In 1963, Luciano Martini started a production plant in the district of Lavezzola (Ravenna, Italy) for producing lard which was later amplified to also include the refinement of vegetable oils and fats. He had an ambitious project in mind: to create a large-scale company specialising in the processing and sale of edible fats and other products supplying the confectionery industry.
Unigrà is in the business of transforming and selling oils and fats, margarine and semi-processed products to produce food, especially confectionery.
Founded in 1972 by Luciano Martini, over the years the company has developed its mission to produce top quality primary ingredients, semi-finished and finished products for all the channels in the sector: Industrial, Artisanal, Retail and Ho.Re.Ca.
Unigrà’s success is based on clear, winning ideas: constant research into the best primary materials and top quality, ongoing investments in cutting-edge production technology, a strong focus on customer demands and determination to achieve increasingly ambitious results.
Unigrà is now an international business with revenues exceeding 600 million Euros, exporting approximately 40% of its turnover from the business of its 14 foreign subsidiaries, 2 branches and an extensive network of distributors and importers in over 100 countries worldwide.
Unigrà is still being managed by the founder, Luciano Martini, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and his son, Gian Maria Martini, CEO, who ensure that the fundamental values at the heart of the company are upheld.
Unigrà is born
The idea became reality in 1972 with the creation of Unigrà. In 1974, the growing size of the production facility led to the transfer of the company from the town to an outlying industrial area in Conselice (Ravenna, Italy) where it is currently located. Increasingly large investments were made in machinery and specialised personnel.
The processing of vegetable fats, margarine, chocolate and compound chocolate were added to the processing of animal fats. The path of diversification in the business activities began by progressively increasing the range of products for the food industry and for professional confectioners and bakeries.
The processes of hydrogenation and inter-esterification, esterification were introduced in the refinery which allow the characteristics of the oils and fats to be modified to obtaining solid or semi-solid fats.
The company continued to grow exponentially. The production plant was expanded with the commissioning of new departments to produce vegetable creams and other UHT products and the design of avant-garde processes such as the new refinery units. The process of diversifying the business began: Unigrà entered the ice cream sector with a range of dedicated products. Luciano Martini’s sons joined him in running the business, helping him to carry on the grand business project.
The company’s presence outside Italy became more significant with the setting up of the first distributors abroad: with the creation of Master Martini Ibérica in Spain and Zao Unigrà in Russia.
2000 and beyond
Unigrà asserted itself as a leader in Italy in the refining and processing of vegetable oils and business in the artisanal channel was strengthened thanks to the creation of the I.F.S. company in 2006. - International Food Service & Partners S.r.l: with the brand GLF, Unigrà focused on innovation, capillary distribution network and service.
The customer base grew internationally as well, by setting up additional subsidiaries in the major European export countries. In 2003, the subsidiary company in the Ukraine was founded followed, in 2004, by the ones in Poland and Greece, and the year after the distribution company was set up with its headquarters in Prague, in the Czech Republic.
The logistical efficiency of the plant also grew with the implementation of an automated warehouse at a controlled temperature. The production facilities were also developed by introducing the dry fractionation line for processing oils without the use of chemicals.
The work on the 58 MW power plant was completed in 2008 to produce electricity from bioliquids which represented an important step towards optimising the production processes by using by-products from the refining.
2010 and beyond
The refining department was further developed to include the start-up of 6 dedicated lines overall, each one for a specific type of oils and fats and all based on ice-condensing, vacuum technology, among the best available for the integrated pollution prevention. Continued expansion abroad led to the opening of a subsidiary in Chile in 2010 and ones in Brazil and Peru. At the same time, representative offices were opened in Singapore and Hong Kong, which were converted into branch offices soon after. The logistic efficiency received a significant boost thanks to the implementation of an innovative automatic transport system consisting of laser shuttle links which connect different areas of the plant with the three automated warehouses that house the finished products for a total of 35,000 pallet slots in an area with a controlled temperature, in addition to 10,000 pallet slots for ingredients and 5,000 places for packaging. The process of diversification: continued. Unigrà made significant investments in the creation of three new plants to produce water-based cream fillings, roasted hazelnuts and hazelnut paste, fondant icing and coloured sugar paste. The new anaerobic digestion plant was launched to produce biogas which was part of the broader project of environmental sustainability promoted by the company. In 2015, Unigrà made its debut in the large-scale retail market with OraSì, the product line based on 100% Italian soya and rice, with a view to integration with other farming businesses which are part of the Group. The new soya and rice extraction plants were opened soon after to complete the production chain. In 2016, the project to build the new headquarters of Unigrà got under way at the historic site in Conselice (Ravenna), near the heart of the company’s production site.
NEW ACQUISITIONS AND NEW PLANTSIn 2018, the companies Olfood S.p.A and D+F S.r.l. were acquired. The former is specialised in the processing of vegetable and animal oils and fats, the latter in the manufacturing and marketing of bakery products, confectionery and bread-making, sweet or savoury, frozen food. The industrial tests started in the plant located in Malaysia, which constitutes a strategic production investment by the Group to control the APAC area. In the year 2020,on the other hand, production has started in the Brazilian plant at Sorocaba (State of San Paolo). 2020 was also the inauguration year of Unica, the Group’s advanced training school. It is an all-round project for the food sector, ranging from confectionery to bread making, from ice-cream to chocolate production, including cookery, through complete and multi-disciplinary pathways on the most advanced techniques and practices in the Italian and international food industry; it is aimed at artisans with a view to creating a culture in respect of ingredients and processing methods.