Vafo Group eyes new pet food acquisitions across Europe

Learn about the expansion efforts of Vafo Group as it continues to grow throughout Europe.

Bcd Insect Food Crunchy Snacks
Vafo Group has recently released a new line of pet food using insect protein, capitalizing on the growing desire for alternative proteins in animal diets. | Photo by Vafo Group

Czech pet food producer Vafo Group is investing in building a new dry pet food factory in Nokia, Finland, with plans for a 2022 opening. At the same time, the company is intensifying efforts to develop its international presence through expansions and innovative products. 

In May 2021, the business completed its takeover of Prima Pet Premium’s operations in Sweden, Finland and Estonia, and it is currently seeking further acquisitions across Europe, according to company representatives.

“We have more than 750 employees in eight factories located in five different European countries,” said Petr Kříž, the head of mergers and acquisitions at Vafo Group. “And we are still actively searching for new acquisition targets.”

2020’s investments enabled the Czech producer to purchase new manufacturing equipment and upgrade its production capacities.

Investments in technological upgrades

“We produce a complete portfolio of premium pet foods, snacks and vitamin supplements,” said Pavel Bouska, the chairman of the board of Vafo Group. “In 2020, we opened a brand new fresh meat factory in the Czech Republic. It’s the most modern pet food factory in Europe, and its advanced technologies have allowed us to further expand our portfolio of premium products. 


Vafo External Plant Image

Vafo Group's pet food production facility is in Číčenice, in the southern part of the Czech Republic. | Photo by Vafo Group

 


“One of the most important machines at the new factory is a thermal twin extruder manufactured by U.S. company Wenger which makes it possible to add a large share of fresh meat to pet food without the need to use dried meat meals,” said Bouska.

Vafo Group’s investments in modernizing the company’s output capabilities come in response to its growing sales. In 2020, the pet food business reported sales of more than EUR265 million (US$313 million) which represented a robust 23% increase compared with 2019. 

“This year, we anticipate the group’s sales will exceed EUR300 million (US$348 million),” said Bouska. “In the next five years, we’d like to grow our dry food production as well as the production of wet foods and snacks.”

Export sales are a major driving force behind Vafo Group’s ongoing expansion.

“Currently, there is not a single market where we have not experienced growth,” said Bouska. “Our biggest foreign markets include the Czech Republic, Germany, Scandinavia, France and Poland.”

New CO2-neutral pet food packaging 

Meanwhile, other major initiatives by the pet food maker include the forthcoming launch of complete CO2-neutral packaging for its Hau Hau dog food brand, which Tereza Alvarez Sone, the marketing manager of Vafo Group, describes as the first carbon-neutral mass market brand, and the launch of a new pet food product with insect protein, Brit Care Dog (BCD) Insect.


Vafo Brit Pet Food

Brit pet food is Vafo Group's flagship premium brand | Photo by Vafo Group

 


Ethical and environmental claims are gaining ground in the pet food industry, and with them we’ve begun to see the emergence of green practices,” said Alvarez Sone. “One of them is the alternative sources of protein, such as insects. For BCD Insect, we use a polyethylene-based 100% recyclable mono material that has been successfully tested, including a shelf-life test, a transportation test and a printed pilot batch with controlled lifecycle.” 

Set up in 1994, Vafo Group says it is a Czech second-generation family-run company which over the past 27 years has grown from 20 to 750 employees across Europe. The business sells its products to more than 75 countries under both its own brands and private labels. 

In 2017, Vafo Group completed its first foreign acquisition, taking over German company Allco. The following year, the Czech firm acquired Finnish company Prima Pet Premium, a leading player in the Scandinavian pet food market. Since then, Vafo Group has bought another five European pet food businesses. Owing to its international expansion, the holding now runs factories in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland and Poland, and operates trade-focused subsidiaries in Germany, Sweden and the U.K.

Asked about the main opportunities as well as challenges that lie ahead for the company, Vafo Group’s marketing manager said that the rising number of pets will boost the demand for premium, high-quality products, in particular in the category of snacks for dogs and cats, the segment that is currently experiencing the fastest growth rate.

“We always invest in the best available technologies and we’re a founding member of the Pet Sustainable Coalition in Europe,” said Alvarez Sone. “We implement initiatives that allow us to actively pursue ethical, environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices, including things like recyclable packaging, profit contributions to animal welfare, CO2 compensation, and support of local communities.”

The global pandemic has also spurred a number of new challenges to pet food businesses such as Vafo Group, according to the company’s head of mergers and acquisitions.

“Currently, our greatest obstacles have to do with the coronavirus pandemic and the gradual return to a state of normalcy, which involves us struggling with things like shortages of packaging materials and ingredients or complications in logistics,” said Kříž.

Another challenge is related to the increased drive toward concentration that impacts all areas of the global pet food industry, according to Kříž.

“We see it at every level in terms of production capacities, distribution, etc.,” he said. “From the viewpoint of the customer this is a positive development, because it will put pressure on production volumes, efficiency and innovation. From the viewpoint of producers, the important thing will be to stay on top of the latest trends. And that, of course, is time-consuming and costly.”

Environmental responsibility will be an absolute must for every single producer, according to Bouska. “In the long-term outlook, there will be fewer producers in the industry and fewer independent retailers,” he concluded.

 

Fast Facts

Vafo Logo

Headquarters: Chrášťany, the Czech Republic

Officers: Pavel Bouska, chairman of the board

Brands: Brit, Brit Care, Carnilove, HauHau, Prima Cat, Prima Dog, Christopherus, Planet Pet Society, Nutrican, Canvit, Let’s Bite, Profine, Sam’s Field

Website/Social Media: www.vafo.comwww.linkedin.com/company/vafo/

Notable: “We make products for pets with passion, love and fun in order to provide the best care. We share a love for animals, and thanks to our pet-friendly offices we get to be with animals 24/7. As a family business, we value fellowship, teamwork and loyalty.”

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