1993 - 2006

The "Club des villes Diester"


Creation of the company Rustica Prograin Génétique. Through its involvement, Sofiprotéol became a stakeholder in a grouping of operators in the seed sector around a leading actor.  


In order to promote Diester®, Sofiprotéol created the Club of Diester® towns (Club des Villes Diester®). This grouped local authorities whose fleets – and notably buses – used Diester® at a 30% incorporation rate. In 1998, this Club already contained 30 members, and in 2003, they became Diester® partners.

"With Jean-Claude Sabin and Philippe Tillous-Borde, we literally combed the countryside to propose that rapeseed-producing regions should participate in constructing the Diester plant in Grand-Couronne." Yves Delaine, Deputy CEO of Avril.


Creation of Novance in partnership with Rhône-Poulenc Chimie. Based in Venette, the company produced and marketed vegetable oil derivatives for non-food uses, such as the glycerin employed in numerous pharmaceutical or cosmetic preparations.

Renault Véhicules Industriels broadened its engine warranty to cover the use of Diester®.


Creation by ONIDOL and the MATIF (France’s international futures market) of a rapeseed futures market, the first of its type in Europe. Its objective was to supply operators with a tool to manage the risks related to price fluctuations.


In October the Diester® plant in Grand-Couronne was opened by the Prime Minister, Alain Juppé. Its 120,000 tonne production capacity meant it was the largest biodiesel production facility in the world. Its highly original financing structure associated grain storage agencies, eighteen French Regions and nine rapeseed-producing Departments.

Bunge decided to withdraw from crushing in Europe. Sofiprotéol became the leading shareholder in Vamo Mills, a subsidiary of the Belgian group Vandemoortele, one of the leading European operators in crushing and present in several European countries. Vamo Mills was entrusted with operating the crushing sites owned by Saipol (Sofiprotéol).


Creation of Biogemma in association with the international seed group Limagrain, together with Euralis and Unigrains. This company, specialized in plant genomics, was notably focused on the resistance of oilseed and protein plants. Sofiprotéol thus made its first step into the sphere of plant genetics.


A major actor in the seed sector

Aware that research to improve crop yields was of crucial importance throughout the sector, Sofiprotéol started to support research on seeds and took stakes in various companies in the sector.

Since the end of the 1990s, as a stakeholder in the biotechnology company Biogemma, the Group was also supporting the federative program on plant genomics, Genoplante (which subsequently became the Scientific Interest Group on Green Biotechnologies), the aim being to improve the yields, disease resistance and quality of plant species.

1998. Acquisition of a stake in Glon Sanders, French leader in the field of livestock feeds and a major market for oilseed and protein crops.  

"The development of Diester since 1993 had caused a significant rise in rapeseed production and hence of oilseed meals for livestock feeds. This product was becoming increasingly strategic for us, hence the appeal of acquiring a stake in Glon Sanders." Alain Brinon, Director General of Saipol, 2003-2015

In 2008, Sofiprotéol created a fund to support research in oilseed (FSRSO) whose purpose was to finance innovative projects in the breeding of rapeseed and sunflower varieties.

1998. Vandemoortele withdrew from grain crushing.

Alliance of Sofiprotéol with Céréol, the oilseeds division of the Italian agrifood group Eridania Béghin-Say. 40% of the French oilseed harvest and 60% of refined oil production were shared between Céréol and Saipol, which would now operate four plants directly. Fifteen years after its creation, the company had thus firmly established its industrial vocation.

1999. Creation of Créagro, a venture capital firm geared towards supporting innovative companies in the agrifood and agroindustry sectors.

A new Chairman for Sofiprotéol

In 2000, Xavier Beulin replaced Jean-Claude Sabin as the Chairman of Sofiprotéol.  A farmer in the Loiret department, since 1999 he had been Chairman of the French Federation of Oilseed and Protein Crop Producers (FOP).

In 2010, Beulin was elected Chairman of the leading French farmers’ union, the FNSEA.


2003 Takeover of Lesieur, owned by Eridania Béghin-Say since 1988. This acquisition of one of the best known edible oil brands in France offered a major market for the oilseeds and proteins sector, notably for rapeseed and sunflower growers.

"When I took over in 2000, my goal was to drive the value chain for grain as far as possible." Xavier Beulin, former Chairman of Sofiprotéol


Sofiprotéol passed the threshold of 50 employees. A European Directive set the incorporation rate of biofuels for 2005 at 2% of the energy value of transport-related fuels, the subsequent goal being 5.75% in 2010.


Founded in 1908 by Georges Lesieur, the company specialized in the production and marketing of peanut oil. During the Second World War, it opened peanut processing plants in Senegal, and units in Morocco and Tunisia for the production of olive oil. By the 1960s, it had become the leading French producer of edible oils and diversified into mayonnaise, ready-made meals and cleaning products. Purchased by the Italian group Eridania-Béghin-Say in 1988, Lesieur was acquired by Sofiprotéol in 2003.


Dominique de Villepin, the Prime Minister, announced a new "Biofuels Plan" which targeted an incorporation rate of 5.75% as of 2008. Sofiprotéol opened a new Diester plant in Sète (southern France) with a production capacity of 160,000 tonnes.  Work started on six new units designed to triple the production of Diester®. Situated close to grain crushing units in Venette (northern France), Le Mériot (north-eastern France), Montoir-de-Bretagne (west coast of France), Bordeaux-Bassens (south-western France), Coudekerque (northern France) and Grand-Couronne (northern France), they started operations between 2007 and 2008. Formation with Bunge of Diester Industrie International, a joint subsidiary for the production and marketing of biodiesel throughout the European Union, outside France.

 "From grain to the bottle: this was the strategic objective which led to the acquisition of Lesieur." Yves Delaine, Deputy CEO of Avril


2004 Acquisition of Puget. Sofiprotéol increased its market share in the high-growth market of olive oils and became the leading manufacturer of edible oils in France.
During a visit to the Diester® plant in Venette, the French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin announced the launch of a “Biofuels Plan”. This provided notably for new authorizations: 800,000 tonnes of biofuels, including 480,000 tonnes of bioethanol, would benefit from a partial reduction of domestic tax on petroleum products. Takeover of Novance (oleochemicals).