Solbar reshuffles for business development focus

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Solbar, Soybean, Soy protein

Israeli soy ingredient supplier Solbar has announced a change in
its management structure for 2008 in order to strengthen its sales
efforts and invest in business development.

In addition to soy-derived commodities meal and oil, Solbar offers the full range of soy proteins for non-meat uses such as bars, vegetable analogues, supplements and beverages. It also supplies soy isolates, textured soy concentrates, and soy isoflavones for a range of products and markets. It has now taken the step of dividing responsibilities for marketing and development, and sales and supply chain. Marketing and development will be more focused on strategy, new product and new market development, R&D and business development. "We believe the new organisational structure will help management take the necessary steps to lead the company in the coming years,"​ said CEO Shaul Shelach, who was appointed in October. The change involves the appointment of Assaf Gadish, who has managed operations and supply chain, as VP sales and supply chain. Gadish will be responsible for soy protein and commodity (meal and oil) sales, as well as soy bean procurement. Gary Brenner, who has headed up marketing and sales of soy protein for a number of years, will become VP marketing and development, and will focus on soy proteins and isoflavones. "By developing the protein business as part of Solbar's overall strategy, we expect to achieve a competitive advantage based upon the unique characteristics which Solbar brings to the global soy market,"​ said Shelach. Although Solbar is a small company compared to the US soy heavyweights ADM and Solae, who occupy the two top spots in the market, Brenner told FoodNavigator.com: "Our success in recent years has been result of listening to and addressing customer needs, flexibility in trying to come-up with sustainable solutions (functionalities and cost), plus our strong scientific approach when it comes to soy isoflavones."​ Brenner said that most of his focus going forward will be on the strategic development of new markets for soy isoflavones, building on the market leading position Solbar already claims in Europe and Latin American. He also said that saponins, glycosides derived from plants, will form part of the scientific focus and slate of new developments for 2008. ​Solbar has undergone several organisational incarnations in the last few years in the face of an insecure soy industry and other factors that have affected business. Most recently, in May a group of investors led by the First Israeli Turnaround Enterprise (FITE), Mivtach Shamir Group and Ori Yehudai, CEO of Frutarom, acquired a 51 per cent stake in Solbar's share capital. Part of the acquisition agreement involved the investment of NIS 80m (around US$20m) towards redeeming all of the company's outstanding debentures. July 2006 the FITE Fund, controlled by Ishav Davidi, had reached an agreement with Kibbutz Hazor to invest NIS 80m (c €14.5m) in Solbar for a 47.5 per cent stake close to the market opening price. Solbar started out as a kibbutz-run business, and the investment came as at the end of a turbulent two years following its initial public offering to the Israeli Stock Exchange in 2004. Issues over soybean sourcing had an impact on the financial performance of the newly public company: over 90 per cent of its soybeans were sourced from Brazil, and the darker colour of the beans affected product quality and functionality. A low point followed some poor quality batches, and at the end of 2005 a restructuring programme was initiated. This put the company in a better position immediately, and Brenner said that this resulted in a 20 per cent increase in soy proteins in 2006 compared to the previous year. In addition to Gadish and Brenner's new roles, Onn Oren, manager of Solbar's Ashdod plant, has been appointed manager of operations and will look after all of the company's facilities in Israel and report to the CEO. Yossi Gohari, general manager Solbar Ningbo Food, is also to report to Shelach. Solbar's China factory, located in the Ningbo Free Trade Zone, southeast of Shanghai, was established in 2005 and was the company's first production base outside its home country of Israel.

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