For many years, high levels of zinc oxide (ZnO) have been included in piglet nutrition to prevent post-weaning diarrhea. However, the impact of ZnO on the environment has been one of the driving forces behind the upcoming EU wide ban on the feed additive, effective 2022. This prompted the search for alternative strategies, said Erik Visser, CEO, Hamlet Protein.
“With the deadline of 2022 approaching, we are now seeing increased interest in ZnO free diets in most European countries and a specific interest in our fiber-based solution. First performance trials with HP Fiberstart - a fiber enriched protein [developed by Hamlet Protein] – have shown promising results,” he told FeedNavigator.
The CEO said the company expects to launch additional fiber products mid-2021, targeting both younger piglets (5-9kg) as well as older piglets and, potentially, sows.
The Horsens, Denmark headquartered specialty proteins producer also sees potential for expansion in the area of calf nutrition, according to Visser.
“Ever since Hamlet Protein was established, we have been involved in the calf nutrition market. We have traditionally been strong in calf milk replacers (CMR) and see opportunities in the feeding of replacement heifers and veal calves, up to 10-12 weeks of age.”
He maintains that the company’s specialty protein products drive a high amino acid absorption in the small intestine, at the same level as whey protein products, making them a viable alternative.
“Next to that, we believe our fiber products can play a role in dry calf feed. Currently, cereal grains are used to stimulate organic acid production. Cereal grain has a downside as the starch content can create rumen acidosis when used in excess. Hamlet Protein’s fiber products could replace some of these grains.”
Extending poultry market footprint
From the outset, Hamlet Protein’s focus has been on young animal nutrition. While the company has a strong track record in piglet and calf nutrition, the CEO outlined how it now intends to raise its game in the area of chick nutrition as well.
“In selected markets, the US being the most important one, we are working with local staff to provide technical support to poultry nutritionists.
"We all know that good intestinal health in young birds drives performance. Their digestive and nutritional requirements are different from older broilers. Our highly digestible protein products, with low anti-nutritional factors, help improve the quality of the diet and promote gut health without the use of antibiotics or coccidiostats. By making a difference right from the start, we improve the performance of birds during their life cycle. We are continuously investing in trials in various geographies to further support our product proposition with scientific data," continued the chief executive.
The company is also looking to support US producers focused on NAE (no antibiotics ever) production, he said.
“Over the past several years there has been a growing consumer demand in the US for NAE produced meat, especially poultry. Supported by our experience in other antibiotic free markets, Hamlet Protein has been working closely with producers to optimize nutrition starter programs that minimize stressors coming from the diet and maximize productivity. NAE production requires a holistic approach to maintain bird or pig health and support strong immune function.”
The company has also invested in people, lab- and production capacity, to service a growing market demand, he said.
‘A series of impressive accomplishments’
Looking back on the key events since taking on the position of CEO of Hamlet Protein in June 2019, Visser said he finds that working with such an ambitious and hands-on management team, and passionate staff across the world, inspires him personally.
“In the past 12 months, we have invested in local teams; defined our company purpose; strengthened our research; completed a production expansion in the US; refinanced our existing debt; invested in renewable energy to further reduce our carbon footprint and have increased our market presence across geographies. A series of impressive accomplishments, but we are highly motivated to further drive our growth agenda in the coming period.”
Expansion in Latin America, Asian markets
The Danish company is also looking to extend its footprint in Latin America. Visser said that in key target markets, the idea is that customers engage directly with Hamlet Protein technical- and sales staff.
“Therefore, we have hired experienced Latin American nutritionists to cover markets like Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. They will work directly with customers in each market and will develop a network of local distributors to help realize our growth ambitions. We are also working on making our marketing material available in Spanish.”
But it is the Asian markets, home to some of the world’s largest swine herds, that have taken a central position in Hamlet Protein’s growth strategy.
“Increasing pressure on the use of antibiotics, high fishmeal prices and a growing demand for feeding strategies that do not include animal protein create great opportunities for our portfolio [in Asian markets].
“Hamlet Protein has a sales organization in China – based in Qingdao – which we have strengthened in recent months. We have also hired technical sales managers in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines this year to increase our local presence and direct interaction with customers [in those countries].
“We reviewed our distributor network as well; strengthened existing relations whilst starting up new ones in geographies with limited market penetration.”
Impact of Covid-19 pandemic on supply chain
When asked how the Covid-19 pandemic has been impacting Hamlet and the global feed ingredients supply chain, he said it, evidently, has changed the way the company interacts with customers.
“Not being able to travel, we meet online and get better at that as time goes on. Fortunately, no employee has been infected with Covid-19, so far, and we have been able to supply our customers without interruption.
“Initial disruptions in the supply chain are now normalized again, but the reduced slaughtering capacity in the US has severely impacted the local swine market.”