Interview

Cosfibel's new chapter: What does GPA’s acquisition mean for the French group?

Cosfibel's new chapter: What does GPA’s acquisition mean for the French group?

© Christophe Daguet / STUDIO DIGITALID

Luxe Packaging Insight spoke with Cosfibel founder Alain Chevassus and CEO Marie Sermidiras to find out what’s in-store for the French secondary packaging specialist following its acquisition by GPA Global. From product diversification to strengthening manufacturing, they see a bright future ahead.

Alain, you founded Cosfibel in 2001 and have just sold your shares to GPA Global. What role will you take now?

Alain Chevassus: Yes, I was a majority shareholder, and along with our minority shareholders, we’ve sold 100% of our shares in Cosfibel. I will continue as Executive Board Chairman for a three-month transition phase and will then become a senior advisor to GPA and a member of the European Board. My focus will be consolidating the business, and helping GPA strengthen its leadership via acquisitions.

What does the acquisition bring to each party?

Marie Sermidiras: There is a lot of complementarity and although we are in the same industry, Cosfibel and GPA don’t operate in the same way, so there's very little overlap. We're not in the same industry verticals and don’t have the exact same product offer—GPA isn’t in the gift market for example—so there is no risk of cannibalization. GPA is also very strong in the folding box sector, while Cosfibel isn’t a specialist in this area. GPA will learn a lot from our European luxury positioning and about how we envision creativity and work with European brands.

AC: GPA is very strong when it comes to Anglo-Saxon brands like Diageo, but Europe supplies to two-thirds of the 350-380 luxury brands worldwide. Cosfibel is at the heart of this, with our history of supplying to 100 luxury brands for many years now.

MS: Cosfibel meanwhile will benefit from GPA’s geographical footprint, especially its strong presence in the US and Asian markets.

You mentioned the development of the folding box category, what other product diversification is on the cards?

MS: At Cosfibel we create experiences for the end consumer through three key verticals: secondary packaging, gifting and merchandising. GPA is very strong in e-commerce boxes and shopping bags, so this will help us reinforce our merchandising.

AC: Creating bridges between markets is key. For example, diversifying from wines and spirits into the fine foods segment with olive oil or vinegar. Another example is fashion, which is closely related to beauty.

Have you already started this diversification?

MS: Yes, we began working with a few brands in fashion, watches/jewelry and fine foods last year.

AC: Three years ago, fine food accounted for less than 5% of our turnover, while in 2022 it will be approximately 17%.

And on the manufacturing front?

MS: Cosfibel has a “Make and Trade” strategy, where “make” (or production) is around 10-15% of our business. GPA is stronger than we are in manufacturing, so a key component of the deal is to augment our share of product manufacturing and have a more balanced product portfolio with a larger panel of vertical segments.

Nearshoring is also a big topic, and this acquisition will help us better serve our clients as we will now operate factories on three continents: Asia, North America and Europe.

GPA has its own factories in Poland (resulting from the acquisition of ASG Print), as well as in Asia, Mexico and the US. Cosfibel has four factories in Europe: in Portugal, Spain and two in Belgium. Our Grumbe site in Spain is strong in small, limited quantities, while GPA’s factory in Poland is strong on large quantities.

What are Cosfibel's development priorities going forward?

MS: The acquisition is a key milestone, but it won’t fundamentally change the way we operate. We still seek to increase the quality of execution, both in terms of creativity and security. As we mentioned, the deal will help to further diversify our offer as GPA is bolstering our product portfolio and will boost our manufacturing.

Last but not least, we aim to continue to innovate to find new materials that are more sustainable, and how we use digital tools, such as digital mockups or supply chain monitoring. We recently developed a tool that enables us to show our customers the design, the price and the carbon impact of a specific product. There’s also the question of image, as the pack and gift industry isn’t seen as one that is pushing boundaries. I believe we have a great platform to change the way people view the pack and gift industry.

Cosfibel exceeded turnover of $100m in 2022.

MS: Yes, we just passed the $100m milestone, despite negative currency impacts. At constant scope and exchange rates, we registered growth of 25-30% last year.

AC: Our organic growth will continue. While the market is increasing by 3-4%, we could expect to achieve 7-8% growth thanks to leverage from luxury brands, which are growing faster than the rest of the market.

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