Environment issues and e-commerce came under discussion when FoodNavigator.com spoke with Hans Berggren, President of Lyckeby StärkelsenFood & Fibre AB, the Scandinavian supplier of specialist starches.
FN: On your website you stated that "with an annual sales growth ofapproximately 30 per cent our sales of modified starches and POTEX (potato dietary fibre) have doubled in the past three years…". How were sales this year of modified starches and POTEX? In which market areas of the world did you witness particular growth?
HB: We continue to grow with the same speed of 30 per cent growth. Our main market areas are Scandinavia & Finland, Eastern Europe and Central Europe. We also have a strong position in Asia. We have had the biggest growth in Central and Eastern Europe.
Three principal reasons explain this phenomenon. Firstly, Central and Eastern Europe are currently experiencing a healthy economy. Secondly, there is room for new developments in this geographical area. While other world markets are quite penetrated, this market remains unsaturated. Finally, as we are focusing our work on this area the growth reflects our efforts.
FN: What benefits has Lyckeby Starkelsen noticed following the marketing agreement with US company, Penford Food Ingredients?
HB: We now have a strong representative in the US and the relationship is working well. It is still early days but so far the signs are encouraging.
FN: Echoes from ingredients companies suggest that their customers are encouraging them to use e-commerce. What steps, if any, have Lyckeby taken towards e-commerce? What in your opinion is the future of e-commerce in the foods ingredients industry?
HB: We do not believe that e-commerce will take over as the channel for sales of modified starch for the food industry in the near future. We do not want to sell our specialised products online because we sell "know-how". Our success lies in happy customers, for this to occur we need to understand their needs. The human contact is essential. We do not sell bulk products such as starch syrups that are more appropriate for e-commerce platforms. We sell specialised ingredients - e-commerce is less pertinent.
But we do believe that web communication is a very important tool to be successful in the market. We are working with our website to put the technology of the internet to use. We are aiming towards establishing an online payment system and also a system for the transfer of orders from established clients. This, I believe, is the practical handling of the internet.
FN: Lyckeby appears to have a keen interest in the environment that has led to its introduction of the ISO 14001 environmental management system. In light of the growing interest in organic foods and ingredients, what steps, if any, have the Lyckeby farmers taken towards organic farming? What do you envisage the future of organic ingredients to be?
This is a growing market and we do have a group of farmers that carry out organic farming. Their potatoes are processed separately and the starch and fibres are sold as organic.
In a few years we expect that industries unable to show hard facts on a positive environmental status will meet difficulties in selling. We believe that the environmental issues will continue to grow in importance. This doesn't mean, I think, that organic farming will take over. It will always remain a small part of the food industry. However environmental issues are important - using energy well, not jeopardising the health of the public- and will become more so in the future. Lyckeby is currently producing material where "sustainable" is one of the key words.