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Fishing for global growth

Portrait

Coppens International develops and produces a wide portfolio of specialist fish feed and is recognized in particular for its high-quality starter feed for a broad range of fish species, including sturgeon, trout, catfish, eel, tilapia and carp.

“This broad focus alone makes us unique in the industry,” notes CEO Patrick Charlton. “Our competitors tend to focus on feed for just one or two different species. We have a very strong reputation in the market. We are admittedly not the cheapest, but our quality is among the best.”

Research and development lies at the heart of the company’s success. Historically Coppens International was in partnership with a local R&D facility, Coppens Research Center (CRC), which was also acquired by Alltech to bring both businesses under one roof to enable the focused and continual development of new products.

“This is critical to our business,” adds Mr. Charlton. “If we stand still, we will fail.” Headquartered in Helmond, with the research center in Valkenswaard, production is undertaken at its third location in Nettetal in Germany. Coppens International sells its products, targeted at professional aqua farms and commercial fish farms, in 60 countries around the world, with particularly important markets in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK, as well as Vietnam, Russia and Nigeria.

Coppens International is involved in a very dynamic market. Two years ago, for the first time ever, fish farm production exceeded that of beef production. Health and nutrition are high on everyone’s agenda, and today’s customers seek healthy, environmentally sustainable and affordable produce.

No meat is nutritionally more beneficial than fish. It is high in DHA Omega-3, which is good for the heart, eyes and brain function. In addition, fish farming has undergone a revolution in terms of the range of species that can now be farmed, and this development seems set to continue, ensuring diverse and affordable supplies for customers and a great future for fish feed producers.

Coppens International had been successful in its own right for many years, but as a relatively small operator, further growth and expansion was a challenge. Alltech provided the solution through its recent acquisition of Coppens International. The company, established in 1980 by Dr. Pearse Lyons, who is still the sole owner, is involved in a range of activities.

The original business distributed specialist high-tech but natural ingredients to the animal feed industry. Over time additional businesses evolved including Alltech Crop Science – natural biostimulants for enhanced crop productivity – and a craft beer and whisky business consisting of five breweries and two distilleries.

Today Alltech is active in more than 120 countries worldwide. The company established an ambitious growth strategy involving the acquisition of like-minded businesses which can be easily integrated into the group and contribute to the growth program and, at the same time, enable Alltech to showcase its own technologies.

Coppens International fitted the bill perfectly and offered Alltech a tremendous platform to present its products. “We have just completed the first 100-day plan to integrate the business cultures and structures,” explains Mr. Charlton. “The focus is now on evolving the Alltech technologies within Coppens International’s products to optimize the value of the feeds and showcase the Alltech ingredients. We want to grow the Coppens International business to become a part of Alltech’s global footprint.”

Mr. Charlton had worked for Alltech for 26 years before he was appointed CEO of Coppens International to lead its transition into the company. “We want to use Coppens as a foundation stone,” he continues. “We intend to expand the brand, maybe through further acquisitions, but certainly by entering more markets and developing specialist feed for more fish species.”

Mr. Charlton sees the entrepreneurial spirit of Dr. Lyons as the key to the group’s success. “He makes brave decisions, such as the one 20 years ago to enter China and Brazil, which were considered high risk at the time. But his courage has paid off.”

The last three years have already seen a threefold increase in Alltech’s business, reaching 2.5 billion USD. “Our goal is to be a significant player in the animal nutrition sector, having a direct impact on the diet of the human population. We want to be a truly global business,” concludes Mr. Charlton.

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