Isabelle Van Rycke puts people back at the heart of the Upsa project

President of Upsa for a year, Isabelle Van Rycke gave us an exclusive interview just before Family Day. A convivial event which will bring together this Saturday more than a thousand people on the sites of the Agen company. In this interview Isabelle Van Rycke unveils Upsa’s new strategy, based on innovation and loyalty to the Agenais territory. “People first” is also the course followed by the pharmaceutical company.

Family Day is organized this Saturday on the Upsa sites. How is this a significant event for you?

Isabelle Van Rycke, president of Upsa. “This day is a way to recreate the bond, to share a little of your daily life with your loved ones and your pride in working at Upsa. We spend a lot of time at work, and it’s important to share a little his professional life with his loved ones. So we are going to welcome families for workshop visits, to show our daily life, but also to experience convivial moments around lunch. After five years of absence, in particular due to the Covid , this Family Day is therefore reborn on September 10, 2022. All employees are invited, and 1,200 people are expected to attend: employees, spouses, family, friends.All Upsa sites are concerned, with the visits in the morning, and most of the entertainment will be offered in the afternoon at the Gascogne factory, in Passage-d’Agen. It is indeed a day for exchanging, sharing, and uniting.”

Upsa is part of the French industrial heritage, and the company is elevated to the rank of institution in Agen. How is this identity, this rootedness, integrated into your strategy?

“Our clover is blue-white-red. We produce all of our medicines and our health products in France, in Agen. This territorial anchorage is part of our DNA, it is one of the strengths of “Upsa. We have been here since 1935, we have two distribution sites, two industrial sites. Upsa is the leading private employer in Lot-et-Garonne. When you develop a business, you also fight for an economic area, for that it is strong and attractive. At Upsa we therefore have a responsibility to maintain this attractiveness, to develop the local fabric, employment in Lot-et-Garonne, and to ensure that people want to stay in a region offering attractive prospects. We have always been anchored in France, and we will remain so, unlike other large groups who have preferred to move abroad. This anchoring is therefore part of our strategy, and we are going to amplify our action in this Lot-et-Garonne area.”

How has this action been articulated since your arrival as President of Upsa?

“Since last year we have seen a 40% growth in the number of our local suppliers, there are now more than a hundred. There are purchases, partnerships, and this goes as far as our factory restaurant Gascony. From now on, orders for fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy products will be made with partners from Lot-et-Garonne. We are a health industry. Food is also health and catering on the circuit short contributes to the well-being of Upsa employees Still in the field of territorial anchoring, we also wish to support the actors of the territory: I am godmother of the Sud Management school, we have forged a relationship with the school We are working with the Chamber of Commerce, particularly in the field of ecological transition, on the Alizé support system for SMEs, without forgetting our partnership with SU Agen, all of this will continue.”

So it is a turn that is operated?

“We have experienced difficult times in the past. There were also the strategic choices of the previous shareholder, losses of volumes, activities, market shares. We lacked a vision of recovery for this company, which was made possible thanks to the takeover by Taisho. This new vision commits us to an aggressive growth plan. The strategic axes are the expansion of product categories, innovation, geographic expansion by further positively strengthening our impact in terms of societal and environmental responsibility. This societal and environmental responsibility also involves our sovereignty in the production of the active ingredient of paracetamol through to distribution.”

Where is the project is Seqens, in which Upsa is involved and which aims to relocate in France the manufacture of active ingredients used by pharmaceutical laboratories?

“The project schedule is held. At the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025, production of the paracetamol molecule should begin. This is an important project, for the government as for us, because we must secure the supply and the pharmaceutical sector, we saw it during the Covid.”

In certain sectors of activity, such as yours, we are talking about difficulties in recruiting. What is the reality ?

