In late November 2014, Nutriad Inc., a subsidiary of the multinational Nutriad group, held a ground-breaking ceremony for a 50,000-plus square foot production complex in Hampshire, Illinois, where it also intends to build new offices and laboratories.
The new facility will manufacture palatability and digestive performance products, and will support six company warehouses located in US, Canada and Mexico.
The year 2015 will see Nutriad further increase its position in the North American market, which is likely to undergo rapid changes in the short term as the search for alternatives to antibiotics in animal nutrition gears up. This year, Nutriad will also seek to spend even more time directly with its customers and increase its visibility in the market place.
Feedinfo News Service spoke to Erik Visser, CEO of the Nutriad group, to find out more about the North American potential for the company and what else is in store for Nutriad in the coming months.
Feedinfo News Service: Nutriad is a known producer of additives, preservatives and flavoring substances for the feed industry. Despite its "medium size", the company has a relatively large portfolio of products. Today, which products would you say are spearheading Nutriad's sales? What are your product portfolio priorities moving forward?
Erik Visser: Our product groups Palatability, Digestive Performance and Mycotoxin Management are the key focus in Nutriad’s commercial strategy. We aim to further grow our leading position in the flavors, sweeteners and butyrates market. Sales into poultry and swine segment are dominant, with ruminant and aquaculture sales also rapidly expanding.
In aquaculture, Nutriad has a strong technical background and sales team in key markets which will enable us to contribute to the expansion of this fairly young industry. We will strengthen our health portfolio to further support our customers in EMS-stricken areas amongst others. Nutriad was the first company to start producing spray dried sodium butyrate for the animal feed industry. We aim to build on that heritage and further broaden our butyrates product line to keep our position as global market leader and access new markets.
We also plan to further strengthen our position in Mycotoxin Management with our mycotoxin deactivator range, Toxynil and Unike. We see our products outperform in in-vitro and in-vivo trials and we will focus on bringing our message to market better than we have done in the past.
Feedinfo News Service: Nutriad’s parent company is INVE BV. Can you talk about the benefits of being part of INVE? Also, in October 2013, Nutriad shareholders Rabobank and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) agreed on the future plans of Nutriad and provided a significant increase in your equity position. How crucial was this latter development in allowing Nutriad to be where it is today?
Erik Visser: The INVE name and brand has established itself in the past decades for its innovative and entrepreneurial approach to the livestock and aquaculture markets around the world. This heritage has provided Nutriad with an excellent network, high level of trust with partners around the world and strong positioning in a competitive landscape.
With regard to Rabobank and RBS, Nutriad was in organizational turmoil when I took the helm of the company in late-2010. Our shareholders have supported Nutriad to finance the construction of a new factory in Kallo (Belgium), restructure the organization and refinance the existing debt. In doing this, the banks have given Nutriad the opportunity to return to a leading position in the feed additive market. Banks have provided the Nutriad Board of Directors and myself with the financial strength needed to build and support a sustainable growth strategy. The improved equity position confirms the trust the banks have in Nutriad management and the positive outlook for the company going forward.
Feedinfo News Service: Nutriad’s new plant in Illinois, USA is expected to be operational in Q2-2015. During the November 2014 ground-breaking ceremony, you said that Nutriad feels committed to the North American market. Could you provide an overview of Nutriad's presence in this market and what your objectives may be?
Erik Visser: Our new production facility and laboratory in Hampshire, Illinois will help us continue bringing leading edge technology and value to our customers. Nutriad’s top priority is bringing solutions to meet our clients’ needs. And we are extremely grateful because it is thanks to them that Nutriad is the palatability and phytogenic market leader in North America. The new facility is an extension of our commitment to our customers, both now and in the future.
The North American market is a mature feed market but still has modest growth in the range of 1.5 to 2.0 per cent year-on-year. The segment of the market related to specialty feed additives however, is experiencing a dynamic development that is responding to new challenges and opportunities related to the desire to reduce antibiotic use in feed management systems and health programs.
Nutriad is poised to present novel options to address this issue. The new facility with its powerful production platform, will address sustainability and food safety issues effectively with new capabilities to maintain quality, improve traceability and extract efficiencies in production compared to the current situation. Nutriad will also be in an enviable position with the new labs and offices to provide a modern venue to more effectively project its vision in the market and its ability to create collaborative partnerships with our vendors and customers. We are undertaking many new initiatives to present our product portfolio and technologies across North America, including webinars and conferences.
