Cork-based animal nutrition company Nutribio is one of those Irish agribusinesses that operates below the radar yet it plays a crucial role in the agricultural and food supply chain. While the company’s name might not be immediately recognisable, Nutribio estimates that 50% to 60% of the cows in Ireland consume some of its products every year.
Nutribio’s parent company is Co-op Animal Health, a joint venture veterinary wholesale business owned 50:50 by Glanbia and Dairygold. According to Richard Lynch, sales manager with Nutribio, the company was founded after Co-op Animal Health completed the acquisition of Master Farm Nutrition in 1998.
While the company originally focused on the domestic Irish market, Lynch says sales to export markets have become increasingly important for Nutribio over the last decade.
“We first started exporting our animal nutrition products around 2010. At first, we exported to customers relatively close to us in Northern Ireland and the UK. But in recent years we’ve looked further afield and we’re now exporting to 40 international markets,” says Lynch, who completed a MSc in international sales after the company began working with Enterprise Ireland on growing exports.
From a standing start, export sales have gone from zero to accounting for 15% of Nutribio’s €22m in annual sales. By 2025, Lynch is forecasting the percentage of sales from exports will have doubled to 30%.
What’s interesting is some of the export markets that Nutribio is finding success in. According to Lynch, a number of markets in east Africa are driving the export side of Nutribio’s business.
“There’s a developed dairy sector in many east African countries. However, there’s been no consolidation in terms of a dairy industry over there. You literally have hundreds of dairy co-ops in east Africa,” says Lynch.
“If you take a country like Kenya, there are 5m dairy cows in that country. Roughly 1m of those dairy cows are owned by commercial farmers. Food sustainability is a core pillar of government policy in Kenya, so the Department of Foreign Affairs, along with Enterprise Ireland, has been really supportive of us getting better animal nutrition products into these markets,” he adds.
According to Ian Hutchinson, technical manager with Nutribio, the main products being exported by Nutribio to Kenya are older animal nutrition products than what farmers here in Ireland are now looking for.
“One of the main challenges for farmers in Kenya is energy deficiency in their cows.
“So they’re looking for high-energy mineral blocks for their cows, which is a technology that’s well-proven here in Ireland, but is tailored with appropriate active ingredients for the needs of the local market in Kenya,” says Hutchinson.
“However, by lifting the base level of feed quality for those cows, it’s resulting in a much better milk output,” he adds.
As well as east Africa, Nutribio also has export customers in eastern Europe, South America and Asia.
A key growth area for the company is the manufacture of speciality nutrition products and complementary feeds for international customers.
One of the most important pieces of innovation Nutribio has developed over recent years is in the area of intellectual property (IP) and the management of IP.
“We contract-manufacture some very specialised ingredients or products for our customers. So they have to be confident that we are going to handle their IP in a secure way to do business with us,” says Lynch.
With the company’s export focus continues to grow, Nutribio has this month begun commissioning its new manufacturing facility in Little Island in Cork, following a €2.5m capital investment. Once fully operational, this new facility will help to fuel the next decade of export sales growth for Nutribio.