The world's population is expanding rapidly and is expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050. Estimates are that global food production will need to double to meet the new demand.
That sounds like a tall order—until you examine the food industry's track record. Consider, for example, the broiler chicken. Back in the 1950s, your average chicken took 120 days to reach a market weight of 1.4 kilograms; by 2009, it needed just 42 days to reach 2.6 kilograms. The modern chicken converts feed to body weight far more efficiently.
A variety of factors lie behind these dramatic productivity gains, but the impact of feed supplements is undeniably key. Supplements promote faster animal growth by increasing nutrient efficiency. For poultry, it is the amino acid methionine that is the most important feed supplement. And the world's top producer of methionine is St-Louis, Missouri-based Novus International.
Two parallel histories
In 1991, Mitsui, together with Nippon Soda Co., Ltd. acquired the feed additives division of chemical manufacturer Monsanto. (Mitsui has a 65% stake and Nippon Soda 35%.) When the new entity started life as a standalone company, all the original Monsanto employees and leadership remained in place, but there was a new name—Novus International, Inc. (Novus)—and a new vision: "To help feed the world affordable, wholesome food and achieve a higher quality of life."
Mitsui sends two representatives to Novus head office and provides marketing, planning and investment support; otherwise its policy is to stand back and gives Novus' highly qualified employees the freedom to grow the company as they think best.
This "loose-tight" relationship has been a spectacular success. At its 1991 debut, Novus had around 80 employees and a single flagship methionine-based product family; now it has almost 800 employees, makes a wide range of products.
Three competitive advantages
Drill deep into Novus' growth story, and you find it is driven by three carefully honed competitive advantages: (1) a strong position in the methionine market; (2) a diversified product range that covers multiple markets; and (3) an unbeatable level of customer engagement.