus Mühleisen (Photo: AGRANA)

AGRANA Chief Executive Officer Markus Mühleisen says: “Since the beginning of the financial year we have been forecasting that, after a weaker first six months of 2021/22, earnings in the second half of the year would be better than one year earlier. This outlook was confirmed in the third quarter with quarterly EBIT of EUR 31.2 million (Q3 prior year: EUR 28.5 million). Following this positive trend in Q3, we also expect a very significant year-on-year improvement in EBIT in the fourth quarter. We therefore remain optimistic that, for the full financial year, we will exceed the prior year’s EBIT significantly, i.e., by at least 10 %. Getting there has, however, become much more difficult in the past few months amid a very strong rise in raw material and energy prices.”

Results in each business segment

Fruit segment

Fruit segment revenue in the first three quarters grew to EUR 939.1 million, a moderate increase of 5.3 %. The fruit preparations business saw revenue growth stemming mostly from higher sales prices. Revenue in the fruit juice concentrate activities declined slightly for volume reasons. Segment EBIT in the first nine months was EUR 36.2 million, off 12.3 % from one year earlier. The principal reason for the deterioration lay in weaker sales of fruit juice concentrates from the 2020 crop, which were marked by reduced delivery volumes in combination with lower contribution margins of apple juice concentrates in the first half of 2021/22.

Starch segment

Revenue in the Starch segment in the first three quarters of 2021/22 was EUR 737.8 million, or a significant 18.8 % more than a year ago. Higher volumes of core products and by-products were demanded than in the same period of the prior year. In the ethanol business, Platts quotations reached historic highs in the third quarter and averaged 24 % stronger in the first three quarters of 2021/22 than in the prior-year comparable period. Segment EBIT in the first nine months, at EUR 53.5 million, eased by 8.5 % from the year-earlier level. The main reason was a significant year-on-year increase in prices for raw materials (wheat and corn/maize) and energy, which could not yet be fully offset by adjusting product prices.

Sugar segment

The Sugar segment’s revenue in the first three quarters of 2021/22 grew to EUR 492.7 million, up 8.8 % from one year earlier. In addition to renewed high sales volumes with resellers, there was also a recovery in the industrial customer segment, where more sugar was sold than in the same period last year. While the EBIT result in the first three quarters of 2021/22 was better than in the year-ago period, it remained negative at the nine-month mark, at a deficit of EUR 13.7 million. This still reflected the fact that AGRANA’s own sugar production had been below average after the pest-related small 2020 harvest, with a resulting lower margin from the necessary compensatory reselling and refining of sugar.

Outlook

For the full 2021/22 financial year, AGRANA continues to expect significant growth in Group EBIT, in other words, an EBIT increase of at least 10 %. Group revenue is projected to show moderate growth. It should be noted, however, that due to the extreme volatility in commodity and energy prices and a once again more acute COVID-19 situation – the fourth wave in combination with the advent of the new Omicron variant – the forecast for the full year is subject to a very high degree of uncertainty.

In the 2021/22 financial year, the AGRANA Group is investing EUR 92 million, an amount significantly less than the budgeted depreciation of about EUR 120 million.

Group EBIT target for full year unchanged

At € 31.2 million (Q3 2020|21: € 28.5 million), the consolidated EBIT of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG in the third quarter of 2021/22 (1 September to 30 November 2021) was higher than expected. The key driver was considerably higher revenues in the Starch segment due to an all-time high of ethanol prices.

As a result, in the first three quarters of 2021/22 (1 March to 30 November 2021), AGRANA generated earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of € 76.0 million (Q1-3 2020|21: € 84.3 million). Group revenue amounted to € 2,169.6 million (Q1-3 2020|21: € 1,965.3 million).

The guidance for the full financial year 2021/22, according to which Group EBIT will increase significantly, remains unchanged; the forecast is for earnings before interest and tax to rise by at least 10 %.

Due to the extreme volatility in terms of commodity and energy prices as well as the COVID-19 situation again intensifying – the fourth wave in combination with the appearance of the Omikron variant – the forecast for the full year is characterised by a very high degree of uncertainty.

Further details relating to the development of business in the first three quarters of 2021/22 and more information about the various segments will be published by the Group as scheduled on 13 January 2022.

The fruit, starch and sugar group AGRANA is extending its presence in Asia and acquiring the fruit preparations business of the local food producer Taiyo Kagaku Co. Ltd. AGRANA Fruit Japan Ltd. will be starting with the production of fruit preparations on 1 April and therefore now includes a fourth Asian country in addition to China, India and South Korea. As the global leader in fruit preparations, AGRANA now maintains 26 production sites in 20 countries.

