Nutreco’s purpose of Feeding the Future is more relevant than ever in a world whose population is expected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050. The global food value chain needs to transform by focusing on precision, added value, integration, and sustainability. Nutritional expertise will play a key role in this transformation and Nutreco is both well placed and highly motivated to deliver the solutions to support customers through change.
Animal protein markets are growing, with fish-based proteins the largest driver and poultry offering the most potential for development. Emerging markets will see the highest growth in protein production, even as western markets stagnate. Nutreco’s core market of shrimp is also showing strong growth prospects, as are the feed additive and young animal feed markets.
Nutreco is pursuing a strategy it believes will position the brand as a leading provider of functional and nutritional solutions for sustainable farming. A detailed roadmap outlines how the company plans to implement this strategy and achieve goals related to safety, sustainability, staff engagement, diversity, and top- and bottom-line growth.
This strategy consists of three key elements. The first is a focus on improving cost competitiveness: under the new leadership of Fulco van Lede a restructuring of the organisation was initiated, by addressing cost structures, centralising functions and services aimed to create a more efficient organisation and to achieve significant cost savings. Second, Nutreco will invest in improving its portfolio of higher added-value products such as feed additives and young animal feed, as well as in digital initiatives to support both customers and internal operations. Third, the company will also actively invest in building or strengthening leading positions in existing markets, while continuing to establish a presence in growth markets.
2021 was a year of challenge and uncertainty due to new outbreaks of COVID-19, African Swine Fever, and Avian Influenza. Next to ongoing restrictions in tourism and Horeca, commodity prices were high and sales prices low. In particular Trouw Nutrition was severely impacted. In addition, its Spanish operations were impacted by low swine prices. Also in Spain, an unforeseen negative outcome of a tax case significantly affected net results. The price of both wheat and soy, which represent a large share of Nutreco’s spend, hit nine-year highs in November. As these cost hikes could not be immediately or fully passed on to customers, they had a direct and significant impact on gross margins. A recovery in demand from the second half of 2021 led to supply-chain bottlenecks and labour shortages.
Despite these challenges, Nutreco was able to minimise disruption and supply customers with high quality products and services. This was the result of a sustained focus on operational and commercial excellence, as well as close co-ordination with customers and suppliers. Efforts also continued to source raw materials more sustainably. Volumes were boosted by a combination of rising demand, especially in the Ecuadorian shrimp feed business, and by higher prices.
The expansion of operations into growth markets continued with the acquisition of Bigsal, a ruminant nutrition company in Brazil’s fastest-growing beef cattle region; Nutrimin, a leading supplier of farm minerals to Denmark’s swine sector, and a platform for growth for specialty products in the growing ‘home-mixing’ segment; and a dedicated fish feed plant in Tasmania. The latter provided an immediate lift in production capacity at a time of strong market growth, which is expected to continue in the longer term. Furthermore, a joint-venture agreement has been signed with Unga, establishing a foothold in the growth markets of Kenya and Uganda.
NuFrontiers, Nutreco’s venture capital and investment team, continues to fuel the company’s innovation pipeline by investing in technology start-ups, scale-ups, projects, and partnerships. 2021 saw investments in Proteon, a Poland-based scale-up developing animal health solutions based on bacteriophages; Stellapps, an India-based end-to-end dairy technology solutions company; and further investments in sustainable aquaculture farming companies.
Innovation remains an important driver of future growth, in developing new feed solutions and products that help customers to operate more efficiently. In 2021, four new global products were launched under the Skretting brand for aquaculture species.
On the digital side, Skretting’s AquaSim team launched a pocket version of the AquaSim Advisor, which can be used offline to support a greater number of smallholder fish farmers in Africa. Skretting also invested in the construction of a new shrimp research facility in Ecuador.
The Trouw Nutrition brand continued to focus on driving growth in young animal feed with the introduction of several new promising feed and digital products.
Nutreco’s operational performance strongly decreased in 2021. This results from the very challenging market environment Nutreco experienced as the economic recovery resulted in stretched supply chains and a strong increase in raw material costs which could not all be passed on to customers. Margins further came under pressure as specific price points decreased strongly, for example the swine prices in Spain. Beyond these effects Net Income was further strongly impacted by an unforeseen negative legal outcome of a tax case.