The logistics of integrating two large firms, operating from different sites, can be a real nightmare.

But when one of Europe’s largest transport companies, Norbert Dentressangle, took over another of Europe’s largest logistics firms, Christian Salvesen, they HAD to get it right; after all, you cannot sell your ability to handle logistics if you cannot handle your own. Even more importantly, if you compromise on levels of service or quality, you lose precious customers.

Two years on, however, the takeover has been pretty seamless and Norbert Dentressangle has since gained several new bakery accounts as a result. Francois Bertreau is CEO of the French and largely family-owned company. He tells British Baker: "The change was threefold: going from a business turnover of E1.8bn (£1.58bn) to one of E3.1bn (£2.7bn) increased our scope and also our business, particularly in England and the Netherlands and largely in frozen temperature-controlled logistics.

"We also increased our pallet network distribution across Europe. In the UK, we now have a turnover of over E600m (£526m). The UK is big in terms of wealth and size and our idea is to develop business here."

Malcolm Wilson, UK MD, says; "It has been an enormous, but seamless challenge. Norbert Dentressangle is gaining a reputation for quality service, flexibility and fast response. We had huge support from France to help us share the vision of how it should be. Change and integration on that scale, when it is well handled, enables you to buy into a vision."

Bakery strategy

Dan Myers is business unit director for food. Previously working with Christian Salvesen, he has seen Norbert Dentressangle’s UK business grow from around six depots and a E40m (£35m) turnover to 83 depots and a E600m (£526m) turnover as a result of the Salvesen acquisition. "We take the end-product off the supply line and sequence the movement of goods, which can be traced at all times until they are transferred to the trailer or delivery unit, and delivered to the in-store or end-customer."

Bakery is probably the industry’s most rapidly moving daily commodity and the company has gained new business, including Délifrance, which came on board last April. Another client is Montana Bakery, whose frozen breads go into Marks & Spencer.

Myers says: "We work with all the major supermarkets and are very strong on in-store. Our strategy is to work with existing customers within the bakery industry, using our skills and competencies to further develop our frozen offering and widen our bakery offer into the ambient sector. We are speaking to new customers and customers who are unhappy with their current arrangements."

He says that growth has been strong, despite the current economic background. "New customers have decided to work with us, not only due to service and cost benefits, but also because Norbert Dentressangle is viewed as a strong, stable business in an uncer-tain time.

"The strength of existing relationships has been improved through a process of strong account development and management, creating tailored solutions in a shared user environment. This has resulted in a greater variety of services being provided to customers, simplifying their supply chain and driving greater value as a result."

So, in two years, the vision has stretched from France right up the M1 to all corners of Great Britain. And as Haley’s comet is not due back for 75 years, if something red and white flashes by in the meantime, it’s more likely to be a Norbert Dentressangle truck.