The fruit preparations plant in question is located in Yokkaichi, in southern Japan, around 100 km east of Osaka. From there it will supply customers in Japan’s bakery products sector as well as dairies and ice cream producers. Japan has a constantly growing market for fruit preparations with a volume of around 60,000 metric tons and forecast annual growth of 2-3 % a year.

“The acquisition of this Japanese fruit preparations plant from TAIYO is an important step as part of our expansion in Asia. The growing Japanese market for fruit preparations is characterised by high quality demands and innovations. This ties in perfectly with our high quality standards and the innovative direction as the global market leader in the fruit segment, where we satisfy the needs of our customers with a wide portfolio – ranging from standard fruit preparations for yoghurts and ice creams to premium-segment fruit solutions such as sauces, condiments, fillings and smoothie bases,” explains the CEO of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG, Johann Marihart.

Fruit preperations at AGRANA
AGRANA’s fruit preparations contain top quality fruit which is either puréed or diced and used in dairy products or in the ice cream and bakery products industries. These products are individually designed by AGRANA on the basis of close development-related collaborations with customers. In addition to fruit preparations, AGRANA also offers innovative preparations with “brown flavours” such as caramel, coffee or vanilla as well as so-called inclusions (e.g. chocolate balls). In addition to the food processing industry, AGRANA also supplies its fruit preparations to fast-food companies and food service providers.

To date, AGRANA had been expecting an overall annual EBIT in 2020/21 of at least € 87.1 million. Following a provisional review of the figures, the Group is now expected to achieve provisional earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) in its 2020/21 financial year in an amount of € 78.7 million (prior year: € 87.1 million). Group revenue will amount to around € 2,550 million (2019/20: € 2,480.7 million).

Besides the anticipated, significantly weaker, operating performance in the fourth quarter 2020|21, extraordinary items in the fruit preparations business are the main reason why EBIT in 2020|21 is below the level of the prior year.

The 2020/21 annual report will be published as planned on 11 May 2021.

The Supervisory Board of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG appointed Mr Markus Mühleisen, MBA, (54), to the position of CEO of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG for a period of three years with effect from 1 June 2021. Originating from Düsseldorf (Germany), this manager succeeds Johann Marihart (70), whose mandate as CEO was extended by a period of three months and who will enter retirement on 31 May 2021. Mühleisen will be responsible for the areas of communication, strategy, human resources and business policy, among others.

For Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Erwin Hameseder, who oversaw the selection process for the new CEO, Markus Mühleisen has all the relevant qualifications and experience to lead the AGRANA Group: “I am delighted about the appointment of Markus Mühleisen. He has acted successfully in diverse management positions and has considerable international experience in the food and luxury food industry. Markus Mühleisen will ambitiously strive to continue the successful development of AGRANA.”

Markus Mühleisen has been active in the food and luxury food sector for more than 20 years, including positions at Nestlé, General Mills and, since 2018, at the international dairy group Arla Foods as its Group-Vice President. He has comprehensive international management experience, particularly in the areas of marketing and strategy. “The AGRANA Group is a strong, innovative and well positioned company with lots of potential. I am very much looking forward to writing the next chapter in the company’s success story alongside my fellow board members and the entire AGRANA team,” says Markus Mühleisen.

AGRANA: Markus Mühleisen succeeds Johann Marihart as CEO from 1 June 2021
Johann Marihart (Photo: AGRANA)

At its meeting on January 29th, the Supervisory Board of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG expressed its deep-felt appreciation to Johann Marihart for all his work as CEO over what has been nearly three decades. AGRANA Supervisory Board Chairman Hameseder: “The successful development of AGRANA has been closely linked to Johann Marihart. Under his leadership, AGRANA grew to become a successful international industrial player. Revenues have increased seven-fold during the Marihart era. Besides the successful expansion in Europe, one of his other major achievements has been establishing the Fruit Division. He was central to the Company establishing a further division for diversification purposes – a strategy which has paid off particularly during difficult economic times and one which makes AGRANA fit for the future.”

Forecast: EBIT at least matching prior-year level

AGRANA, the fruit, starch and sugar company, generated operating profit (EBIT) of € 55.8 million in the first half of the 2020|21 financial year, a moderate increase of 7.9 % year-on-year (H1 prior year: € 51.7 million). The Group’s revenue rose slightly to € 1,309.3 million (H1 prior year: € 1,250.0 million).

