"Our push towards sustainability is the common theme of all investments. We want to create a global network of integrated businesses with multiple synergies."
What have been the most recent investments and acquisitions at Behn Meyer?
2022 was one of the best years in Behn Meyer’s over 180 years of history and we are using this momentum to further invest into sustainable solutions. At the end of 2021, we acquired an Australian food ingredient company, Myosyn Industries. In 2022, our newly created company, Nutrivo Ingredients, achieved FSSC 22000 food safety certification for its plant in Thailand. Seeking to increase our foothold in bio-based solutions, we also acquired a stake in a Norwegian producer of marine calcified algae. By harvesting replenishable marine minerals from ocean deposits, we bring a completely sustainable, chemical-free, natural ingredient to the food, feed, and cosmetics industries. Lastly, we just acquired a German enzyme producer. An alternative to chemical processes, enzymes work as biocatalysts with applications in almost all industries. The focus of our enzyme business is on the feed and food industries, including baking, fruit juice and glucose production, as well as on the pulp & paper industry.
What is your strategy behind these investments?
We want to strengthen our industry expertise across all our four business pillars – Agricare, Ingredients, Performance Chemicals, and Polymers – and hence decided to invest into own manufacturing and product development. Our push towards sustainability is the common theme of all investments. We want to create a global network of integrated businesses with multiple synergies. For example, we now bring Nutrivo’s plant-based fiber and protein solutions from Thailand to the Australian market, where we note a fast-growing trend for vegan meat alternatives. Both investments in Europe complement our sustainable product range in Asia and use Nutrivo’s factory as a hub to tailor their offerings to local needs. Collectively, we just developed a unique technology to convert meat processing off-cuts into a sellable retail product. With this, our food customers can turn a waste problem into a new revenue stream to lift their profits.
Southeast Asia represents more than 90% of Behn Meyer’s business. What are your top five markets in the region?
Behn Meyer is probably the only large chemical and ingredients distributor with an overwhelmingly Southeast Asian footprint. About 1,100 of our over 1,300 global employees are based in this region. The company was founded in Singapore in 1840 and expanded from there. Today, Malaysia is our biggest market due to Agricare’s strong fertilizer and crop protection business, as well as our distribution and manufacturing network. Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are our other key countries with large and diversified operations, with the Philippines and Myanmar following in terms of size. All in, we have a unique footprint in Southeast Asia and offer our principals and suppliers the entire ASEAN coverage under one roof with dedicated local sales teams and regional management.
What has contributed to Behn Meyer’s performance in FY22?
The whole industry experienced higher prices in 2022 and Behn Meyer is no exception. All four business units saw higher sales levels, however in part driven by higher raw material costs throughout the first nine months of 2022, especially on Agricare’s side. Our rubber and water treatment businesses have grown substantially, leading to double digit growth for our Polymers and Performance Chemicals BUs, whereas the Ingredients BU saw growth in line with the market after an exceptional increase during the pandemic. Naturally, the acquired businesses also contributed to the uplift in group sales volume and profit.
Can you tell us about the latest products you are bringing to the market in the fertilizer and crop protection space?
Organic fertilizers have attracted growing interest in recent years, and Behn Meyer now advocates the shift away from animal waste, which is the typical raw material for organic fertilizers. Animal waste-based fertilizers can still contain antibiotic residues, viruses, or other disease vectors. We focus on producing organic fertilizers from plant-based waste. Palm oil mills, for example, produce organic waste in the form of empty fruit bunches and effluents with high biological loads. We use enzymes to speed up composting of the dry residues. Additionally, we also work on solutions for more salt-tolerant seeds and crops; in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, for example, many fruit and rice growers have stopped producing due to high salinity levels, as seawater starts flowing into the delta at unprecedented levels. We are looking at microbes that can tolerate salinity and still make nutrients available to plants, to help the region sustain crop farming.
Behn Meyer has achieved the EcoVadis Gold rating. Can you comment on this achievement?
Placing Behn Meyer in the top 5% of audited companies, the EcoVadis gold medal is a testament to our ongoing efforts in advancing the sustainability of our products and operations. It is a significant external recognition that puts Behn Meyer as a family-owned company on the same level as publicly listed multinationals. Our determination reassures business partners that we at Behn Meyer meet our responsibility as one of the leaders in our industry and support our customers’ own sustainability roadmap. We have already reached our 2025 target, reducing our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 25% against the 2021 baseline, and we are now pushing ahead to become carbon neutral by 2040 – the year that marks the 200thanniversary of Behn Meyer.