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Neptune Technologies and Bioressources
Neptune Technologies and Bioressources (NTB) has been manufacturing high-end krill oil supplements since 2003. For a decade, the company provided a consistent supply of this omega-3 phospholipid product to wellness retailers worldwide. NTB began as a pioneer in krill oil extraction, honing a cold-press technique at Sherbrooke University in the 1990s before taking the product to market. Over the years, the company rose to the top, standing out as a leader in krill oil production in 2012 before a tragic incident shook the foundations of the business.
An explosion at the plant took the lives of three employees and destroyed the production facility. The team was devastated. Through the long healing process, which involved investigations and a temporary halt on the company’s share trading, the executive team faced difficult decisions. “There have been a lot of challenges and struggles,” says Andre Godin, who currently serves as NTB’s president, CEO and chief financial officer. “We have been incredibly fortunate to maintain the support of many of our longtime employees, customers and shareholders. After some consideration, we decided to rebuild.”
The business had already been in the process of upgrades. A new structure underway, near the former plant, to expand operations was relatively unharmed by the catastrophe. After a construction process, the plant is up and running again and recently began operating at full capacity. Godin and his team are working to make up lost sales and is currently operating with a significant portion of pre-incident revenue coming in.
Keeping the gears turning
In the interim, NTB was able to continue operation through supply agreements with other companies. Now, the business is back to in-house production. Despite the challenges the company has faced over the last few years, customers still trust the brand for quality and innovation. As production picks up in Quebec, the company has worked closely with the Commission de la Santé et de la Sécurité du Travail du Québec (CSST), Quebec’s Occupational Health and Safety Commission. Working closely with inspectors, the business has met the conditions required to resume operation while taking extra cautionary steps to protect workers.
The company’s premium krill oil, NKO, is well-liked and NTB’s state-of-the-art acetone-based extraction offers benefits over competitors. “The ethanol extraction process used by our competitors causes loss of active ingredients and more impurities,” Godin explains. “By maintaining our technology and patents, we were able to survive and we remain one of the most sought out and trusted krill oils in the world.”
NTB offers various krill oil formulations under the NKO umbrella, including, NKOFocus, NKOFlex and NKOBeat. The new formulations, which will be available soon, target the brain, joints and heart respectively. In terms of product differences NKOFocus, NKOFlex and NKOBeat are formulated with nutrient powerhouses, such as CoQ10, vitamin D and lutein. The clinically-proven results show that NKO enhances the uptake of these ingredients.
The team is also working with new biomass, which will follow the lines of these krill oil products, but alter formulations in order to offer different benefits to users. “Our new products will have a similar composition of krill oil, but may offer more or less DHA, EPA and phospholipids,” says Godin.
With 50 percent of the company’s former workforce back in action, NTB is focused on increasing capacity. The company announced on November 5, 2014, that its Sherbrooke facility completed its ramp-up, reaching an annual production capacity of 150 metric tons. Over the next couple of years, the executive team will be looking to grow again by changing features of the process, adding equipment and changing input. Optimizing the process is an ongoing goal.
To accommodate the increase in production, NTB is seeking to implement new commercial strategies in an ongoing effort to improve operations. For instance, the company may consider establishing joint ventures and partnerships that will allow parties on both sides to diversify or integrate operations.
“We are always looking to innovate and create more value as a public company,” Godin notes. “We constantly need to be aware of value we create for our customer and shareholders. We plan to continuously improve the valuation of our company by seeking out new opportunities in all different directions.
While the rebuilding of the company has been difficult, the company faces new challenges as NTB returns to the market. “We are facing a lot of competition,” Godin elaborates. “At the same time, we were the company that brought krill to the market. We have been able to resolve a lot of the issues with licensing deals which helped us resolve any patent issues. Now, we are driving our products forward through consumer education. A lot of our messaging has been successful. In the United States, which is our largest market, people are more aware and our supplements are in more households. We are also focusing on the health product channels such as GNC, which distributes our products.”
Aside from these challenges, Godin and his team see a lot of opportunity to grow on a global scale over the coming years. As the rest of the world pulls out of the recession, the executives do not foresee any obstacles to growth. With a strong local labor market, Godin reports that NTB has no shortage of good candidates on the executive level or operating level. The business offers competitive wages and benefits.
“We take a lot of pride in our team,” Godin says. “We have a motivated crew and I am a motivated person who likes challenges.” He relishes the excitement of new opportunities and problem-solving. With a clear plan of where the company is headed over the coming years, Neptune Technologies and Bioressources is on track for a full comeback.