Arnaud Bonnel, (Food n’Joy): “Faced with the risk of Brexit ‘no deal’, we could not wait”


2 January 2022 Today at 08:09 Brexit, this family business active in food has been preparing for it since 2017. A small step rather than a leap, when we are already struggling with exports outside of ‘Europe. But source of costs and questions. Uncertainty, adaptation costs, administrative burdens – this is what comes up when we survey Belgian companies about the consequences of Brexit. Nothing surprising, but we wanted to know what it meant specifically. So we went to see Food n’Joy, a 25-employee family business based in Dottignies. Specialized in bakery and pastry products. All with a “premium” positioning, says its boss, Arnaud Bonnel. Covid and Brexit, double effect Kiss Cool “Hotels, caterers, restaurants, event organisers, transport or cruise companies: around two thirds of our customers are professionals”, explains the CEO. For the remaining third, this happens in mass distribution, in particular under the Rolph & Rolph brand. Present in around thirty countries, mainly in Europe, but also in North America, Australia, the Middle East and the Far East, Food n’Joy reached a turnover close to 4.5 million euros in 2019. euros. “When it comes to Brexit, it wasn’t until things picked up again in May or June 2021 that we got into it.” Arnaud Bonnel CEO of Food n’Joy Then a pandemic entered the dance. “A big challenge as most of our customers have been closed for a long time.” A forced stop that, in 2020, will eat away at 50% of the activity. 2021 will be less tough, with a recovery in the second half: +50%, enough, however, to remain 25% below 2019. “As for Brexit, it is only when things have recovered, in May or June 2021, we got to the heart of the matter”. Food n’Joy’s advantage is that it was already approaching exports outside the European Union. “We are used to asking for certificates of origin, responding to legal notices about labeling or going through customs”. This know-how was integrated, although it had to be adapted to the UK. Also read Shipping will still be under pressure in 2022. Shared costs “The main change is that we had to register as importers in the UK”. This involves completing a quarterly VAT return on site, carried out by a local service provider. Additional costs involved. Ditto for customs duties . “The scales are very variable and can reach up to 10% of the value of the product”. “We were prepared for this”. Arnaud Bonnel CEO of Food n’Joy Who bears these costs? “We have a long-standing relationship with the on-site partners. After a mature and balanced discussion, it was decided to share them.” Which was not the first. “After the 2016 referendum, when the pound depreciated against the euro, those cost negotiations also took place. We were prepared for that.” An-ti-ci-pa-ció “From 2017, in this uncertainty, we began to develop new markets. Faced with the risk of ‘no deal’, we could not wait and risk seeing a 15% turnover “. Arnaud Bonnel CEO of Food n’Joy You will have understood: the company was not surprised by Brexit. “The UK represented between 10% and 15% of our activity. Our third market, behind Belgium and France.” It also became clear that it was better to bet on anticipation rather than wait and see. “From 2017, in this uncertainty, we began to develop new markets. Faced with the risk of ‘no deal’, we could not wait and risk seeing 15% of turnover evaporate.” New markets taking over as the UK drops out of Food n’Joy’s ‘Top 5’ outlets. “However, not everything is negative”, concludes Arnaud Bonnel. “We’ve been able to continue working with our UK customers. And the added complexity has forced us internally to think about how to make our offering even more relevant to the UK.”
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