Have you ever stood in front of empty shelves of infant formula? It was a hit for a while, every so often. Retailers took measures such as a limited number of packs of food per customer. The milk powder was bought up by Chinese in particular. They no longer trusted homegrown food after a major scandal involving a toxic substance in the powder. People in China still prefer milk powder from abroad, experiences Bart van der Meer, CEO of infant formula and milk powder producer Ausnutria.
"It is the policy of the Chinese government to get a better balance. But even though more Chinese children's food is being sold again, products from abroad keep a strong face. Parents often have only one child. That child is treated like a prince or princess; only the best is good enough. And with increased purchasing power, Chinese also have access to more products."
China is therefore Ausnutria's largest market. Not only because demand there is high: Ausnutria also has an easy entry point there. "We have been a wholly owned subsidiary of the listed Ausnutria Dairy Corporation in Hong Kong since 2015. This company provides us with a large platform and takes care of distribution. But also in Russia, the EU, other Asian countries, the Middle East including child-rich Saudi Arabia and in North and South America, we are gaining an increasingly strong position."
Millions of cans
How much infant food Ausnutria produces? The current 40,000 tons will increase to 100,000 tons per year, divided between 400 and 900-gram cans.
So that's easily 140 million cans. And they all roll out of the Ausnutria factories in Heerenveen and Leeuwarden. "With that, we do catch up with the big players. And we keep making strides, we are growing at a punishing pace." There is also room for this, because the child nutrition market is a growth market. "Purchasing power is increasing in many countries and the Netherlands has a reliable name when it comes to milk powder." An easy market it is not. "Logically, there are many requirements for quality. There are strict conditions and regulations, you need certifications and are part of strict audits."
As a manufacturer of infant nutrition, we are hooking up with the big players
NOM as an anchor
In a market that makes many demands on you and as a subsidiary of a large international company with investment capacity, Ausnutria Netherlands regularly runs into questions. "NOM is then a kind of anchor. You can fall back on them in situations that matter. For example, I can share investment plans with them. With its support, NOM contributes to the business climate in the Northern Netherlands."
From finances to bottle feeding
Bart van der Meer grew up with the agricultural sector and had a career of over 25 years at Rabobank. Then suddenly child nutrition is a different matter. "It's a dynamic and exciting environment, with a lot of competition, rapid growth and consolidation. However, we have made a unique move with Ausnutria with our quality niche products. In ten years, sales have increased tenfold and we are continuing on that path. And what's the best part? We make a product for the most vulnerable people in our society, the newborn child. And who can grow from it."