Maintaining a presence in the pharma space isn’t changing, but the firm is benefitting from using technologies acquired from pharma-focused start-ups and applying them to its rapidly expanding nutrition business.
“We’ve been around 130 years so people know who we are if they are looking for capsules but for the first time ever we are outside of the capsule,” Pete Zambetti, director of global business development told us.
“We only ever cared about the capsule but we are developing some technologies with companies that we are buying – a lot of them from the pharmaceutical area.”
Capsugel, owned since 2011 by US private equity investor Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) which acquired it from Pfizer, has been more active in acquisition.
“We have purchased four companies in the five last years to help us deliver technology around dosage form solution,” Zambetti said referring to the acquisitions of Encap Drug Delivery, Bend Research, Xcelience and Powdersize
“For 120 years we were just about empty capsules – now it’s not about that, it’s hey, what’s your problem, we have a technology that can help solve that.”
“We are all about bringing more value to our parent company because we recognise we have a lot of expertise in our business.”
Bending pharma to nutrition
Take Bend Research – which specialised in pharma R&D and which Capsugel purchased in 2013. “We asked them: how about nutrition? They have a technology called LMP – lipid multi particulate. It’s a patent that was used primarily for pharma and now we use it for things like drink mixes. We are excited about that – it really is about taste masking and controlled release.”
A growing business has driven facility expansion among the 10 global plants making 200 billion capsules per year. Two of those plants are in Europe – in Belgium and France.
'a good problem to have'
“We already make capsules in Colmar in France 24-7 and we are expanding it because we need more capacity for our vegetable capsules – it’s a good problem to have.”
“The market for vegetarian capsules is exploding as companies shifts from gelatine to these other polymers. Things like probiotics need protection and gelatine is not the first choice because the capsules dissolve too quickly.”
“It is also great for ingredients like garlic and melatonin – we are finding a lot of opportunities in a lot of ingredients where people want to have a delayed release effect.”
However Zambetti affirmed the New Jersey HQ'd company had no intention of moving into ingredient supply.
Asia & beyond
Regionally speaking the firm was moving on several fronts.
“We are putting people in places we never have been before. Like Russia, Canada – previously not a big enough market for us. Whether it is hard capsule or liquid we need more people whether it’s China, Japan, Indonesia.”
“The ASEAN region – in spite of a lot of economic issues is really doing well for us. You’re looking at 700 million consumers.”
“Or take India. Companies want to be in India – it might take 18 months to get the products on-market but it is worth it.”
He added: “We need to be where the market is – we have plants in all the major markets. Everywhere people need capsules we are manufacturing because at the end of the day you have got to be close to the local markets to be competitive.”