Originally founded in 1974, SIPAC became part of the Groupe Ballande form New Caledonia in 1991. Since then, they have become one of the largest distributors of retail goods in French Polynesia, where today they represent over 2000 different products. “We focus on four major categories”, explains Mr. Thierry Gabet, General Director of the company, “Spices, fruits and vegetables, cold cuts and delicatessen products, and frozen foods”. Though most of their produce is imported, mainly from California, in 2016 they launched their own brands under the names Boni Selection and Everyday, which have been growing exponentially. Their wide network of distribution includes produce for retail as well as different services for restaurants and hotels.
As the main sector of SIPAC, Fruits and vegetables saw impressive growth in the last year, with sales going from 3.6 to 4.3 billion francs. This has been due in part to their efforts to increase their local sourcing. By paying local producers in cash and dealing directly with them to ensure the best quality products, they hope to reduce their imports, which currently represent 60% of all produce. “Local production can be quite anarchic, with many variables”, says Mr. Gabe, “We need to ensure the freshest produce for restaurants, and maintain great quantities for retail, so we can’t move directly to local sourcing yet, but we are committed to increase it”. Another factor of their success is their constant search for innovation, adding services like their VIP restaurant deliveries and niche products like gluten free and vegan options for customers, as well as organic produce and other health- minded foods.
In a country that spans an area similar to that of Europe, one of the biggest challenges in food distribution is ensuring the quality and freshness to all the islands. For this reason, SIPAC pays special attention to maintaining the cold chain, with special refrigeration boxes in all produce transport. “We made a system to take care of the products which our competitors don’t use”, explains Mr. Gabe, “We centralize all routes on Bora Bora and other islands, and from there product goes to each restaurant, store and hotel”. As one of the few large scale distributors that don’t work with retail giants, SIPAC has found its strength in working directly with small producers and finding new ways in which to market their products. “We created much of the demand that exists today”, adds Mr. Gabe, “We did it by simply offering new ideas and thinking of different ways to develop the market”.
“We work with the government to develop projects aimed at solving the obesity problems of our country”.
Through their work with local producers, SIPAC also advances an important responsibility agenda, advocating for sustainable development. “90% of our employees are Polynesian”, says Mr. Gabe, “This is important for us because we are interested in actively participating in our community, and contributing to the national welfare”. As part of their sustainability program, they have also introduced residue classification and plastic container reductions at both their stores and their shipping facilities. “Another important aspect for us is health”, adds Mr. Gabe, “We work with the government to develop projects aimed at solving the obesity problems of our country”.
“We focus on four categories : spices, fruits and vegetables, cold cuts and delicatessen products and frozen foods”.
As they continue to grow locally and discuss expansion possibilities, SIPAC will keep focusing on the pillars of quality and innovation as a strategy going forward. “The key to our success has been the ability to be open to new ideas”, says Mr. Gabe proudly, “We are always looking for new partnerships, new possibilities or new alliances”.
We are very interested in external expansion, into other regions, other markets and other products, mainly in the Pacific, of course. We are also interested in sourcing, especially in the United Stated, in the West Coast, and we already deal with dry foods, Fruits & vegetables and frozen food there and have an office there in California. It is important to have a presence there to control our operations there and the products we buy there.