Brenntag’s President Africa, Michael Thomson has been working in chemical distribution for over 20 years and he says “there’s never been a dull moment” and now the company has set its sights on becoming the market leader by 2020.
Brenntag South Africa was launched on October 1, 2017 after the merging of Lionheart, Plastichem, Multilube and Warren Chem Specialities – all which were acquired within two years before the merger. Thomson explains that each entity was focused on specialties dedicated to different market segments. “By merging the companies we kept the dedicated commercial structure per market segment but optimised administration, logistics and finance. And we are proud that we could offer all staff jobs within the new Brenntag South Africa.” Thomson says the biggest challenge has been to establish the Brenntag culture by amalgamating family-owned companies and implementing a new management structures and IT systems. The chemicals sector in South Africa is the largest of its kind in Africa, and it is highly diversified, according to Thomson. “South Africa continues to have a self-sufficient chemical manufacture base but still exports largely to USA, China and Germany as a way of strengthening trade relations with key countries. Therefore, a lot of the raw materials have to be imported making the market share of chemical distribution much higher than in Europe.”
Big plans for Africa
Thomson says Brenntag’s “2020 vision” is very clear – to become the African market leader (or No 1 distributor) in chemical distribution by following the guidelines of the successful model in Europe. “With our appetite for risk, by investing in new regions like Africa and market segments, we are on the forefront of new developments.” He says the company’s goals include: ·
- To continue acquiring companies in East Africa and Egypt.
- To be the safest chemical distributor striving for zero accidents and incidents.
- To connect customers and suppliers.
- To offer the most professional sales & marketing organisation in the industry.
Expertise Brenntag brings to the market
The company offers extensive technical support with its in-house laboratory. The expertise spans across bakery, beverage, meat and dairy application, and product offerings include: Shelf life extenders Microbial Inhibitors Stabilising systems Fortifying agents Flavours Colours Binders Acidity regulators Sugar and sodium reduction
On future trends
“Future trends in food innovation will focus on the health of the environment,” Thomson says, adding that scientists are estimating that within three decades agriculture and food production will account for half of the permissible carbon emissions (at which global warming is kept below the 2°C level). The meat and dairy industry are the main culprits through methane gas emissions. “Scientists have recently discovered that plastic degrading in sunlight emits methane gas, a major cause of global warming. With such a big contribution to total greenhouse gas emissions, we have to change the way in which we produce and process food.” Thomson believes the consumer is well informed when it comes to mainstream issues such as global warming and environmental affairs. “Innovation will undoubtedly be driven by changes in consumer spending patterns and they will focus on finding alternatives for meat and dairy, as well as using packaging that is 100% biodegradable and made from natural materials such as bio polymers.”
And when it comes to other health concerns, Thomson says clean labels and healthy eating is becoming ever more important in a constantly changing society. “At Brenntag, we pride ourselves in being at the forefront of innovation with cutting edge technology in the form of innovative ingredients supplied by world class manufacturers.”
Myths and misconceptions about the industry
The biggest misconception is that chemical distribution is a conservative and established industry. “In my mind it’s the opposite. We are involved in a lot of developments and innovations as it’s mostly smaller manufacturers – typically our customers – who drive innovation and we are supporting them.”