Savoura: life after Stephane Roy

Despite the captain's departure and the pain caused by his absence, the temple walls have not collapsed, says Peggie Clermont, who has assumed the role of chairman of the company's board of directors since the fall, replacing the missing man. If the famous tomatoes continue to grow, some projects like expanding the greenhouses will take longer, however, she admits.

Following the hype surrounding the search last July to find the father and his son, missing after having boarded a helicopter to fly over the Parent sector, in the Laurentians, the direction of Savoura is since remained rather discreet, refusing requests for an interview. Nearly six months after the tragic event, Peggie Clermont, who held a financial advisor position under Mr. Roy, and the general manager Caroline Dalpé, who was also Stéphane Roy's wife, agreed to meet La Presse in the facilities of the company in Mirabel. The two women, now at the head of Savoura, talked about what life could be like in a company that suddenly loses its leader.

"During the research, we continued to do our management meetings," says Ms. Clermont to illustrate the fact that the activities continued despite everything. It may sound cold, but nothing has stopped. Production did not stop. Human resources have not collapsed. "

And even during the research, the tomatoes sold particularly well.

"Certainly July was a great month. It's hard to know if it's related to that or if it's July that would have been good anyway. But it's sure we've heard a lot about Savoura. " Peggie Clermont

It was a dramatic event that happened, continues the new president of the C.A., who started working with Mr. Roy in 2011. You have to understand that we were looking for them for 15 days. First, it's the hope of being able to find them. [Stéphane] was such an incredible fighter. We were all hoping to find them alive. On July 25, we will finally find them and they will unfortunately be deceased. That day is an extremely sad day. Hope must give way to something else. "

Stéphane Roy's wife is also among the soldiers who did not let down their guard. Caroline Dalpé literally lived through her mourning in the middle of the greenhouses. "I have never stopped working since the day we have ... [silence]. I was less present, but I was in the office every day, she says. I thought it was important to know what was going on, to be there. The executive director took her first vacation in December during the holiday season.

Reassure employees

"After all that, we looked at each other and asked ourselves: what do we want? "Says Peggie Clermont. Reassuring the 400 employees is what mattered for those who, despite themselves, had to take over the reins of the company. "The employees' concern was very, very great," said Ms. Dalpé. The employees also supported us. "

"We reassured them that there would be no layoffs," added Ms. Clermont. In companies, sometimes, when the captain dies suddenly, there is no succession plan. "

To dispel fears, the duo began a tour of the company's various facilities in September to meet staff and talk to them about the future. The plans are simple: keep the business going, say the two women.


Investments in organic crops, conquering new markets in the United States, launching products, expanding facilities: these are all projects in which the company is starting to embark. With the departure of the man known as "Mister Tomato", however, these may take longer to materialize.

What about the extension of the greenhouses whose work was started under Stéphane Roy? Recall that the plan, valued at $ 125 million, provided for five phases of expansion. The first was completed in August 2018 and is intended for the cultivation of organic tomatoes. There are four more. "We are working to advance phase 2," said the Director General. Construction is expected to start in 2020.

"The projects, we are going to do them in a different way. It is sure that it is a change of direction. So, the bankers, they need to have a succession plan. "Don't slow down the projects? Yes, but it’s just slowing them down or doing them differently. None of the projects that Stéphane had been abandoned." Peggie Clermont

Savoura launched in November a brand new product: organic cerizo. These cherry tomatoes are sold without plastic packaging. "Our next projects are in organic," emphasizes Richard Dorval, general manager of production, also present at the meeting. [And for traditional tomatoes], we no longer have synthetic pesticides in our greenhouses. "

Out of a total of 32 hectares, 12 hectares are devoted to the cultivation of organic tomatoes, for a total of 35% of production. Almost 70% of organic products go to New York and Boston. The company now wants to conquer the center of the United States. The Chicago market is in its sights.

The eternal tomato

Savoura also defends tooth and nail the quality of its tomatoes. Recall that a report from the program Enquête, recently broadcast on Radio-Canada, revealed that giants of the seed manipulated the famous fruit to create the eternal tomato: a product that has a beautiful appearance and keeps more long time. Asked about this, the company completely dissociates itself from what was presented, recalling that the report describes more a European context.

As for hybridization - which involves mixing varieties to create a new one - this is a necessary manipulation in the world of tomatoes, says Richard Dorval. "Why do we have to do hybridizations?" It is because we take two parents together and we are going to have equal seeds, he explains. Otherwise, we would have all kinds of tomatoes of all sizes in the same greenhouse. You can't grow like that. "

Savoura in a few points

  • Stéphane Roy started growing tomatoes in 1995.
  • He acquired the Sagami Greenhouses in 2000.
  • In 2015, Mr. Roy took over all the assets of Serres du Saint-Laurent and the Savoura brand.
  • The company now produces around 16 million kilograms of tomatoes.
  • Savoura has 400 employees.
  • 10 production locations located in Saguenay, Estrie, Gaspésie, Montérégie, Laurentides, Mauricie, Charlevoix and Québec.
  • Six varieties of tomatoes are produced.

Source : La Presse

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