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Business

Get an overview of Chr. Hansen’s business model and competitive strengths.

At a glance

Chr. Hansen is a global bioscience company headquartered in Hørsholm, Denmark, developing natural ingredient solutions for the food, nutritional, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries. The Company was founded in 1874 by the Danish pharmacist Christian D. A. Hansen who had invented an industrial process to extract rennet for cheese making and who a few years later introduced annatto as a food coloring. With EUR 1,161 million revenue and 3,420 employees, Chr. Hansen is a global leading manufacturer of food cultures and enzymes, probiotics and natural colors. 

Organizationally, the company is split into three segments: 

  • Food Cultures & Enzymes, 59% of Group revenue
  • Health & Nutrition, 22% of Group revenue
  • Natural Colors, 19% of Group revenue.

Whilst Food Cultures & Enzymes and Health & Nutrition share a common research and production platform, which is also referred to as the Microbial Platform, Natural Colors has been managed separately since 2014 with an independent sales and R&D organization and separate production sites. 

Our business model

As a specialty ingredients supplier, Chr. Hansen serves different niche markets with attractive growth prospects and high entry barriers. The Company’s business model is centered around strong innovation capabilities, a scalable production set-up and longstanding customer relationships all of which places Chr. Hansen in a very strong competitive position. 

Attractive growth opportunities 

Chr. Hansen is uniquely positioned when it comes to leveraging the microbial technology platform to address some of society’s most pressing challenges such as enabling more sustainable agricultural practices with fewer pesticides and antibiotics, reducing food waste and supporting global health through well-documented probiotics. 

Whilst our ingredients usually only make up a small part of a product’s cost base, they are strategically important and in the case of our starter culture and coagulant business they are indispensable. Our product solutions help customers: 

  • Define and differentiate their products (flavor, texture) 
  • Increase productivity and yield 
  • Extend shelf life and increase food safety 
  • Substitute artificial ingredients for clean-labelling 
  • Promote health and well-being. 

In the financial year 2018/19, 82% of the Group’s revenue contribute to three of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals which is one of the reasons why Chr. Hansen was named World’s Most Sustainable Company by Corporate Knights in 2019.  


Addressable market

Chr. Hansen operates in several niche markets with different competitive dynamics and attractive growth opportunities. In Food Cultures & Enzymes market concentration is high, whilst in Health & Nutrition and Natural Colors competition is more diverse. 

Whilst growth in the food cultures & enzymes market is mostly driven by increasing consumption of dairy and other fermented products, Health & Nutrition market growth comes from increasing penetration levels as public perception and understanding of probiotics increases and science delivers further proof points on the effectiveness of ‘good bacteria’. The main growth driver in the natural colors market is the conversion from synthetic to natural colors triggered by end consumers demanding more clean label and healthy solutions. 

Loyal, diversified customer base across industries 

Chr. Hansen has a broad customer base with the top 25 customers representing around 30% of Group revenue. 

Food Cultures & Enzymes serves a highly fragmented customer base ranging from local, family-owned specialty producers to large, multinational groups. The majority of its 3,000 customers are dairies but by moving into adjacent areas, Chr. Hansen is expanding the customer base to include other food and beverage markets. 

As dairy cultures represent a critical ingredient, customer loyalty in the core dairy business is very high. This is not only due to long-standing relationships but also thanks to Chr. Hansen’s unrivalled, highly specialized technical support which operates from several application centers worldwide as well as its comprehensive product range. 

Chr. Hansen’s food cultures & enzymes are sold directly under one global commercial model except when serving smaller customers where the Company works with distributors. To further enhance its service offering, Food Cultures & Enzymes has started, on a small scale, to experiment with digital services. 

Health & Nutrition is selling probiotic solutions for dietary supplements and infant formula (Human Health), feed ingredients (Animal Health) and crop protection (Plant Health). Probiotics are defined as ‘live microorganisms that confer health benefits on the host’ (FAO/WHO, 2001).

For Human Health customers, Chr. Hansen is the go-to-player as the Company has a very strong probiotic strain portfolio, offering the world’s two most scientifically documented probiotic strains for human health. Chr. Hansen largely sells directly to large customers in the nutrition and health industry. 

In Animal Health, Chr. Hansen sells probiotics for animals and has one of the industry’s most comprehensive product portfolios for cattle, swine and poultry as well as silage inoculants. The North American market is the most important market for Chr. Hansen. The animal probiotics are sold to various players along the farming value chain including, pre-mixers, feed mills, large integrators and small farmers. Outside of North America, Chr. Hansen works predominantly with distributors and is working on strengthening the route-to-market. 

In Plant Health, Chr. Hansen sells bionematicides through its partner FMC. Products are primarily sold to sugarcane and soybean farmers in Latin America, and the Company is expected to expand into other crops, such as corn, and also enter the US market in 2019/20.

In Natural Colors, Chr. Hansen sells natural colors and coloring foods for various applications including confectionary, ice cream, dairy, fruit preparation, prepared food, beverages, food service and, since 2018/19, also for pet food. Natural colors are sold both directly and through distributors. 

Microbial powerhouse with strong innovation muscle 

Chr. Hansen draws on more than 145 years of experience in working with microbes and possesses deep knowledge across the entire value chain from the discovery of new strains to scale-up and industrial production. The Company’s collection of bacteria contains around 40,000 strains and is continuously being expanded to develop new microbial solutions for different end market applications. Furthermore, Chr. Hansen leverages new technologies as well as a network of more than 120 external partners to bring innovations to market faster. 

R&D activities are closely aligned with Nature’s no. 1 and resource allocation and pipeline progress are tightly managed and monitored by a Portfolio Board that was established in 2018. 
As innovation becomes a more important growth driver, relevance of intellectual property is also increasing, and Chr. Hansen has a proactive IP strategy in place to protect new products including their functionalities in specific application areas as well as production and formulation technologies. 

Cost leadership due to scalable production 

For the microbial business Chr. Hansen runs a consolidated production set-up which allows the Company to drive scalability benefits. Main production facilities are located in Denmark, Germany, France and the US where Chr. Hansen produces different bacteria strains by fermentation that are subsequently blended into cultures. An increasing degree of automation also helps to drive profitability. Raw material inputs are mostly commodities such as skim milk powder, vitamins and sugars and as such play a secondary role. Waste streams from culture production are used as fertilizers or for biogas where possible. 

Natural Colors production centers on the extraction of pigments and formulation and takes place at facilities in Denmark, Italy, Brazil, Peru and USA. 

 

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