April 1, 2015

AB Vista: Spreading the superdosing gospel in Asia



The use of phytase, an enzyme that breaks down the phytic acid (phytate) in grains and oilseeds to improve animal performance and save costs in swine and poultry diets, is nothing new in Asia. Asian farmers have known it to reduce feed costs substantially. Its use, as can be expected, continues to spread like wildfire in this part of the world.

The whole concept of using enzymes in feeds, according to Mr. Ari Kiviniemi, global sales director of AB Vista, "is to utilise the nutrients in the feed more efficiently." This doesn't only help increase profits; it also helps keep the environment clean by reducing "the amount of phosphate being excreted."

Always exploring ways to improve things, AB Vista is pushing the envelope.  Recently it has been advocating increased phytase dosage to maximise benefits. Called superdosing, the idea is to use "a powerfull phytase well above the 'regular' dose to destroy the remaining phytate, which, when left in feed, still has an anti-nutritional effect," says Mr. Kiviniemi.

Superdosing further improves performance in animals in ways not seen before.  The common use of phytase focuses simply on the reduction of feed costs through sparing of inorganic phosphorus and, to a lesser extent, calcium sources.

While this works just as fine, feed cost savings could be more by using the feed more efficiently – about US$6 to US$8 per tonne, he estimates -- if superdosing is adopted. And that's not loose change for huge commercial operations.

A superdosing pioneer and maker of "the technically leading products such as phytase (Quantum Blue) and xylanase (Econase XT)," AB Vista has been spreading the concept in scientific meetings and congresses around the world. At the VIV Asia 2015 in Bangkok, a seminar was held to serve as launching pad for AB Vista's big plan to promote superdosing in Asia.


Small though not modest beginning

Though it is not a humble company by any means (It is part of the ABF group, one of the world's largest food companies employing 120,000 people in 47 countries around the world.), AB Vista started small, with only three people when it was first established in 2004. Now, it has 170 employees and sales in more than 65 countries.

Indeed, in the last 5 years, says Mr. Kiviniemi, the company has "experienced rapid growth, growing much faster than the feed market itself", a phenomenal accomplishment that he attributes to three factors: products, services and people.

"In terms of products, our growth has been due to Econase XT, Quantum and Quantum Blue. Globally, we are now one of the top three feed enzyme suppliers," he says.

He adds AB Vista is also "currently number 1 phytase supplier in 3 of the top 10 feed companies and we aim to further boost this leadership position in the next five years."

AB Vista has achieved all this, according to him, "by providing end-users "the best products backed by innovative and relevant services."

Mr. Kiviniemi says its product portfolio also includes the recently launched Econase GT, a thermostable ß-glucanase for applications in high barley diets.  AB Vista also has betaine, live yeast and select products for the ruminant sector.

In its 11 years of existence, AB Vista lists the development of heat-stable NSP (non-starch polysaccharide) enzyme EXT, the first further developed E.coli phytase Quantum, and the latest in phytase technology, Quantum Blue, as the company's major achievements.

Quantum Blue was first launched in the Asian market in 2012, building upon the success of the other AB Vista phytase products. "Quantum Blue goes beyond other commercially available phytases to offer superior phytate degradation, unlocking more value for feed producers," he claims.

The secret of AB Vista's success, according to him, has been its "focus on bringing a range of the most cost-effective enzyme products to the feed market." In both the phytase and NSP segments, "this has proven to be correctly dosed intrinsically thermostable single enzyme products such as Quantum Blue and Econase XT," he adds.

"We believe that optimising the dose of the relevant NSP'ase enzyme is most important for eliciting a response in the animal," Mr. Kiviniemi points out. "Xylanase is the relevant activity for most cereals and glucanase for barley and perhaps oats-rich diets. When phytase and NSP'ase enzymes are used properly and in concert there is little role for any further enzyme, including the current crop of proteases."

He believes that this focus on maximising cost-benefit for the end user will continue to drive the company's future development.  "We have done and are still doing a lot of trial work with several activities and combinations." He reveals that in a recent trial in the Netherlands, it was found that "a single good xylanase gives better performance than any other activity or combinations."

With breakthroughs like this, AB Vista "continues to bring new and unique enzymes that add customer value to the feed market and to our customers." Any enzyme that AB Vista brings to the market, he says, goes through meticulous research, testing and trials.

Feed enzymes are, of course, a rapidly growing industry, with competition coming from all over. So how does AB Vista distinguish its products from the rest?   

"AB Vista's focus for many years has been on what delivers value to the end-users of our products. Thus, we have launched three new phytases as well as replaced our xylanases and glucanases in the past decade. In all cases we have delivered new products that were market-leading in terms of efficacy in the animal as well as in thermostability," he says.

Also, "we actively work in close collaboration with our customers and academics to be at the cutting edge of nutrition technology. Our knowledge and understanding of mode of action, product application etc. means that we are able to bring products like Quantum Blue that deliver real innovation for the industry and our customers."

Grain and commodity prices in the last couple years have hit record lows, dragging feed prices to the bottom. It would be natural for some feed millers to try to keep costs down by doing away with some ingredients, probably including phytase.

In such a situation, livestock growers aren't likely to be keen to seek ways to further lower feed costs, which is what phytase use is all about. So how do enzyme makers like AB Vista deal with this challenge?

"Sometimes, when profitability in the industry is low, lowering cost of inputs is thought to be the way to improve profitability."  Mr. Kiviniemi finds this business strategy lame. "Any ingredient or feed additive that does not improve profitability and efficiency of the operation should not be used in the first place."

 AB Vista's products have been thoroughly tested to bring savings and improve the efficiency of animal production, he points out. In any business situation, they will "boost profitability and fuel growth in our customers' operations."

The company in fact leaves no stone unturned in helping customers improve profitability.  This include "a number of customer-targeted services, ranging from unique Elisa-based assay systems that allows the feed producer to confirm the presence of our enzyme products within minutes of producing the feed to an accurate assay on-site within a few hours."

AB Vista also offers "effective liquid applications support to customers who prefer liquid products to add into the mixer or to the feed post-pelleting process." Last but not least, it also offers unique web-enabled, NIR-based Cereal Quality and Phytase Assay Services to all customers.

"We believe that the development of NIR as a technology for identifying more accurately the nutrient composition and anti-nutritive factor content of feed ingredients will allow the customer to more accurately deliver the nutrients necessary to optimise growth and health status of the animal," he says.

AB Vista's global sales director sees the company's business growth to "be highest in developing markets and in markets where the penetration of feed enzyme use is relatively low." That is where the industry has most to gain, he adds. In the most technologically advanced regions in the region, "we are growing mainly by increasing our market share."

But for "generic growth," AB Vista sees Asia as its most important area -- hence the next stop for its superdosing bandwagon.

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