For Dutch feed company ForFarmers, 2013 was largely dominated by the integration of Nutreco's feed unit Hendrix and the UK based feed firm BOCM PAULS. Growth remains important for the future, but the focus is also on extending the product
By Emmy Koeleman
Over the recent years, Dutch based feed company ForFarmers has developed itself from a national player – with a turnover of 740 million euro - into a strong competitor in the international feed business with a turnover of 2.6 billion euro in 2013 (Table 1). This increase of 29.5% compared with 2012 is mainly the result (for 26.5%) of the acquisition of Hendrix (part of Nutreco) in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany) and BOCM PAULS (UK), which were consolidated in the 2012 results for nine and six months respectively. Yoram Knoop, CEO of ForFarmers as of January this year, is happy with the 2013 annual results and is frank about the company's growth ambitions. "Growth is very important for us. We want to be number one or two in our current sales markets (the Netherlands, UK, Belgium and Germany). And we are on track in most countries. In the Netherlands we are market leader, but the German market is bit more challenging. This is because this market is highly fragmented. We definitely want to increase our market share in Germany by more acquisitions in the near future, especially in the central and Northern regions, where we are already based". Due to the acquisitions in 2013, the volume of compound feed sold increased 30.7% to 6.4 million tonnes in 2013. This was due to a particularly strong organic increase in the sales volumes of compound feed in the United Kingdom, and a more modest increase in Belgium, while compound feed sales volumes were down in the Netherlands and Germany. Volumes were up 2.2% compared with the pro forma 2012 results. "Farmers in Europe are faced with strongly fluctuating feed prices and rising production costs. This has a strong effect on the pig industry in the Netherlands for example. On the other hand, the UK pig industry is doing relatively well," explains Knoop.
As a reaction to the decreasing margins, agricultural businesses are increasing in size and becoming more professional and specialised and they are managing to improve their technical performance in areas such as feed efficiency and animal health. Knoop: "Next to volumes, we therefore also work on expanding our product portfolio and include tailor made advise when we sell the feed to farmers. Efficiency is key". ForFarmers calls it the 'total feed business' concept; feed solutions that not only include compound feed but also smaller product groups such as high-moisture feed, single feed, blends, concentrates and minerals. We see that our customers are getting bigger and become more specialised. This requires a different approach from our side – the feed producer. The strong focus of ForFarmers is also reflected in making the production locations as focused and efficient as possible. In 2013, The former Hendrix plant in Lochem, the Netherlands, has been converted into a specialised production facility for organic compound feed with extra capacity. The factory offers ample opportunities for further growth and for product development. After the production site in Lochem was put into use, organic production activities at the sites in Wesel (Germany) and Harreveld (the Netherlands) were discontinued by July and August last year.
Sharpening of goals
ForFarmers addresses that some of the strategic goals for 2016, which had been formulated earlier, have been realised already. "But some of them will in the near future be brought into focus. We want to look beyond 2016. One of the initial goals of producing 10 million tons of compound feed by 2016 that we have set earlier will probably be met, I will not doubt that, but it will not be the main goal for our company anymore. In 2014 we made a start on focussing in our strategy and we will be investing in making our organisation more effective and more agile. More uniform working methods will enable us to improve the fulfilment of our client proposition," said Knoop. ForFarmers also wants to establish more strategic alliances with research institutes and universities. The goal to buy 100% sustainable soy and to further decrease energy used remain important elements for the company's sustainability goals. Some efforts regarding sustainability have already paid off. After improving the way of driving (efficient driving techniques), ForFarmers has saved 2.5% petrol in 2013. At the same time, growth is still one of the main point of focus for the coming year. The first acquisition of 2014 has already occurred, ForFarmers announced on 3 February it was acquiring 100% of the share capital of HST Feeds Ltd (UK). HST Feeds is based in Crewe (Cheshire) and sells around 140,000 tonnes of cattle feed and poultry compound feed in the North-West of England. HST Feeds will operate as part of the ForFarmers Business Unit BOCM PAULS.
For its feed activities, ForFarmers has 37 production sites in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK. The company’s head office is located in Lochem (the Netherlands). ForFarmers has 2,214 employees (in FTE), of whom 828 are based in the Netherlands, 321 in Germany, 78 in Belgium, 984 in the UK and three in other EU-countries. With annual sales of 8.5 million tonnes of feed – of which around 6.4 million tonnes of compound feed – ForFarmers is the European market leader in compound feed.
[Source: AllAboutFeed Vol 22 nr4, 2014]