13 June 2018 – In 2017, Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition set up its new international headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand – a symbolic market for the company for many reasons, including its openness to outside investment, but which is also seen as a hub for the company’s international expansion as well as its increased focus on the region’s ever-growing feed industry.
In recent years Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition has made significant changes to its structure as the company seeks to adapt to Asian as well as global demand for sustainable and holistic feed additive solutions, and in which aqua feeds are increasingly playing an important part.
We were able to speak to Dr. Bernhard Eckel, the company’s Vice-President, on the sidelines of Feed Additives Asia 2018 – Feedinfo’s first-ever Asian event, held in Bangkok in late-May.
Bernhard, in August 2016, your firm carried out restructuring measures and became Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition GmbH & Co. KG. The restructuring was necessary for “the flexibility to expand into new and existing markets, and to integrate foreign subsidiaries into the parent company”. Can you talk about the transformations within the company in the past two years?
[Bernhard Eckel] The past three years have been a time of enormous change for the company—we implemented a holding structure which enabled us to integrate foreign subsidiaries. The major reason for this was to prepare the organisation for its transition to the next generation: two of our three children now hold shares in the company and will be taking on more responsibility in the coming years. As a typical German medium-sized company striving for long-term success while keeping ownership in the family, we look forward to and are proud of this continuity.
There have been other significant changes at Dr. Eckel. Only last year, we implemented a new middle management level in the company structure. Nine managers that have already been with us for several years have taken on even more responsibility and now lead their own teams.
While we also operated in sectors other than animal nutrition in the past, we have now increasingly specialised in feed additives over the years. This is why we included “animal nutrition” in the company name: to emphasise our commitment, focus and expertise in this sector.
Our growth has reached the double digits. We are becoming increasingly international by the day. Our international environment enables us to be more flexible in providing our customers with better service worldwide. And it further promotes our international growth.
Last year you set up the new international headquarters (IHQ) in Bangkok. Why choose Thailand as the hub for your international expansion?
[Bernhard Eckel] Thailand was an obvious choice for many reasons. Firstly because, in terms of feed production volumes, the Asia Pacific region produces more than a third of all global feed. Furthermore, Thailand guarantees excellent accessibility to and from other Asian and European countries, while the infrastructure and logistics are very good. The Thai population is open-minded and very well-educated, making market entry somewhat easier. We are happy to collaborate with Thai universities, especially in shrimp production where they are the global benchmark. And, last but not least, the Thai government supports innovative companies such as Dr. Eckel in setting up their IHQ in Thailand.
Operating directly in a market is vastly different from observing that market or even from operating at a distance. This influenced our decision to establish our team for South and Southeast Asia in Thailand. Our team in Bangkok, which we are in the process of extending even further, includes specialists in various species. Such expertise enables us to provide our customers with excellent service, which they consider critical for the relationship. Consequently, we already have a presence in most countries in these regions.
Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition’s portfolio includes company-owned brands as well as select products from international manufacturers. Which products are currently benefitting the most from your international expansion?
[Bernhard Eckel] We supply customers outside the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) only with our own products. While we are traditionally strong in the acidifier business with our well-known brands CaPlus, Anta®Mix and PreAcid, and our range of mycotoxin binders in the Anta®Ferm family perform well, the market’s interest has now primarily shifted to our innovative developments of recent years: the flavouring premix Anta®Phyt and the phytogenic feed additive Anta®Ox. These innovations have received worldwide recognition, especially in the wake of the new policies on AGP.
Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition is investing around EUR 700,000 in a new research and development project to develop a sanitising multifunctional additive for animal feed that can be used globally and that should help make valuable resources and animal feed more durable in accordance with FAO guidelines. Would you like to expand on this project?
[Bernhard Eckel] Dr. Eckel has always invested heavily in research and development. After all, this is one of the reasons for our success. Although the project you are referring to is not our only current R&D project, it is our most prominent one. We are very honoured to be receiving funding for it from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) within the scope of the InnoTop programme of our local German state Rhineland-Palatinate, whose objective is to promote investment in innovation and foster the creation of future jobs.
Our mission is to develop solutions for healthy and effective animal production free of AGPs. Hence, this project is directly related to our mission. In some regions of the world, although there is intensive animal production, the feed value chain still suffers from degradation, contamination and post-harvest losses. This project is committed to sustainability and efficiency, and ultimately the welfare of both humans and livestock.
With regard to the FAO guidelines and, incidentally, the WHO sustainable development goals too, there is a single word that is the guiding principle of all our R&D: health. To this end, the project combines galenic formulation (dust-free and real free-flow behaviour to optimise absorption), sustainability (for example, reducing post-harvest losses), efficiency and safe application for the end user. Our objective is to create a particle that incorporates several functionalities— to develop a solution that reduces antimicrobials and toxin formation in both the raw materials and the feed.
The company began operating an aquaculture facility in Niederzissen at the end of 2017. Can you discuss the importance of aquaculture feeds in Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition’s overall strategy?
[Bernhard Eckel] The start of our export business in Southeast Asia about 10 years ago was also our first encounter with aquaculture. As a classical livestock company in the DACH region, we only had a theoretical background until then. We have made huge progress since. Today, aquaculture is an important and fast-growing component of our export business and our overall strategy. Such rapid development was only possible due to our heavy investment in our own aquaculture facility and the numerous feeding trials we conduct locally and in Asia. In fact, we develop real beneficial solutions for the aquaculture industry in Thailand.
Finally, what are the company’s international priorities moving forward?
[Bernhard Eckel] Asia was our first export market. Our presence there and the experience we have gained since have put us in an even better position to provide customers with our expertise and excellent service. This is one of the reasons why Asia has become our biggest export market and is still experiencing growth in the double digits. In addition, we have been operating in the Middle East and Eastern Europe for some time now. We have registered more than 170 products in more than 20 countries—these give us sufficient potential for further healthy growth in the coming years. As always, we aim to provide our customers with expertise and excellent service while developing innovations to improve sustainability, efficiency and the welfare of both humans and livestock. All to German and international quality standards.
Source : Feedinfo News Service