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Frying high: Potato specialist Lutosa is bringing local flavours to the world
Few products are more widely recognised as Belgian than fries. Accordingly, potato processing company Lutosa takes great pride in its own national identity, aiming to export not just its product but also its local identity, know-how and flavours worldwide.
Its main product is frozen fries, which are offered in many varieties and can be produced to detailed specifications, thanks to its multi-functional production lines. Lutosa also produces speciality potato products, including röstis, mash, wedges, croquettes and flakes.
When it comes to its roots, Lutosa makes sure it gives potential customers, importers and distributors the whole picture. “There’s a kind of storytelling where we guide our customers, so when they visit Lutosa in Leuze, they see one of the biggest fully integrated potato processing facilities in the world,” says marketing director Françoise Saint-Ghislain. “But they also learn everything about potatoes and the feeling of Belgium: a small country full of surprises, humble and enthusiastic persons, and gastronomy.”
The company was founded in 1978 in Leuze-en-Hainaut by the descendants of a family of potato traders, with Lutosa taking the village’s original Latin name. “They were potato traders, buying potatoes from the farmers and exporting them. So when the frozen business was starting they decided to switch from potato trade to potato processing,” says Saint-Ghislain.
Despite its firm local roots, Lutosa now has sales offices in 25 countries over five continents, with its products exported to 138 countries. As part of the Canadian McCain group, Lutosa’s unique B2B business model entails working with partners around the world and helping them develop their own businesses with the Lutosa brand. These partners either operate in other industries, such as meat or poultry farming, or are importers and sellers. “Our business model is really to grow with our local partners, to help them in their own business and develop the Lutosa brand name worldwide,” says Saint-Ghislain.
Wallonia is an attractive location for Lutosa not just because of Belgium’s frites, but also thanks to its highly productive agricultural environment. Its potato fields yield about 48-50 tonnes per hectare. There are two production sites in Belgium, in two of its most fertile regions. The company’s main facility remains in Leuze-en-Hainaut, with a second production site in Flanders. Lutosa production facilities are uniquely integrated, keeping several steps of potato storage and processing under the same roof. These include storage of raw materials and end products in a highly controlled environment, unloading, washing and sorting potatoes, quality control of raw potatoes and end products, and the production lines of its many speciality products.
Thanks to Lutosa’s sustainability initiatives, these integrated processes not only make production more efficient, they also help ensure that almost nothing goes to waste. “We can really optimise our raw material,” says Saint-Ghislain. This entails recycling waste water and producing green energy from the methane gas generated by an anaerobic plant. It also includes reusing residual potato bits, starch and peels, which are collected to make flakes, as input for the paper industry and as cattle feed.
Thanks to its business model, its expertise and the support of Wallonia’s international trade offices, the company’s worldwide presence is rapidly expanding, having tripled the number of countries in which it is present in the past 18 years. With the help of Lutosa, Belgium’s unique flavours may yet take over the world.
This article was first published in the Wab magazine