The Spanish subsidiary of Dr Schär is strategic because it remains competitive despite price increases
Dr Schär Spain’s journey started in 2011 in Alagón (Zaragoza) and came about through the acquisition of the gluten-free company Natural Aliment Factory. The firm's then owner, Pablo Bazco, is today the CEO of this subsidiary of the Italian company, which has gone from 45 to 140 employees in twelve years, and with fifty more expected to join them before the end of this year.
As the firm that opened up the Spanish market, Dr Schär specialises in the production of gluten-free products ranging from bread, pasta and pizza to a wide range of doughs, flours, snacks, pastries, biscuits, etc. Following fast on the heels of the recent investment of 6.8 million euros in the Alagón plant, the company has just announced a further investment of around 17 million euros to open a third production line.
Dr Schär first entered Spain with the acquisition of the Alagón plant. What was the vision behind this move?
Dr Schär wanted to continue its expansion in different European countries, and Spain was one of them. This was why the company decided to acquire Natural Aliment Factory, because it was one of their main competitors; it was the perfect symbiosis between ourselves as the market leader in Spain and Dr Schär the world leader.
Why are you investing in a second production line?
We’ve been working with two lines for several years now, and what we've done is overhaul the one that makes muffins and sponge cakes to improve productivity and the organoleptic properties of the products. We've also improved the recipe to ensure that we continue to offer our consumers the highest quality products. The company has invested 6.8 million euros in the construction of the new line. This important investment has also meant that we’ve been able to hire around twenty new employees, which means that there are now some 140 of us.
You’ve just opened this production line and have already announced a third. What’s the motivation behind this decision?
The Spanish plant is very efficient and there is a great work capacity. Added to this are the good results maintained by our plant, and our resilience during the tough times of the pandemic. We have prevailed even in comparison to countries where there are more and better subsidies. The planned investment is around 17 million euros, and in fact work has already started. It’s still early days, but we hope to add some fifty new employees to our workforce thanks to this line. In the ten years that Dr Schär has been in Spain, we have invested around 33 million euros.
When you inaugurate the new plant at the end of 2023, you’ll have quadrupled your workforce in just twelve years. What are your objectives in terms of job creation?
The growth in the number of employees has mainly been due to the expansion of the production plant. The number of workers needed will increase substantially with these two lines, bringing the total to around 200 when we reach maximum production capacity in the next few years. These will be people working in production, technical maintenance and intermediate processes.
85% of Alagón’s total production is for export, and this percentage will increase with the two lines. What is your customer profile?
Our only customers are internal; in other words, other countries within the group that sell the products we make here. For example, the rolls, sponge cakes and muffins that come from our Alagón plant in Zaragoza are sold in the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy.
How important is Spain for the company's strategy?
Our country contributes profitability, productivity and good data. This is reflected in the fact that some of the group's most recent investments have been focused here. Not only that, but we have extensive knowledge of both the gluten-free market and the production processes, because we’ve been working in this area here in Spain for 30 years. What’s more, Spain is a strategic and attractive country because we remain competitive despite increases in the price of production materials and energy.
Together with your facilities, you have a surface are of 10,000 square meters, which means you could potentially double your size. What can you tell me about future expansions?
I can only say that the needs of the group will dictate what we do in this regard, but we’re well prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that may arise.
Are you considering opening another factory elsewhere?
Our company needs to have fresh products close to the consumer, especially bread, to reduce costs, stay competitive and be more sustainable. This is why we have plants in different countries such as Turkey, Brazil and the US, and European production centres in Italy, Austria and Germany.
Photos: Dr Schär