“Before talking about recruitment, the priority for a business manager is to support and develop development prospects for employees internally. When we then talk about recruitment, we have conducted an active recruitment policy since it there are more than 120 appointments, particularly in production, which is driven by significant volume gains. It is true that in certain professions, I am thinking of technicians, it is sometimes more difficult to recruit. We must therefore anticipate, be present in schools and training structures, we have to go into contact with young people to make them want to enroll in certain sectors. To restore the taste and desire for our industry, we have integration programs with apprentices, trainees.”

What are Upsa’s big numbers?

“The objective is to make Upsa a brand at the service of the well-being of consumer patients, with a responsible proposal. Responsible socially, economically and also in terms of the environment. This societal commitment makes us different. Our company generates just over 400 million euros in turnover and has experienced strong growth since last year, with nearly 330 million boxes produced at Upsa, 50 million more compared to 2021. we are growing, we are winning markets. We are present in consumer health, via the brands Efferalgan, Dafalgan, the famous aspirin Upsa, Fervex, Donormyl, etc., and a whole range of vitality products with vitamin C, betaine citrate, etc. We are innovating on our historical strategic pillars, for example with Dalfeïne, marketed for six months, which is based on paracetamol and caffeine.We will continue to develop on paracetamol, because unfortunately s the pain will always be there, but you have to act according to the needs of the consumers. They need more well-being (sleep problems, stress, etc.) and support in their daily lives. We are therefore going to develop new product categories that meet these expectations.”

What is your leeway, between a drug price that is fixed, and energy and raw material costs that soar?

“The price of drugs is set by the public authorities for reimbursed drugs. Today we have exchanges with the public authorities, the increases in raw materials being very significant from 20 to 30%. Our manufacturer price is lower than a baguette of bread, 76 euro cents, so in the face of inflation it’s difficult to navigate. However, we are a brand committed to families, we want Upsa’s prices to remain accessible”

Back to foreign markets: what are your next goals?

“The expansion will therefore be in product categories, but it will also be geographical. We have great development opportunities in Central Europe, but also in French-speaking Africa. We are currently launching our products in Kenya and Cambodia. export is one of the growth areas of our strategy.”

Where is Agen in your 2027 Conquest Plan?

“It’s a growth recovery plan, which will also make it possible to boost volumes in our factories in Agen. The Conquest plan is based on our historical commercial strengths and our industrial know-how that we have developed since 1935, and revolves around a very offensive policy of innovation, essential to the development of our economic performance and the development of employment. I emphasize that we have always been pioneers with a strong policy of innovation. At the end of the years 1920, Doctor Camille Bru had imagined an effervescent solution facilitating digestion which then gave birth to other effervescent products such as Upsa aspirin. And he then launched other products. Our clover must reconnect with this character innovative, hence the work we carry out with start-ups and SMEs, and by reviving the spirit of a human family business that Upsa had somewhat lost in recent years.”

People first?

“This vision must be shared: you cannot invest in a company if you do not understand what is going on there. During this first year at the head of Upsa, we wanted to give meaning to everyday Having a vision for a company is essential, but if the vision is not understood, shared and if everyone does not appropriate it, it is doomed to failure. , everyone must feel involved and committed to the project and experience themselves as an important and active member who brings their contribution to the building.People must also feel good, respected, considered and treated fairly. must feel protected, reassured. These are the keys to confidence, essential to success. Any strategy, no matter how audacious, cannot work if it is not identified, understood and shared by all employees. This common history is very close to my heart. To do this, it is necessary to create an environment in which l people feel protected, respected, where they can express themselves. Without men and women, a company does not exist. If the employees do not know that they are each essential, then the project cannot work. 1,500 people are 1,500 individuals, a lot of talents, skills, ideas. We have to value that, and Family Day is also an opportunity for me to thank those who have been running this business for years.”

What is the place of your Taisho shareholder?

“Our reference shareholder since 2019, the Taisho family group, aims to make Upsa its international growth platform. They are very attached to Upsa’s relaunch project and strongly support it, with the employees at the heart of this project.”

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