Revamped AB Neo business sees collective strength in neonate nutrition expertise and innovation

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Prostock-Studio
© GettyImages/Prostock-Studio

Related tags AB Agri Primary Diets

AB Agri is bringing several independent businesses focusing on neonate feed products together under the umbrella brand of AB Neo.

The move sees Agilia, ASN, and the Primary Diets entities come under that roof. 

The integration process, which got underway nine months ago, will ensure greater momentum behind each of those operations, and, ultimately will increase their reach and scale, Ian Wellock, the managing director of this revamped AB Neo business told us on a call yesterday. 

“We had several independent businesses with very similar goals and housing a wealth of talented nutritionists and technical individuals. In some ways, though, they were competing with each other. There was a lot of overlap. Bringing those businesses together, with a very specific focus on our expertise, means we can serve our customers better with improved products, relevant added-value services and continued innovation,” ​said the MD. 

AB Neo now includes the two factories of Primary Diets, one in the UK and the other in Poland, the factory of ASN in Spain and what was Agilia, the Danish business. 

“Spain is the physically biggest of those businesses in terms of scale of turnover and product; It is largest factory by far, with bulk deliveries to the doorstep of large integrators in northern and central Spain,”​ said Wellock.

The volumes in the Michel Pasze business, in Poland, have doubled since Primary Diets acquired it two years ago, he added.

Short and longer term goals

Wellock is currently focused on finalizing the integration, ensuring the smooth transfer of what were once “fairly independent entrepreneurial businesses​” into one structure, and encouraging them to work in unison.

The near term goals for AB Neo will be to continue to serve the customers of the various entities within it products such as DanMilk milk replacers, Adicare additives, ASN and Primary Diets starter feeds, the Axcelera range of products, and specialist raw materials, he said.

“Longer term, we want to be bolder, expand our growing footprint beyond what has been our core focus of piglets, and exploit further opportunities in the young ruminant market.”

Ultimately, AB Neo is aiming to reach more customers in more countries with an expanding range of relevant products and services, to expand starter feed and concentrates, through Agilia, into the Danish market, for example, and also promote the Danish milk replacer range in the other markets in which it is active.

“The local teams know the local markets the best but rather than just focus on what is in their factories, they now have the whole AB Neo portfolio to choose from, to market, as appropriate,”​ explained the MD.

Research facility 

Wellock said the revamped AB Neo includes around 20 nutritionists; they have vast experience but now, rather than acting in isolation, they are “all on the same page.”

And the business is still committed to research and to continuing to work with numerous university partners, he added. “But we are going to also divert a lot of the research funds to a common unit that we are planning to establish in Spain. We expect to have that up and running in the next year.”

It is critical that all initial development work is tested in real-time commercial situations, so that is the rational for building the research facility, said Wellock.

“And we have chosen Spain as a location to demonstrate our expertise in one of the world’s leading swine markets. Once complete, we’ll have facilities for up to 7,000 piglets in a cloud-based environmental controlled system. The unit will have links to the maternity farm, allowing for pre-weaning nutrition evaluation, as well as to the grower/finisher farms so that we fully evaluate impacts on lifetime performance.

“We are a technical business. We need to prove first that we can add value before we move into the marketplace with a product.”

Trends in neonate nutrition  

Wellock sees the pending zinc oxide ban in the EU as spurring interest in the expertise a business like AB Neo can offer.

Does he see changes in feeding neonates in the future?

“Yes and no. Much will stay the same, but we will continue to adapt and change with our customers. As they develop, their needs change. For example, as they get larger, their requirements and expectations from us change, being more interested in our knowledge, service, ingredients and additives rather than complete feeds.

“In the longer term, there will be a continued focus on reducing mortality and morbidity as we strive for continued improvements in animal welfare.  There is already more interest and demand for novel raw materials and a growing interest in how nutrients and treatments through water can benefit customers.  Of course, there is also the continued accountability in the environmental credentials of the ingredients used in animal feed – for example, carbon footprint, water use and deforestation, and it’s a challenge we’re actively tackling head on.”

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