Feedinfo News Service: Would you consider the US commitment to reducing antibiotic usage by humans and animals a major driving force for Nutriad moving forward? How is Nutriad contributing to finding scientifically-proven solutions for the North American market?
Erik Visser: One of the major driving forces for Nutriad is to find suitable alternatives to both sub-therapeutic, but also acute-phase treatment for livestock production. Nutriad is in close contact with its customers on a daily basis and is sensitive to the demands of modern day consumers and public health officials. At Nutriad we do not pretend to be able to solve the antibiotic question ourselves, but what we can do is contribute to this discussion. Nutriad is on the “front line” with producers, nutritionists, veterinarians and world-class scientists putting forth a concerted effort to decrease, and ultimately remove, the large-scale reliance on sub-therapeutic dosages of antibiotics. It will be a slow but steady progression to reach “raised without antibiotics” production systems.
Nutriad is making significant investments, be it in time or funds, in research projects in cooperation with academic partners worldwide to develop new insights and technologies. Our ultimate goal is to improve existing products, to develop new products and to share knowledge with our customers in order to find the best application strategy as every situation is different. We have state-of-the-art laboratories in Europe and a new one under construction in North America.
This allows for the screening of many natural plant-derived bioactive molecules that must first be safe for the host-species and for the animal products entering the human food supply. Moreover, Nutriad has many experts worldwide and we can easily share knowledge between regions. In the case of the North American market we can share the years of experience with our products in Europe where sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics has been banned for many years and where efforts are now focused on reducing also therapeutic treatments.
Feedinfo News Service: In February 2012, Nutriad opened its production plant in Kallo, in the Antwerp port area of Belgium. Today, three years later, how crucial has this facility become? How has the European demand for your products evolved during these past three years?
Erik Visser: Building a factory is firstly about hardware. That is probably the easiest part. Integrating a new production facility into your organization is another challenge. After three years I’d say we have succeeded in doing so. Our Kallo facility allows us to develop products in-house and protect our intellectual property. It also allows us full traceability of raw materials and ingredients. The facility produces for export markets all over the world. We are aware that we are producing feed-for-food and that feed safety is important for our customers. Having production and quality systems in our own hands, we take this responsibility seriously. With regular internal and external audits we ensure we adhere to the highest standards the market has come to expect from us.
As for European demand, we focus more and more on the value-adding technical additives that are produced in Kallo, where our technical and practical expertise contribute to improved performance and health of our customers’ animals. We have seen our market participation in Europe grow in the past few years and project to continue that trend.
Feedinfo News Service: Can you disclose any expansion initiatives underway at Nutriad? Is the company preparing to extend its global presence in any way or grow production capacities in 2015?
Erik Visser: It is not only investments in production capacity that we are after. We constantly invest in our people, increasing sales team presence in local markets and adding back office and customer relations staff to support our growth ambitions. We carefully select our staff as we are interested in long-lasting relationships, both with our employees as with our partners around the world.
We will also invest in visibility of Nutriad. We do not have a limitless marketing budget, but we want to position Nutriad in a focused way, improving brand recognition with nutritionists, vets and purchasers by helping them solve their daily challenges.
Nutriad continuously invests in its production facilities. Be it on the production side or in the laboratories. For 2015, we will focus on the USA plant and prepare for an overhaul of our aqua additives production line in the next years.
Feedinfo News Service: Nutriad recently launched a new website to make the customer experience better. What is the rationale behind this decision, and what does this reveal about Nutriad's concern for its customers?
Erik Visser: Nutriad is big enough to cover the world, we sell in 80 countries, yet we are small enough to have a direct personal relationship with our customers. We combine the coverage of a multi-national with the approach of a family run company. We are technical enough to understand the challenges our customers face and commercial enough to translate these challenges into real workable solutions for them. Nutriad provides the right mix of science, marketing, commerce and personal relations that allows our customers and distributors to be successful in their markets.
With our new web site, we want to facilitate the personal contact between our staff and our customers. It will be easy to contact any member of our staff directly.
Feedinfo News Service: To conclude, what would you say are Nutriad's differentiating factors when it comes to providing feed additive solutions to the market?
Erik Visser: I’d say we are an agile, fast-responding, entrepreneurial company with a team of the finest professionals in the livestock and aquaculture industries worldwide. We are quick to try new things, but by some measures we are slower to market than some companies. We prefer to get it right, then get it going. It simply feels good to know you have done your best every day to make the right scientific, financial, and, most importantly ethical decisions for your customer, your company, and yourself.
This article was first published by Feedinfo News Service in February 2015.