FBA Issue 29: November / December 2009
Amlan International: Asia's livestock health solution provider
by Chris TEO

Established in 2007 as an entirely new division of Oil-Dri Corporation of America, Amlan International places its main focus on innovating, selling and supporting products related to the animal health and nutrition industry. Prior to the inception of the division two years ago, Oil-Dri had been a dominant global provider of specialty mineral additives used in animal feed and human food for more than 20 years. It successfully leveraged this wealth of experience when establishing Amlan.


Quality materials, certified processes rest on a strategic foundation

Indeed, Amlan's founding fitted well into a larger vertical supply chain. With Oil-Dri annually mining and processing a million tonnes of sorbent minerals that are used in various industries, Amlan enjoys preferential access and quality control over a wide variety of candidate minerals.


According to Dr. Ron Cravens, vice president and general manager of Amlan International, "In order to ensure the quality and consistency of our products from the mine to distributors to customers, they are manufactured under a stringent production process with quality checkpoints and testing throughout the process."


Nor is Amlan content to merely start off with highest grade raw inputs. According to Dr. Cravens, there is and end-to-end emphasis on product purity. He explains that, "Our quality process is certified by Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product."


Yet, all superior products and their process technology ultimately rest on a foundation of well thought out strategy. In that vein, Jeff Turner, Amlan's regional sales manager for Asia recalls that, "The first thing we did was to evaluate what the market wanted and compared that to what was available in the market. Our research indicated that the market wanted products from a reliable supplier that had lower inclusion rates and that addressed different toxin control needs whether they be in poultry, swine or dairy production."


Applying these findings, Amlan immediately embarked on an ambitious R&D programme to create innovative, effective products for the mycotoxin control market. Following extensive in vitro and in vivo tests of candidate minerals, the company selected the best two products. Amlan then launched Calibrin A and Calibrin Z, which are designed to control aflatoxin and zearalenone contamination respectively.


Mycotoxins impact animal performance, dairy quality, sow fertility

Aflatoxin, which is treated with Calibrin A, is one of the most common fungi-produced mycotoxins. It commonly contaminates crops and their derived feeds, especially in Asia's warm, humid climate. Rapidly absorbed by poultry, prolonged Aflatoxin exposure can destroy animal health, immunity, reproductive capacity and meat quality. When livestock by-products such as milk contain high concentrations of carcinogenic Aflatoxin breakdown products, they cannot be sold. All these Aflaxtoxin side effects can cause livestock producers to suffer huge losses. 


Zearalenone, which is treated with Calibrin Z, is an estrogenic mycotoxin produced by several species of fusarium mold. It is commonly found in coarse grains such as corn, barley, rice and wheat. It impacts a wide range of livestock but has the greatest impact on swine performance. In China, swine inventory growth has been severely impacted by sow infertility and miscarriages induced by zearalenone contamination.


As both aflatoxin and zearalenone are quickly absorbed by poultry and swine, the immediate elimination of these mycotoxins from animal metabolism safeguards their productivity and performance. Consequently, by mitigating the harmful effects of these fungi by-products, Calibrin A and Calibrin Z are investments that pay for themselves many times over.


Indeed, customer responses to Amlan's mycotoxin control products have been positive, as Calibrin A and Z currently account for about 40 percent of the company's sales. "The sales volume of these two products will increase in the future as we continue to launch in new markets, as well as they will be part of a portfolio of new products over the next few years," Cravens added.


With its global headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, Amlan's main production plant is located in Ochlocknee, Georgia; with a research facility located in Vernon Hills, Illinois. The company manufactures approximately one million tonne of finished products per year. This includes 90,000 tonnes of mineral additives that are used to assuage the toxic and carcinogenic effects of mycotoxicosis in livestock production. Other products are used to improve feed quality.    


Since its founding, Amlan has grown rapidly; from 3 sales employees in 2006 to 11 sales and technical directors as of this year. Moreover, the majority of senior executives are highly qualified professionals holding doctorates in the veterinary science field. In addition, the company's 21 research and development employees are equipped with essential analytical skills, state of the art R&D tools, development protocols and pilot plant expertise to launch new products worldwide.


Arms length academic institutions, journals enhance credibility

Moreover, to subject its products to the highest levels of testing possible, Amlan relies on qualified, arms length researchers and institutions. To compliment its formidable internal R&D capability, Amlan enjoys close working relationships with third party laboratories, universities and agricultural institutions that specialise in mycotoxin testing and research.


