SternVitamin says focus on service, smaller customers will help it compete in North America

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

SternVitamin's headquarters near Hamburg, Germany.  SternVitamin photo.
SternVitamin's headquarters near Hamburg, Germany. SternVitamin photo.
German company SternVitamin is making a concerted push to enlarge its footprint in the US premix market, company officials said this week.

Company officials spoke with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent Institute of Food Technologists show in Chicago. Jan Heuer, head of the business unit, said the company has mostly flown under the radar in the US market. But as part of the Stern-Wywiol Group it is a global player in food and feed ingredients with company owned plants and affiliated operations in Europe and Asia as well as plants in the US and Mexico.

Their footprint in the US includes a fairly new blending facility in Aurora, IL. 

Heuer said garnering a bigger share of the market in North America will be a tall order, given the stiff competition from established providers such as DSM-Fortitech. But he said there is room in the market for a company with a slightly different focus, one that will drill down on the highest levels of service rather than trying to compete in the large volume trade dominated by DSM.

Going for sweet spot in market

“It depends on what kind of customer you are going for,”​ Heuer said. “If you compare us to DSM-Fortitech, they have a focus on certain customers and segments.”

“We feel that we have a chance if we try to give good, targeted services. We are going for the medium-sized customer,”​ he said.

Heuer said SternVitamin has vast formulation capabilities and can act as a one stop shop for customers. These companies might have an idea of what they want to achieve, but don’t have the wherewithal to get to the final stage.  They might want to market a bone health formulation, for example, but need help with ingredient choice, dosages, realistic delivery modes, etc.

“For these medium sized customers, a lot of these companies might need more help with R&D,”​ Heuer said.

One might think SternVitamin could trade on a history of German manufacturing precision. But Heuer said what works for cars and cameras might not have the same cachet in the dietary supplement trade. As the company has worked for the past couple of years to get up to speed in the North American market, Heuer said they learned this the hard way from a customer.

“We might be proud of German quality. But we had one customer who was adamant that he needed to be able to say that his product was made in the USA, and that included where the blend came from,”​ Heuer said.

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