DuPont health & nutrition president on mega mergers, start-up successes and new product launch plans

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock
Despite its recent mega mergers and billion-dollar business deals, DuPont is still very much focussed on collaborating with start-ups. “Not everything has to be invented in our labs,” its nutrition and health president Matthias Heinzel tells FoodNavigator.

Heinzel heads up DuPont’s multi-billion nutrition and health division which supplies sweeteners, proteins, enzymes, colours, flavours, probiotics and soy.

Matthias Heinzel

Last month’s announcement that DuPont is to acquire FMC’s health and nutrition business​,​ will bring an additional €655m (FMC’s 2016 revenue which came mainly from texturants) under Heinzel’s helm.

“It’s a very complementary portfolio and strategically aligned deal [that will] add high value ingredients to our product base,” ​he said. DuPont already supplies texturants such as carrageenan and alginates but will gain cellulose from the deal, for instance.

“FMC has a model of technical centres model that we can tap into [and] with the addition of FMC’s portfolio we get a broader toolbox with better solutions for our customers.”

Working towards a seamless transition

The agreement will also see DuPont swap a number of its crop protection assets to FMC –  two parts of the same deal, Heinzel said, with these “divestmentsremedies​” intended to ensure the European Commission’s approval of the DuPont-Dow $130 billion crop chemical merger​.

As for the short to medium-term priorities, Heinzel said the company would be working hard to meet its own targets for the transition. It hopes to complete the Dow merger by the third quarter 2017 and the FMC acquisition by the fourth.

“We are working in three phases in planning to make sure everything can be done in a seamless way for customers. By the fourth quarter [of this year] we will have an integrated organisation so we can start to actually use the FMC toolbox and portfolio with all our customers." 

'It's not a cookie-cutter approach to collaborating with start-ups'

But the firm is not solely interested in million- and billion-dollar deals.

“Some of those bigger deals are going on but at same time we are also open and focused on working very intensely with smaller start-ups and universities in scaling up new technologies – and that’s not just nutrition and health, it goes across DuPont.”

health idea innovation start-up iStock Rawpixel Ltd
© iStock

“We want to create useful products for end customers but not everything has to be invented in our own labs – although we do have a great history in doing that."

At the end of last year, for instance, Heinzel’s division announced a collaboration with a small Belgian firm​ working in the field of human milk oligosaccharides. “We are working with them to create a new offering in the baby formula market.”

Other multinational manufacturers and suppliers that have incubator schemes and accelerators to tap into the technical know-how coming from start-ups, such as Unilever’s Foundry, Naturex’s Ingenium or General Mill’s G-Win but DuPont doesn’t - although it still finds ways to partner with smaller players.  

“It’s not a cookie cutter approach but we do have a model for working with small start-ups either through collaboration or investment. We create dedicated teams and staff them appropriately with people that have the right mind-set.

“Local start-ups bring a certain expertise which we combine with our strengths. Numbers-wise we are bigger, we can scale up from laboratory to commercial scale for example, but they have speed and agility. It’s about accommodating expectations.”

Probiotic push

As part of the company’s quarterly launch plan, Heinzel said manufacturers could expect a new product to be announced in the coming months. The president remained tight-

Probiotics © iStock frentusha
© iStock/frentusha

lipped on the details although he did say it would be linked to probiotics – an area his division has been investing heavily in area recently.

In November last year DuPont announced a significant $100m (€95m) expansion​ of its US-based probiotic manufacturing capability.

Meanwhile, in January this year it announced it would be injecting $60 million (€57m)​ in expanding frozen and freeze-dried dairy starter culture production sites in France and Germany.

Although this was for yoghurt, fresh fermented and cheese markets, the processing equipment could be used to make probiotics, however this was not currently planned for Europe, a spokesperson said at the time.

“I think the health-oriented part of the business is a big area for growth. We see interesting opportunities, and probiotics stand out especially,” ​Heinzel added. "We are on a trajectory to grow the business and our global footprint with substantial investments."

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