'Naturex was a start-up 20 years ago.'

CEO Exclusive: Naturex goes back to start-up roots to drive growth

By Niamh Michail from Avignon, France

- Last updated on GMT

The world’s biggest supplier of botanical extracts, Naturex, is on track to meet the targets of its growth strategy Bright2020 which aims to see 10% of sales coming from new products, according to CEO Olivier Rigaud.

“When we started Bright2020 we had roughly 4.5% of sales coming from new products launched over the past three years. [Today] we are round about between 7 and 7.5%. Knowing that we are only about nine months into the execution of Bright2020, it’s already nice,”​ Rigaud told us at the firm’s headquarters in Avignon, France.

In order to meet this target the company has a triple approach which involved investing in internal R&D and regional application labs for mid- to long-term growth, and a start-up accelerator scheme for more short-term results.

In terms of internal R&D, it currently has around 12 clinical studies in the works which marks “a sharp increase”​ over the past few years.

“Another angle is investment in application labs, which we call the Spring Labs. We have eight across the globe and we [will have] 11 by the end of next year,” ​said Rigaud.

The company has notably invested heavily in its application lab in Chicago and plans to open more in Singapore and Mexico by the end of next year. “This is more a collaborative approach with customers in the regions, being local and able to act fast.”

These investments are focused more on yielding long-term results, according to the CEO, as it’s difficult to know when the products will come to fruition.

'It's about keeping our roots'

Short-term innovation and products come form the third main pillar of Bright2020, its Ingenium Open Innovation, a start-up accelerator which launched around six months ago.

“It will allow us to launch faster and fill the pipeline much faster with new technologies, products and science; but also to attract some start-ups companies and talent.

“One of the targets is ‘Let’s see if we can help some entrepreneurs who fit in with the Naturex mindset' and give them a push to start [through] regulatory support, lab space, commercial support and the network in the organisation we have globally. For us it’s important because Naturex was a start-up company 20 years ago.

“It’s about keeping our roots and adding a social impact,” ​Rigaud added.

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©iStock/rawpixelLTD

The aim of the open innovation scheme is also to attract talent from sectors the Avignon-based company has not yet explored.

Microalgae could be one, said the CEO, although he was tight-lipped about specific upcoming products in the Ingenium pipeline. However, he did say that in the space of a few months since its launch, the company has received somewhere between 300 and 400 applications. Some of the most interesting ideas had come from emerging markets, in particular related to natural colours and phytoactives.

However it has already inked a deal with Polish food supplement and pharmaceutical manufacturer Adamed through the Ingenium scheme for botanical extract chokeberry and its heart health benefits​. These products will hit the shelves in 2017, said Rigaud.

Naturex reported a turnover of around €400m in 2015.

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