AGRANA Chief Executive Officer Johann Marihart says: “Much of our positive business performance can be credited to the diversification of our business activities, which enables us to balance out fluctuating economic conditions in the various segments. Thus, in the first half of the year, the Starch segment was able to maintain the prior year’s EBIT earnings despite significantly weaker starch sales in the paper sector, thanks to the very strong performance in bioethanol especially in the second quarter.”

Helping make the year-on-year growth in Group EBIT possible was the Sugar segment, which, as in the first quarter, saw a year-on-year improvement in earnings in the second quarter as a result of higher sugar prices. The Sugar segment’s EBIT nonetheless remained negative. In the Fruit segment, AGRANA was able to hold earnings in the fruit preparations business in line with the first half of the prior year. The performance of the fruit juice concentrate business was down significantly due to lower available volumes from the 2019 apple crop.

AGRANA boosts EBIT and revenue: Results for the first half of 2020|21 (ended 31 August 2020)
(All Photos: Agrana)

Net financial items amounted to an expense of € 9.1 million (H1 prior year: expense of € 7.9 million). After an income tax expense of € 12.3 million, corresponding to a tax rate of about 26.3 % (H1 prior year: 34.0 %), profit for the period was € 34.4 million (H1 prior year: € 28.9 million). Earnings per share attributable to AGRANA shareholders increased to € 0.54 (H1 prior year: € 0.43).

Net debt at 31 August 2020 amounted to € 479.6 million, up € 15.6 million from the year-end level of 29 February 2020 (year-ago level of 31 August 2019: € 423.6 million). The gearing ratio rose accordingly to 36.1 % as of the quarterly balance sheet date (29 February 2020: 33.5 %; 31 August 2019: 31.2 %).

AGRANA boosts EBIT and revenue: Results for the first half of 2020|21 (ended 31 August 2020)

The Fruit segment’s revenue in the first half of 2020|21 rose slightly year-on-year, by 1.0 %. In the fruit preparations business, revenue remained stable despite somewhat lower sales volumes. Revenue in the fruit juice concentrate activities saw an increase from a year ago, thanks largely to higher prices for apple juice concentrate produced from the 2019 crop. EBIT of the Fruit segment was off 16.6 % from the first half of 2019|20. The reason for the deterioration lay in lower delivery volumes in the fruit juice concentrate business combined with reduced contribution margins for apple juice concentrate from the 2019 harvest.

AGRANA boosts EBIT and revenue: Results for the first half of 2020|21 (ended 31 August 2020)

Starch segment revenue in the first half of 2020|21 was steady at the prior-year level. With the full operation of the new, second wheat starch plant, sales volumes and revenues of the products manufactured in-house increased. At the same time, revenue from resold merchandise declined sharply, as the sale of sugar by-products is now charged on a commission basis and the corresponding sales are no longer included in the Starch segment’s revenue. Ethanol quotations, after collapsing in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 lockdown and the steep fall in demand for petrol, recovered again progressively especially in the second financial quarter and even reached a new all-time high in August. Sales volumes of saccharification products, on the other hand, were negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis, particularly with the beverage industry.

EBIT in the Starch segment slightly exceeded the year-earlier result, by 1.2 %. The earnings were driven by the high selling prices for ethanol, which made up for the lower market demand for starch and starch products.

AGRANA boosts EBIT and revenue: Results for the first half of 2020|21 (ended 31 August 2020)

The Sugar segment’s revenue in the first half of 2020|21 was up 21.8 % from one year earlier. This growth was attributable both to higher sugar selling prices and increased sugar sales volumes, especially with food retailers. Although EBIT was still negative, it marked a substantial improvement from the same period of the prior year due to a more benign sales price environment.

Outlook

Taking into account potential impacts of the coronavirus crisis, AGRANA expects Group EBIT for the full 2020|21 financial year to at least match the prior-year level. Group revenue is projected to show slight to moderate growth of up to 10%. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the associated high volatility in all business segments, this forecast remains characterised by a very high degree of uncertainty. It also does not yet include any financial effects of a possible closure of the sugar plant in Leopoldsdorf, Austria, after the 2020 campaign.

The drive to secure grower contracts with beet farmers is underway, with the aim of increasing next year’s beet cultivation area in Austria to at least 38,000 hectares by the middle of November 2020. With a three-year contract and guaranteed minimum prices, AGRANA is offering farmers long-term predictability for beet cultivation. Depending on the contracting status in mid-November, a decision will be made on whether to continue operations at the Leopoldsdorf factory or close it down after the end of the campaign.

In the 2020|21 financial year, the AGRANA Group’s investment is expected to amount to € 73 million, which is significantly below the year’s depreciation of about € 120 million following the very high capital expenditure of prior years.

