Milcobel has appointed Peter Grugeon as its new CEO, three months after the Belgium dairy cooperative “parted ways” with Nils van Dam.

Van Dam left the co-op, which supplies supermarket chains and local retailers, under a cloud in February, with the business citing a difference of opinion with the board of directors over its “vision”.

Grugeon will now take on the CEO position from 1 June. He is returning to the dairy sector after what Milcobel described as an “interim move” to the Multi-Color Corp., a labelling and printing company. His previous stint in dairy was with the family company Inex, where Grugeon served as CEO.

The incoming Milcobel chief has also held various management positions at other Belgium food companies, including bakery goods suppliers Vandemoortele and Puratos, along with fruit and vegetable business Greenyard.

Milcobel president Betty Eeckhaut said in a statement: “Peter’s dairy experience is a strong asset. He understands the challenges facing both dairy farming and the dairy sector.

“Thanks to his diverse functions, Peter has a good understanding of the complexity of the entire chain and brings not only commercial but also operational experience.”

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Grugeon gave his take on the strategy priorities: “We must run a cooperative like a family business. We must turn over every stone to ensure that we ultimately achieve a good bottom-line result and make sufficient profit to actually offer our members that added value.”

As van Dam departed in March, after occupying the CEO seat since 2020, Milcobel referred to the “challenging” business environment, characterised in part by a peak in milk production.

“Volatile markets” and “stricter sustainability requirements” in Belgium were also noted by the Kallo-based business, which sources milk from some 2,000 family-owned local dairy farmers. The co-op also provides ingredients to manufacturers, as well as serving private-label customers.

Grugeon expanded on his aim to boost value-added product offerings: “A market-based milk price is the basis for this. But if we also want to give back more to our members, this is only possible if we are an efficient organisation, where we strive to maximise our result just like any other company.

“That means not only thinking in the short term but also in the medium and long term.”

It was a similar strategy employed by van Dam, who was credited with introducing the so-called Phoenix initiative to boost Milcobel’s value-added ambitions.

Milcobel only issued its 2022 results in March. The co-op registered a 19% increase in turnover to €1.36bn ($1.47bn).

Net profit was €4.4m, down from €10.7m in the previous 12 months.