2 March 2020 - In October 2019, Novus International announced that François Fraudeau would retire as President and CEO after 28 years with the company. Novus's Board of Directors hired a former Novus Executive, Dan Meagher, to take over that role on 1 April 2020. Dan Meagher has since joined the company on 14 October 2019 as Executive Vice President and General Manager prior to assuming the CEO role in April. He previously held the position of President and CEO with Agrivida, Inc., an agriculture technology start-up company and supplier of enzymes.
Dan Meagher also confirmed joining the ‘Feedinfo Leaders’ Network’ – the group of animal nutrition industry senior executives involved with the development of The Feedinfo Summit, taking place in Geneva in September 2020.
Feedinfo News Service caught up with Dan Meagher as he prepares to take the helm at Novus to discuss the transition, his vision for the company, as well as the challenges Novus was faced within the past year such as African swine fever and the reassessment of Project Newton – Novus’s liquid methionine production expansion plans that were put on hold in May 2019.
Dan Meagher’s Journey and Mission
Since October 2019, Meagher has lost no time to get to the heart of the matter.
Reflecting on the past months, he said: “My goal for the first few months back at Novus was to look at the company’s strategy, both past and present, and get to know the people. It’s been a while since I’ve worked here, and things have changed; new faces and changing business environment.”
“Talking with the leadership team and our shareholders, I am glad to see Novus has been driving business through our ‘World Area’ focus and I can see how this customer-focused approach will propel us forward as a company. We have many partnerships worldwide and so part of my onboarding process has been understanding Novus’s role in those partnerships within the local and regional business communities and the industry itself.”
At the start of 2020, Meagher transitioned to evaluating Novus’s current strategy and talking with leadership and shareholders about how that strategy will evolve overtime given what he has seen in the world areas, new industry trends and consumer demands, including during his time spent at Agrivida.
Asked to what extent his 2013-2019 hiatus away from Novus helped shape his vision of the firm, Meagher said that it confirmed his belief that Novus needs to stay open to new technology and be flexible with change if it is to meet its mission and vision.
“My time away from Novus gave me the perspective of how new technologies can fit within Novus’s portfolio to provide a compliment to the existing product lines. I can also see how those technologies can enhance and expand current research and development capabilities and provide an avenue for new product development and value-added solutions to our customers’ needs,” he commented.
When the CEO succession was announced in October, Tetsu Watanabe, Novus Chairman of the Board of Directors and Senior Vice President of Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc., commented that animal nutrition is one of the focus areas of parent firm Mitsui and partner company Nippon Soda.
Adding onto these remarks made by Watanabe, Meagher said: “For Mitsui, the animal nutrition sector of their portfolio is core to their continued growth and expansion. That has been shared with me and the Novus team on multiple occasions and, as a result, their commitment to Novus and Nippon Soda as a joint partner is steadfast. Today, Novus makes up a significant portion of that business unit for Mitsui and they have communicated that they intend to continue investing in the animal nutrition and health sector; the opportunities that are identified for expansion and diversification as it fits within that strategy will be pursued.”
Once Meagher takes on the role of President and CEO in April, he will immediately look at reinforcing the platforms on which the Novus business is built with a renewed focus on core technologies and solutions.
He stated: “We will evaluate our overall platform of products and solutions and address those that do not fit our core strength and vision. We will re-emphasise our species marketing and value propositions.”
“We are showing a new commitment to service in our world area teams. Now that we are closer than ever, both geographically and in our understanding of our customers’ challenges, we are poised to better serve the industry. Via current and added technologies, I want to bolster our R&D and product development areas to focus on delivering new and innovative products that address the gut health and immunity challenges our customers face,” Meagher added.
And in this world area focus, Meagher will pursue Novus’s target of providing solutions to livestock producers negatively impacted by the effects of African swine fever (ASF) which devastated the swine industry in China and in Southeast Asia.
“It goes without saying that a loss like that in production had an impact, first on our customers and second on our business,” Meagher remarked. “Despite the losses realised by Chinese producers as well as Novus in 2019, we are optimistic about the plan China has in place to rebuild the swine herd. Some of our products and solutions are being fed to deal with the challenges they are facing. The industry is rebounding with a renewed energy and focus on integrated production with state-of-the-art biosecurity and a comprehensive approach to production that includes innovation and the use of new technologies. In the area of animal health and nutrition, Novus is partnering with producers in that part of the world as they rebuild.”
Novus will also be gauging opportunities for technologies that can add value to its portfolio, and M&A may very well be one route the company will be taking moving forward under Meagher’s leadership.
“It continues to be a part of our strategy to look for companies that fit well with Novus where solutions, service and sustainability are concerned,” he commented. “Our strategy will include the pursuit of technologies that we can own and develop to strengthen our back-end integration, expand our market reach, and our R&D pipeline.”
And looking at Novus’s manufacturing footprint today, Meagher argued that the company’s goal is to optimise the use of its facilities and its overall production capacity.
Asked if any specific production facility expansion plans will be undertaken in 2020, he said: “Today, our team does an excellent job of managing and taking advantage of our current capacity to meet the market need. We are well positioned in 2020 to continue to grow and expand our reach and market share with this system. As the forecast changes and we see that there will come a time when we’ll exceed our capacity, we will make the appropriate investments to expand and accommodate that demand.”
One core long-term focus for Novus is of course methionine – a competitive market characterised by oversupply and an overall decline in prices for several years now.
On the production side, Novus revealed in May 2019 that it would be cancelling plans to expand capacity for liquid methionine production in Calhoun County, Texas, with its investment known as ‘Project Newton’. The project’s aim was to grow production to 440,000 MT per year by 2020-2021.
Touching base on this decision, Meagher said: “Novus and our owners continue to be committed to expanding Novus’s methionine capacity to capture market growth. As we successfully serve our customers with the capacity we have installed at the Chocolate Bayou facility in Texas, we are evaluating the best way to grow with the market in the years to come. Behind the scenes we are always looking for the right time to invest in our operations.”
With the oversupply in the methionine market and overall downward price trend, and with the growth in focus of Novus on specialty business (minerals, enzymes, eubiotics, feed quality and pigment products), Feedinfo asked Meagher to what extent Novus and its owners are committed to the methionine business today.
In response, he stated: “Novus is a leader in the global methionine market and has no plans of that changing.”
Adding that “the HMTBa molecule we offer as a source of methionine continues to be a core of how we serve our customers.” And, for Meagher, what reaffirms Novus’s commitment to the methionine business is the use of our HMTBa molecule in its specialty products like eubiotics, or notably in organic trace minerals where the company has seen growth since the launch in 2004. The company now claims to be the number 2 supplier of organic trace minerals in the world.
“Our knowledge and understanding of these solutions, which are both powerful assets for those working to remove antibiotics from diets, has tripled since I was first with Novus,” he added.
What’s more, the picture for methionine and methionine derivatives demand is looking promising.
Meagher pointed out: “As demand for poultry increases, production will subsequently increase resulting in the need for more methionine to help the birds meet their growth potential. As the global demand for protein becomes more dynamic, I am confident that swine production will rebound to meet the demand that consumers still have for quality pork. I believe the industry will see the demand for methionine continue to grow with an expansion in swine production for the segments where supplementation is beneficial for growth.”
So, although African swine fever is creating shifts in animal protein consumption trends, what Novus is seeing supports methionine and feed additive consumption generally-speaking.