In the first quarter of the 2020/21 financial year (ended 31 May 2020), AGRANA, the fruit, starch and sugar company, achieved a slight increase in both revenue and operating profit (EBIT) despite the COVID-19 crisis. AGRANA Chief Executive Officer Johann Marihart comments: “The key factor in the solid Group EBIT was a very significant profitability improvement in the Sugar segment compared to the same quarter last year. EBIT in the Starch segment was moderately below the year-earlier level, with the decline due mainly to a short-term slump in bioethanol prices at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have since recovered again. Ethanol sales remained stable in volume terms despite the lockdown, thanks to the firm export market for bioethanol with high CO2 reductions and to the sale of 10 million litres into the disinfectant sector. In the Fruit segment, earnings were significantly below those of one year ago. Thus, the performance of the fruit juice concentrate activities was down as a result of the prior-year harvest and there were COVID-19-related decreases in the fruit preparations business.”

Results in each business segment in Q1 2020|21

FRUIT segment

Revenue in the Fruit segment, at € 303.7 million, was off slightly from one year earlier. Revenue from fruit preparations fell somewhat, as a result of lower sales volumes. In the fruit juice concentrate business as well, volumes were the reason for a moderate revenue decline relative to a year ago. EBIT in the Fruit segment was € 16.0 million in the first three months, a reduction of 26.6 % year-on-year. The causes of the deterioration lay primarily in the fruit juice concentrate business, which notably saw reduced delivery volumes in combination with lower contribution margins of apple juice concentrates produced from the 2019 crop.

STARCH segment

The Starch segment’s revenue of CHF 204.4 million was slightly below the year-earlier level. The COVID-19 crisis had a negative impact on sales volumes of saccharification products, and initially also led to a drastic fall in bioethanol prices amid the lockdown and the sharp drop in demand for petrol. However, over the rest of the financial first quarter, bioethanol quotations rebounded again due to the resurgence in private transport. At € 17.0 million, EBIT of the Starch segment was moderately below the year-earlier amount. In the period under review, weaker market demand dampened prices and put pressure on margins.

SUGAR segment

The Sugar segment’s revenue of € 144.5 million in the first quarter was up significantly from one year before. Both higher sugar selling prices and increased sugar sales volumes led to this growth. Although EBIT was still negative at a deficit of € 1.0 million, it marked a substantial improvement compared to the same quarter of the previous year due to a more benign sales price environment.

The detailed financial results are provided in the interim statement for the first quarter of 2020|21 at www.agrana.com/en/investor.

AGRANA, one of the leading food and industrial goods groups from Austria, is increasing its focus on innovations and investing around € 3.4 million at two R&D sites in France and Austria this year. The annual R&D expenditures of the AGRANA Group amount to around € 20 million. AGRANA employs a total of approximately 300 personnel in the area of research and development.

In a highly competitive environment, the strategic objective of AGRANA is to differentiate itself from competitors by means of new product developments in its fruit, starch and sugar business segments.

Fruit preparations: new development centre in France

For its fruit preparations business, AGRANA maintains 17 development centres around the world which work on new formulations, special ingredients and raw materials as well as new application areas for existing products. Five of these so-called New Product Development Centres are located in Europe, namely in Gleisdorf (Austria), Ostroleka (Poland), Serpukhov (Russia), Vinnytsia (Ukraine) and in Mitry-Mory (France), where the development centre has recently been upgraded for € 2.6 million, including the addition of 700 m2 of laboratory space (see image).

“AGRANA is the global market leader in fruit preparations. That’s why it is important to be an innovator and not a market follower with me-too products. In our role as a first mover in regional markets, we try to pick up on new development trends as early as possible. We develop products in close collaboration with our customers in order to reflect local market requirements and these latest trends. Our global network of product developers enables us to launch over 1,000 new fruit preparation products on the market every year”, explains AGRANA CEO Johann Marihart.

In response to specific regional demands and the latest nutritional trends, the portfolio of fruit preparations ranges from top quality fruit purées and inclusions for dairy products, ice creams and bakery products to the latest solutions for plant-based spoonable and drinkable yoghurt products. In addition to fruit preparations, AGRANA also offers brown flavours such as caramel, coffee or vanilla as well as products with inclusions (e.g. chocolate balls).

€ 800,000 invested in expansion of the AGRANA Research & Innovation Centre (ARIC) in Tulln

The AGRANA Research & Innovation Centre (ARIC) in Tulln is the main research and development subsidiary within the AGRANA Group. On an area of around 4,000 m2 at ARIC, 85 employees work on research projects related to fruit, starch and sugar. ARIC is currently undergoing expansion work, with the aim being to create a further 300 m2 for research purposes by the end of the year. The investment volume amounts to € 800,000.

