Damien Chapoulart is the group’s Amont Fruitier Director, an exception in the industrial world of fruit transformation. He explains to us what we have to gain by going beyond classic sourcing.
Damien Chapoulart, you’ve been the Amont Fruitier Director at Andros for over 4 years. What’s your journey and what’s hidden behind your job title?
I’m an agronomist by training, originally specialised in wine. To make the best wine, you have to select the grapes at the perfect moment of their maturity and the conditions of vines’ cultivation must be ideal. In cooking, and more specifically, at Andros, the concerns are the same: you need primary ingredients of the best quality, and for that, many, many conditions must be met. Making sure they meet, that’s my role today.
Concretely, that means taking into account all the issues that are upstream of those who buy, transform, or cook our fruit ingredients. At the beginning of it all, there are the farmers, the countries, and the production areas that we need to understand. In the sector of food manufacturing, there’s often the question of sourcing that designates this upstream phase. But sourcing limits itself to an idea of selection: I look at what there is, I find the best and I buy it. At Andros, with our Amont Fruitier, we ourselves create what pleases us, what has the best taste, by taking action throughout production, from farming to the first transformation lab.
Your job as Amont Fruitier Director is one of a kind. Is that made-to-measure Andros?
Exactly! The Amont Fruitier division allows us to be experts of our trade, and to pass on this expertise all the way to the final commercial product. We’re able to precisely describe to a starred chef the characteristics of the citrus used for their compote. We wanted to envision things in their totality, for the long term. Ultimately, it is the tension between mentalities, between performance and sustainability, that allows for our quality supply.
How and with whom do you work in the Amont Fruitier Division?
Our team’s work means never being in the office! We’re 12 people, 6 in France and 6 in strategic fruit-growing zones around the world, permanently out in the field. Our agronomists and experts in R&D go to the production sectors to meet the producers. It’s about integrating, to the maximum, the agricultural and cultural patterns specific to each country. I consider them the sentries who bring back information and build networks to try and extract from them the essence, always adjusting to make sure quality and taste meet. All while keeping in mind the idea of accessibility. Finding the best strawberries in France, but only a few kilos, that’s useless. The idea is to find pathways to create exceptional products.
Creating the exception, that happens through an integrated approach. What do you mean by “integrated” exactly?
To begin, there’s industrial integration: that consists of placing the transformation labs right next to the orchards. This proximity allows us to be an actor in the region, to know the agricultural network, and to be in direct contact with the fresh fruits. That’s perhaps the most important: freshness! To preserve it, you have to be where the fruits are harvested.
Then, the integration is agricultural. We have never pretended to be farmers ourselves. Rather, we wanted to create and make permanent a network of partner farmers with whom we want to go farther than just purchasing fruit. We plant the orchards together, we choose the varieties so that they are perfectly adapted to our products, we harvest them at the right moment, etc. It’s a transparent, partnered approach over the long term, in some cases for up to twenty years.
To learn more about our next articles talking about the work of the fresh fruit or the partnerships with our producers, subscribe to our newsletter!