December 5, 2016


Delacon: Scientific proof of belief


Company founder Helmut Dedl was deeply inspired and convinced even 30 years ago about the need for natural performance enhancers as alternatives to antibiotic and synthetic growth promoters, not just for organic farming, but for conventional farming as well. Being the first to receive the zootechnical product authorisation for fully natural phytogenic feed additives from the European Commission, his son and current CEO Markus Dedl is proud to say today that they have "replaced belief with scientific knowledge".


by Ngai Meng CHAN


"In waves", as Markus Dedl describes, is how the feed industry's shift in attitude away from antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) towards natural growth promoters (NGPs) is sweeping across the world.


"In Europe the height of the movement started as early as 2000 with final implementation in 2006. In South Korea antibiotic growth promoters were banned in 2011, Vietnam recently, there is a lot of talk in India now, and we expect soon in China too," Dedl tells LIVESTOCK & FEED Business during an interview at EuroTier in November.

Particularly in the United States, led by consumer organisations and the food industry, sub-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics for growth performance will no longer be allowed by 2017. Together with the ongoing "cage-free" movement for poultry, meaning that birds would be more exposed to more elements, farmers would be facing increasing health challenges. According to Dedl, Delacon is committed to helping the industry and farmers overcome these challenges by providing proven, high-quality products and solutions.


With many NGP products out in the market, farmers are looking for those which can provide a clear and measurable ROI (return on investment). That is why Delacon had decided to have a number of its phytogenic products registered as zootechnical feed additive, as independent and solid proof of the products' efficacy, that is considered as the industry scientific gold standard. For example, in simple terms, as the products have been proven to improve digestibility, farmers can significantly reduce their feed costs.


The scientific opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the subsequent authorization as zootechnical feed additive by the European Commission necessarily means that the modes of action of Delacon's products would be clearly elucidated. As Director of Products & Innovation Dr. Jan Dirk van der Klis explains, that it is important for nutritionists at feed mills to fully understand, among other things, the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and digestibility effects of Delacon's products, enabling them to make their own decisions on whether the products are compatible with other feed additives.

"For example, as our products can improve protein digestibility, protease may not be needed, but since our products don't degrade phytate, phytase may be needed. Young birds may need probiotics, but for older birds, since our products can stimulate the immune response, probiotics may not be needed. Typically phytogenics and enzymes would be sufficient for farms already at a high productivity level. For farms which face microbial challenges, addition of fatty acids and perhaps organic acids, and anti-inflammatory products may be needed. In short, we provide nutritionists the tools to decide on the best solution for their situation."


To cite a specific example, the understanding that farms face increasing challenges, especially in terms of gut health, was the motivation for Delacon to develop Biostrong® Forte, a combination product of phytogenics and short and medium chain fatty acids for higher potency.


To the unfamiliar feed miller, it might appear that Delacon is offering many similar products for poultry, swine and ruminant species. Dr. Jan Dirk van der Klis is quick to clarify.


"Even if the packaging looks the same, the product compositions can be very different. As some examples, for ruminants, we add in tannins to increase rumen bypass protein; for young poultry and piglets, our additives target for example the intestine for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. We have different approaches in different animals and different stages for different challenges," he stresses.


In young animals intestinal health is important. And as more farms become cage-free, laying hens have to be more robust. Moreover, heat stress is one of the important challenges in the animals. Dr. Jan Dirk van der Klis is confident that Delacon would be able to extend its knowledge of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects to respond to these new challenges, and to make tailor-made solutions.


Beyond new products and technologies, Delacon has a global Feed Tech Service for providing nutritional and other consultancy to key accounts. "We discuss with them about feed formulation and optimisation, nutrient requirements, how to reduce production costs, and of course, where the use of phytogenics would be most effective in their production system. And with more farms in the US expected to become antibiotic-free and cage-free in the future, we're confident that with our experience from all over the globe, we would be able to help them adapt to the change," says Dr. Jan Dirk van der Klis.


Today, Delacon's business is well-distributed among the EMEA, Americas and Asia. "Our largest sales is still in Europe, and we still see potential there, since there are actually a lot of European feed additive companies which don't sell in Europe as Europeans are not convinced of their products, giving us opportunity. We expect to see huge changes in the US. Asia is an ever-growing market, including countries such as China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia. The next five years would be decisive for us, and we expect to maintain or exceed growth of 20% per year," predicts Markus Dedl.


As Delacon is a global company with thrust at local presence, it would need to ensure that its products remain relevant for feed millers who make use of various grain types and local by-products. For this, Dr. Jan Dirk van der Klis assures that it products are tested in different parts of the world with different feed compositions, and the data which has since been collated are valid for a wide range of feed formulations suitable for local conditions.


Looking into the Chinese market with high promising opportunities, Delacon is continuously growing and intensifying its local presence there. In fact the company has recently reorganised its local team to provide quicker market response, appointing two new staff to provide technical sales support.


According to Stephane Jolain, Director of Global Sales & Marketing, food scandals had  rocked meat consumption in the country, especially for poultry meat. Pork is less impacted, perhaps because Chinese traditionally are pork lovers, Jolain quips. In a more serious vein, he notes that today Chinese companies have a "clear willingness to open a new chapter for the industry by being transparent and giving confidence about food safety", and that Delacon's discussions with top producers on new feed additives to ensure food safety have been "more receptive", compared to just a few years ago. Dr. Jan Dirk van der Klis adds that large Chinese feed mills today are highly focussed on quality assurance, and are always on the lookout for products which are consistent in quality and efficacy.


Delacon's increasing local presence is also seen in research, as it steps up its collaboration with academic institutions and universities, like Anhui Science & Technology University, Nanjing Agricultural University, Sichuan Agricultural University and Shandong Agricultural University.


Globally, Delacon is investing 10% of its annual turnover in fundamental and market-oriented research, and product development, at the company-owned Performing Nature Research Center and together with universities and institutes, continuously "replacing belief with scientific knowledge" as Markus Dedl puts it, and living up to the vision which Helmut Dedl had created three decades ago.
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