Led by its president, José Eduardo Carvalho, an AIP delegation visited, on May 28th, the Bonduelle factory, in Santarém. “This trip is part of the Roadmap for the Manufacturing Industry, an initiative of the Association that aims to recognize the performances and quality of management as well as to make it possible for AIP's operational directors to understand the reality of these companies that “drive” the national economy” , said José Eduardo Carvalho before hosts Pedro Mendonça, general director, and Sérgio Marques, director of human resources for the Iberian Peninsula.

The Bonduelle unit in Santarém has been operating since 1989 and is a reference in the national agroindustry. The company has a close relationship with producers in the region, who supply the vast majority of vegetables. There are around 130 farmers, mostly from Ribatejo, who cultivate approximately 1700 hectares of contracted area. “88 percent of farmers renew their contract year after year. This continuous work facilitates good practices. Some farmers are already in their second generation working with us” assures Pedro Mendonça. “Bonduelle supplies plants and seeds of the main crops to farmers and provides technical support, thus ensuring an important contribution to the quality of the products”, he states.

This unit annually produces around 30 thousand tons of deep-frozen vegetables, resulting from the transformation of around 50 thousand tons of raw material, mainly peppers, courgettes, eggplant, peas and broccoli, but also tomatoes, onions, potatoes and corn, among others. A part of the production is destined for the group's premium brand, Cassegrain, which reveals the level of demand in quality. Between June 2022 and June 2023 the company had a sales volume of 43 million euros. In the last financial year, 80 percent of production was exported to other units of the group. It has 88 permanent employees, but makes seasonal hires, reaching 250 employees at the peak of the campaign. As a way of demonstrating its positive impact (on people, communities and the planet) Bonduelle Portugal is in the final stage of the B Corp certification process, a certification that recognizes the high level of social and environmental commitment.

With a photovoltaic production of 1.3 GWh per year, the manufacturing unit seeks to minimize its carbon footprint. Installed in a total area of ​​65 thousand m2, of which 21 thousand are covered, “the factory has four freezing tunnels and has differentiating technology such as pre-fried and grilled vegetables, as well as very advanced technology, with a level of very high efficiency, particularly in the choice of products, including peas, for example, in terms of grain-by-grain inspection and rejection of those that are defective”, says Pedro Mendonça.

Bonduellle, a French family company founded in 1853, sells its products in almost 100 countries. It currently has a sales volume of 2.4 billion euros and employs 12 thousand employees. It has contracts with 2,200 farmers who supply 42 production units, 32 of which are located in Europe. The group only uses vegetables without genetically modified organisms.