In almost 200 years of existence, the family SME Daudruy (€525 million in 2023 turnover, 200 employees) has had many opportunities to develop its model. Originally specializing in the outfitting of fishing boats, the Dunkirk company turned its attention at the end of the 19the century towards the oil trade. First, cod liver oil, then vegetable and animal oils. It was in 1966 that the company moved from import-export to production by launching into refining, with increasingly large volumes.
Today, Daudruy refines 150,000 tonnes of oil and 2,000 tonnes of organic oil each year. On the five lines at its Dunkirk site, the oils are treated, depending on the case, physically or chemically, to improve their color, smell and taste, as well as their shelf life. From frying oil to the most precious cosmetic oils, all can pass through the hands of Daudruy, who then delivers the finished product in bulk, in packages of 5 liters to 1,000 liters. Working exclusively in BtoB, Daudruy addresses the market of chemicals (36% of its production), human food (26%) and livestock (26%), petfood (11%), and cosmetics ( 1%). 30 to 40% of its turnover is made through export, to Europe.
“We are the Swiss army knife of oils,” summarizes Dominique Daudruy, who took over the family business in 2000. He today shares governance with his son Arthur and his daughter Ameline, both of whom have a stake in the capital. “We can do everything, whereas the very large players facing us are ultra-specialized in a single type of oil, which they produce in enormous quantities. We can demonstrate much more flexibility, and respond to requests, in small or large volumes, from the day to the next day.”
Effects of the Covid years
This agility has brought Daudruy great opportunities in recent years, which have seen supply chains disrupted by Covid, then by the war in Ukraine, which particularly affected the oilseeds market. However, the effect is temporary, and the strong increase in the company’s turnover, which achieves 525 million euros this year, is a sham, tempers Ameline Daudruy, development manager within of the company. “Our turnover is usually around 340 million euros, the recent increase is really a mechanical effect of the increase in raw material prices.”
“We are looking more at our net profit, which remains at a regular level of growth,” adds Dominique Daudruy. “Our markets are overall very stable. And if the events of recent years have occasionally brought us new customers looking for new partners, we can clearly see that it is difficult to keep them, as soon as the situation returns to normal. To continue to grow, we tend to go into new markets, or to innovate to improve the profitability of our operations.”
A successful first pivot
A first pivot was thus successful in the 2000s, when the arrival of refining giants in the port of Rotterdam weakened Daudruy’s position. The company then diversified into the production of biodiesel, and created its dedicated subsidiary, Nord-Ester, in 2006. “We first worked with rapeseed oil, but quickly it appeared untenable to us. to produce fuel with a noble, food-grade product. So, in 2010, we evolved the process to work from category III animal fats, unfit for human consumption, before moving, in 2013, to treatment used oils”, recalls Ameline Daudruy. To ensure its supply, Daudruy bought Oléovia in 2014, the third French player in the collection of used oils. Today, Nord Ester produces 200,000 tonnes of B7 and B100 per year, and the subsidiary represents 50% of the consolidated turnover of the group, which uses part of its production to operate its own fleet of 27 tankers.
Towards a new diversification
Daudruy does not intend to stop there on the path to diversification, still in green energy. This time it takes the imposing form of an enormous methanization unit, with three 5,500 m digesters.3, recently established on the industrial site. The result of an investment of 15 million euros, including 1.1 million euros of ERDF funds, the installation of approximately 15,000 m² required three years of studies, and two years of implementation. Nord Metha, the very latest subsidiary of Daudruy, injected methane into the general network for the first time in July 2023. “We are in the process of gradually increasing volumes, to ultimately reach a production of 750 Nm3 biogas. We currently supply the methanizer with 100 tonnes of waste per day, 80% of which comes from our own industrial process: glycerin, wastewater, neutralization pastes, and filtration soils”, presents Ameline Daudruy . The rest of the necessary inputs are sourced near the site, and the sludge is offered to farmers for spreading. If the yield seems higher than projections in these first months of operation, Daudruy remains very cautious for the moment about the turnover generated by this new activity, which should nevertheless quickly gain momentum.
Indeed, the Nord Metha installation, the largest in Hauts-de-France, and the eighth largest in France, is sized to produce much more than currently. Authorizations are being obtained, which should allow Daudruy to double the rate, to move in the medium term to 200 tonnes of waste introduced per day into the digesters, then even more. Because the objective is not the simple valorization of the site’s co-products in a CSR logic, but rather to create a new source of income for the company. The methanizer could then channel many flows to be recovered in the Dunkirk region, where there is no shortage of agri-food factories. In addition, the SME has chosen to capture CO2 emitted by its installation to liquefy and store it. A resource which could also interest industrialists in the sector, and soon give rise to new synergies.