In its fruit segment, AGRANA conducts research into the development of innovative natural stabilisers for fruit preparations as well as processes for sensitively handling fruit ingredients. The aim is to optimally maintain the natural properties of the fruit.

In the starch segment, AGRANA works in accordance with its specialities strategy on the development of special applications. Current focus areas related to food starches, for example, include the development of organic and clean-label products which have not been chemically modified. In the case of technical starches, the focus is on the development of special starches, such as those for use in tile adhesives or green glues as alternatives to synthetic adhesives, as well as on compostable starch-based films.

In the sugar segment, the focal point of work ongoing is on the development of new, environmentally-friendly and energy-saving processes and process steps in the area of production as well as on maximising the efficiency of sugar beet utilisation and the optimal exploitation of by-products, such as extracting betaine.

The fruit, starch and sugar group AGRANA is expanding its distribution activities in its starch segment and has acquired 100 % of shares in the US distribution company Marroquin Organic International Inc. based in Santa Cruz (California). Marroquin Organic has 29 years of experience supplying organic and non-GMO ingredients and has grown to over $20 Million in annual revenue. Marroquin Organic International is a long-standing distribution partner of AGRANA Stärke-GmbH.

AGRANA CEO Johann Marihart: “Marroquin Organic International is a pioneer in the organic and non-GMO food ingredient sector in the USA and enjoys a correspondingly high reputation in the market. This acquisition is a perfect fit in terms of implementing our specialities strategy in the starch segment. AGRANA possesses many years of experience in the production of specialty starches and is increasingly focusing on baby food and clean label starches which have not been chemically modified. The organic origins and non-GMO status of our products are increasingly appreciated by customers and users alike, particularly in the USA where, with starch largely being based on genetically-modified corn, demand for non-GMO starches is rising.” With a volume of USD 17 billion (2017), the US market for packaged organic foods, the world’s largest according to Euromonitor, is forecast to grow 8.2% per year in the period to 2023.

Grace Marroquin, founder of Marroquin Organic International: “Teaming up with AGRANA is a natural choice for us. We’ve been working with their outstanding product line for over 20 years, helping the industry to grow and innovate. AGRANA is well-positioned to support the organic and non-GMO market as it continues to grow in North America”. Marroquin Organic International was founded by Grace Marroquin in 1991, when she recognized the need for certified organic, specialty ingredients in the US market.

Specialities strategy

In its starch segment, AGRANA processes potatoes, corn and wheat to make numerous different starch products for the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries as well as for numerous technical applications. With three starch mills in Austria and a production site in both Hungary and Romania respectively, AGRANA has established itself as a key producer of customer-oriented speciality products. As part of its specialities strategy, AGRANA offers the food industry a wide range of non-GMO and organic products.

Production of crystalline betaine under a joint venture between AGRANA and The Amalgamated Sugar Company (USA)

The fruit, starch and sugar group AGRANA is constructing a betaine crystallisation plant at its sugar refinery in Tulln (AUT) under a joint venture with US-based Amalgamated Sugar. The official ground-breaking ceremony for this project took place on April 9th. The new plant, entailing the investment of around € 40 million, will take a year to construct.

AGRANA has been processing the sugar beet molasses obtained during the production of sugar at its Tulln site to make liquid betaine since 2015. The new plant, with a production capacity of around 8,500 metric tons of crystalline betaine per year, will make Tulln only the third manufacturing site worldwide where premium-quality, natural crystalline betaine is produced.

“We are looking forward to a successful partnership to produce premium-quality crystalline betaine. Diversification by means of betaine in our Sugar segment is essential to ideally exploit the full potential of sugar beets. This investment in a greater depth of sugar refining is therefore a top priority in the interests of safeguarding competitiveness,” as the CEOs of AGRANA and Amalgamated, Johann Marihart and John McCreedy, both agree.

About betaine
The natural substance betaine, found in sugar beet molasses, is characterised by numerous positive properties and can be used in many applications. Betaine is a methyl donor and has osmoregulatory properties, aids the liver to process fats, and biologically degrades the amino acid homocysteine, which can damage blood vessels when in high concentrations.

Betaine is used not only in food supplements and sport drinks to promote muscle development, but also in livestock rearing as a component in animal feeds. Due to its osmoregulatory properties at a cellular level, betaine is also used in cosmetic products. In tensides and detergent substances (e.g. shampoos and conditioners), betaine acts to stabilise the formation of foam and also conditions and strengthens the hair.