“Some consumers will not be inclined to buy a bio-based product unless it is an equal or lower cost than the existing product. Value needs to be captured by the marketing department.”
Green Biologics first started business in 2003 and is a renewable speciality chemicals company specialising in bio-based n-butanol, acetone, and their derivatives. They aim to provide performance based, value added solutions to a wide range of markets including personal care, consumer products, food, nutrition, coatings, adhesives and inks. Green Biologics strategy is to apply synthetic biology and modern process technology to the Clostridium microbial fermentation process to provide best-in-class solutions for the development and production of new renewable bio-based products. Their first platform products are 100% renewable n-Butanol and acetone and they are developing future C3 and C4 chemicals and derivatives using Clostridium. In 2014, they acquired an ethanol manufacturing facility in Little Falls, Minnesota (US) and have recently completed a retrofitting project to configure the site to produce n-butanol and acetone utilising corn in their fermentation process. First customer shipments commenced in late 2016, and the plant is expected to ramp up to full capacity over the next 12-18 months. This week Emily O’Dowd spoke to David Anderson the Global Vice President of Marketing who sheds light on the importance of understanding your consumers.
Emily O’Dowd (EOD): What has led you to your role at Green Biologics?
David Anderson (DA): I started off working in various commercial roles in the chemical industry before I joined Green Biologics. With 19 years of previous experience in marketing, business development, and strategic planning in primarily petroleum based technology, I was intrigued by the opportunity to participate in the growing trend toward renewable chemistry. I was attracted to working at Green Biologics because they had a very interesting technology and business plan for renewable chemicals with a compelling value proposition based first on performance, then leveraging the renewable aspects of their technology.
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EOD: What do you enjoy most about your role?
DA: At Green Biologics we are able to build our business customer by customer. I am very energised right now because I am involved in some interesting product development projects with my colleagues that can be game changing solutions! Despite some of the obstacles that can arise in the industry, it is such a great field to work in. Additionally, I enjoy being involved in the renewable energy movement and contributing towards positive change which will inevitably continue moving forward.
It is important to articulate the value proposition forour renewable products, because I think there is an inherent suspicion that bio-based or green products are unlikely to perform as well as traditional or petroleum-based ones. However, we are convinced that we have a technology platform todeliver a performance with the added benefit of renewable chemistry. So when we are able to demonstrate this combination of advantages, this is a real achievement.
EOD: What is the biggest change that you have noticed in the bio-based space over the past ten years?
DA: Since working at Green Biologics, I feel more connected to the product’s technology that we are developing. As a result, I am able to work on projects where we can develop our technology into a formulated product that a consumer will want to buy at a store. In my previous occupations, I felt somewhat removed from the actual end product. But in my opinion, the closer you are the consumer, the better position you will have to maximise your profitability along that value chain. So in summary, I do think that business strategies in the bio-based space have changed to adapt to the consumer.
EOD: What advice would you give for someone starting work in the bio-based industry?
DA: Firstly, it is important to know your competition and what you are competing against. Secondly, you should really spend time developing a value proposition that will benefit your consumers. One of the most valuable lessons you can tell somebody when trying to commercialise new technology and chemicals, is that you need to have exposure to your target customers across the organisation. I have learnt that it is essential to get senior marketing executives to promote your product in the right way. As a result, the value of the product can be better articulated to the consumer. After all, some consumers will not be inclined to buy a bio-based product unless it is an equal or lower cost than the existing product. Value needs to be captured by the marketing department.
EOD: What single change would help develop the bio-based industry further?
DA: I think that the government needs to incentivise companies to invest more in sustainable alternatives and technology this would be very helpful across the industry. Incentives would certainly raise the purchasing profile of sustainable products and technology. This would also impact the internal structures of companies. For example, a CEO would be obliged to change the focus of the business to invest in more renewable process, rather than just looking to make fiscal savings.
EOD: Where would you like to see your company in 5 years time?
DA: I would like to see Green Biologics have a wider global footprint when it comes to manufacturing our technology. We have recently started up our first production site in Minnesota so this is the start of a growing and hopefully global enterprise.
EOD: What is your favourite bio-based/sustainable product aside from your own product range?
DA: In my kitchen, we always use bio-based cleaning products and one of my favourite brands has to be Seventh Generation.
EOD: Thank you for your time today David, and good luck with Green Biologics plans for the future.
Last week’s 5 minutes with…5 minutes with… Julia Schifter, Business Development Director at TIPA.
Next week’s 5 minutes will feature… Mattias Bodin, Sustainability Expert, Materials and Innovation,H&M
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