According to Dr. Cravens, "Customer credibility and reassurance is a very high company priority. Hence, in order to assure academic objectivity and provide customers with reliable information, study results that the company publishes are from these third party sources." To further enhance its credibility in the eyes of customers, Amlan works with the above research partners to publish formal studies in peer-reviewed academic publications.   
Asia needs mycotoxin binders

Dr. Cravens notes that there are untapped opportunities in most markets, as mycotoxicosis is an underrated, often overlooked factor in livestock health problems.


Jeff Turner adds that, compared to North America, Asia offers Amlan exceptional opportunities with respect to providing livestock solutions. That is not just because Asia has a higher population or faster growing livestock output. Asia's hot, humid climate, lack of grain drying facilities and deficient storage infrastructure all make mycotoxin contamination of feed a far greater problem than it is in North America. Due to all these reasons, Turner states that "There is more awareness of mycotoxins and concern about the losses associated with mycotoxicosis in Asia as compared to North America."


Feed price inflation and a growing reliance on imported alternative feed materials also makes mycotoxin contamination more problematic in Asia. According to Turner, "The high prices of feed ingredients have reduced the profit margins of the Asian commercial feed and livestock sectors, causing them to search for cheaper substitutes for corn and soymeal. As a result, they may procure either lower quality feed or source a poor quality of DDGS. These may contain a higher concentration of mycotoxins. With the risk of mycotoxicosis likely to increase, there will be a greater demand for mycotoxin enterosorbents such as Amlan's Calibrin A and Z in Asia."


Investing in Asia, leveraging Oil-Dri's capital

To accommodate these opportunities, Turner states that, "Our investment into the Asian market has risen substantially as we seek to penetrate new markets and grow our business in existing countries." One recent example of Amlan's rising investment in Asia is the company's sponsorship of the Asia Mycotoxin Analysis Centre (AMAC).


Located at Chaoyang University of Technology, in Taichung, Taiwan, AMAC offers focused, expedient analysis of agricultural commodities for mycotoxin contamination. At the moment, the centre provides services for analysing four types of mycotoxin contamination, namely aflatoxin, vomitoxin, fumonisin and zearalenone. 


With strong financial support from its well capitalized parent company, Oil-Dri, Amlan's investment capital can continue developing new, innovative livestock rearing solutions while extending its research, distribution and marketing networks into key global markets.


"Historically, Amlan's sales are split about one-third each in Asia, Latin America and North America. With the introduction of the new products in Asia and Latin America, we expect this ratio to change in the near term but to return to historical proportions, as we launch more new products in North America." Yet, it seems the products find their greatest relevance in Asia's humid climate and diversity of imported and alternative feed inputs.


R&D plugged into international distribution network

As Amlan explores the huge potential in the market, it needs to have a firm research and development foundation. Currently, the company spends approximately US$2 million a year in its research and development operations. Most of its 21 R&D staff hold advanced degrees in mineralogy, chemistry and animal sciences. With several product development projects underway, Amlan hopes to soon introduce new products that are timely and relevant to the world livestock health and nutrition market.


When those new products are introduced, through its worldwide distribution system, Amlan can roll them out globally, leveraging marketing methods and networks previously pioneered by its parent company, Oil-Dri. Ultimately, Amlan's capacity to globally roll out ground breaking livestock health solutions dovetails perfectly with Asia and Latin America's rapidly expanding feed to meat supply chains.


To better serve these emerging markets in Asia and Latin America, Amlan works through authorised distributors and supports them with a regional network of experienced veterinarians, nutritionists and sales staff. There is however, one difference in the way Amlan markets its products in Asia compared to North America. "The regulation related to approval and promotion of mycotoxin control products in the US does not permit direct marketing and promotion of mycotoxin control claims. These products can be and are marketed in the US usually under the feed ingredient flowability category," Cravens explained.


Maintaining its growth into the future 

Despite being a relatively young entity, Amlan successfully leveraged the resources and reputation of Oil-Dri to create a name for itself. In just a few years, it introduced highly successful new products, with the prospect of many more to come. Dr. Cravens concludes that, "We expect 2010 to be a good year as the general economy improves and our new products continue to gain acceptance in the market."


From all appearances, Amlan's built up momentum in technical expertise, marketing and innovation that will carry it forward for many years to come. 
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