FEED Business Worldwide - October / November, 2011
ICC: Leveraging yeast to optimize livestock health and performance
Synthetic supplements are falling out of favour and natural, organically produced enzymes are becoming an essential component of livestock performance. Glycon Duarte Santos, president of ICC Brazil, elaborates on how yeast's diverse functionalities can boost animal health.
How did ICC first start its business, and how has it managed to develop over the years?
ICC started its business as an inactive dried yeast distributor,focusing on the nutritional yeast with the purpose of creating conditions for the expansion of Brazilian ethanol production. Over these 19 years of existence, we realise that the yeast can be the base to develop several value-added products. ICC is now undergoing a process to become a biotechnology company, focused on providing solutions for animal health.
What sort of challenges and opportunities does Asia hold for ICC's business?
 Sao Paulo is the biggest commercial and financial centre of Brazil, presenting the same challenges as any other metropolis such as expensive maintenance, pollution, traffic jam and so on.  However, this location gives us easy access to both the ethanol production centres and international markets. Most of our industrial and financial partners have their facilities nearby.
What are some of the problems that ICC has faced in the industry?
Throughout these years, we have seen many changes in both yeast and animal nutrition markets. The first barrier that ICC had to overcome was to change the view of the ethanol industry towards yeast, from an industrial waste to a valuable product, raising awareness with regard to the product quality.
ICC also had some breakthroughs to the quality control issues by creating partnerships with renowned universities and laboratories in Brazil and overseas. Furthermore, we obtained GMP+ certification to better comply with the highly demanding animal feed industry.
How does yeast contribute to animal nutritio  and how important is it for livestock industry?
Yeast products are well known in the market as they offer several key elements to support animal growth and health, such as MOS, acting as a pathogen binder; Beta Glucans, an immunemodulator; peptides and di-peptides as palatability enhancer and RNA, which can be digested into free nucleotides and nucleosides that are the ideal forms to be better absorbed by the animals.
Yeast has been used in the animal nutrition for over a hundred years, but still new studies with this product reveal its beneficial characteristics and potential for innovative uses as an animal health product. ICC trusts that yeast yet has many secrets to be unlocked in further studies.
How ICC's products contribute to animal health? How do they differ from competing products?
Most of our products come from the ethanol fermentation, while competitors mainly work with yeast from brewer's and primary fermentation. Even though all these kinds of yeast are Saccharomyces Cerevisea, we could see differences among them. For instance, the yeast cell wall from ethanol fermentation is not as easily digested in comparison to other sources. Its higher resistance while going through the animal gut makes it a product unlike any other.
Which countries are ICC's biggest markets and which region does it intend to focus on?
As ICC is a Brazilian company, naturally, our national market is paramount in our business strategy. Since Brazil has been having a fast-growing economy, even though we are present in the market for over 19 years, we still feel that there is great potential here. As for our overseas operations, we export to more than 50 countries worldwide. More recently, we started to open branch offices to further the development of key markets such as the US, Europe and India.  
What are some of the institutions that ICC collaborated with, and why?
Increasingly, we feel that the feed market demands scientific background on our products and the development of new products that can meet their needs. As a result, ICC has established R&D partnerships nationally and abroad. For instance, we financed the construction of an experimental pen house at University of Sao Paulo (USP), in Pirassununga campus, which is the most referred institution in our country.
What do you see as the next livestock industry trend?
With the AGP ban, the industry is challenged to find alternative solutions to the problems of microbial infestation and infections. As a result, these companies are looking for natural and safe alternatives that may counter the effects of antibiotics withdrawal. Many trials have been demonstrating that yeast products can be one of these alternatives, as it helps the animals cope with stressful environments.  On top of that, people expect to use products that have positive synergistic effects when used with other ingredients.
Do you expect more countries  to ban antibiotic growth promoters?
 Indeed, we see this move happening in many countries in different regions not only because of human health issues but also because of market restrictions.
What are the challenges that ICC foresees for the future of this industry?
Yeast is an ingredient with many properties that can boost animal health. The animal industry still faces many disease problems that often affect not only animal's growth, health status and liveability but also decreases business profitability.
The biggest challenge is to deeply explore all of yeast's functionalities in order to support the industry, to help it manage the consequences of stressful environment and raise healthier animals.
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