Azelis: innovative service provider on a global basis 16th August 2020
By Dr. Heli Kilpala, Group Director of Strategy & Digitalization & Matt Nancekivell, Director Commercial Operations
Specialty chemicals and food ingredients distributor Azelis has been expanding its business geographically in recent years and has already concluded a number of significant new acquisitions and mandates this year. In addition, the company is enhancing its innovative service to customers through an extensive digitalization programme aimed at enabling customers to generate value and shorten their time to market.
Azelis is a leading distributor of specialty chemicals and food ingredients present in more than 50 countries across the globe with about 2,200 employees. The company says that through employing knowledgeable teams of industry, market and technical experts, each dedicated to a specific market within life sciences and industrial chemicals, it offers a lateral value chain of complementary products to about 40,000 customers, creating a turnover of €2.15 billion in 2019. In the US, Azelis operates under a number of renowned co-brands that cater to the various markets in the region.
New distribution agreements
As part of its business expansion programme, in June this year Azelis established a new distribution agreement with Stepan Company, one of the largest surfactant manufacturers in the world, in which Azelis will take over distribution activities for all of Stepan Company surfactants in Scandinavia and thereby adding to Azelis’ long-lasting distribution partnership with Stepan in other European countries. Stepan Company offers a broad range of products, including a full line of anionic, cationic, nonionic and amphoteric surfactants, as well as surfactant blends and speciality esters. The company also creates custom surfactants and formulated blends to meet unique customer demands for tailor-made solutions.
Azelis: moving markets forward by combining ingredients with ideas.
In another recent development, in May of this year, Azelis formed a partnership with OCSiAl, the world’s largest single-wall carbon nanotube manufacturer for CASE and R&PA markets. This new agreement sees Azelis distribute OCSiAl’s high-end TUBALL range of single-wall carbon nanotubes in France and the UK. These nanotubes are an advanced additive that improve the properties of base materials and have highly desirable properties such as superior conductivity, high-temperature resistance, strength and flexibility, allowing customers to produce non-black finished products with antistatic properties.
In addition, in June, Megafarma, an Azelis company, strengthened its CASE presence in Mexico through an agreement with Celanese for the distribution of its emulsion polymers products in that country. Also in June, Roquette, a global leader in plant-based ingredients for food, nutrition and health markets, and Azelis signed a distribution partnership for animal nutrition. The two companies already have an agreement in food and nutrition markets and this new partnership extends this to cover a number of countries in Northern and Eastern Europe.
Brand promise: ‘Innovation through formulation’
Last year, Azelis revealed its new brand promise and tagline: ‘Innovation through formulation’. The company has been increasingly focusing on formulation support for its customers and wanted to formalize this strategy and its business practices to provide innovative solutions to meet stringent market requirements. To demonstrate its belief in innovation through formulation, Azelis has been investing heavily in its formulation laboratories and the innovative solutions that have come out of these laboratories have won awards from independent industry bodies: Azelis has won more than 20 innovation awards in the past five years alone.
“As a distributor, Azelis has specialized technical knowledge of a broad variety of products from many suppliers and providesmedium- and small-size customers with technical advice and access to products and services that may otherwise not be available to them,” says Heli Kilpala. “Formulation work performed in the company’s labs is sometimes done at the request of customers and sometimes the company itself proactively comes up with a solution to meet a market requirement or trend, thus shortening customers’ time to market and growing their business. Thus, since the company was founded in 2001, Azelis has evolved from a leading distributor of specialty chemicals and food ingredients into an innovative service provider.”
‘Local for local’ approach
The company stresses that a core element of its value proposition is its ‘local for local’ approach, a business model that enables local sales teams to sell to local customers. Azelis’ formulation laboratories, located in all the markets it serves, are each dedicated to a single market segment and this approach, the company says, together with its widely differentiated product portfolio, innovative services and increasingly integrated sustainability efforts, gives it several advantages over its competitors:
“Azelis has been successful in bringing its suppliers into new geographies or introducing them to new customers,” says Heli Kilpala. “This all requires excellent market penetration, customer intimacy, product and production process knowledge, and many other aspects. This is why we employ industries’ best local experts and we pride ourselves on the quality of people we have. People are our biggest asset and they are the ones who are at the core of Azelis’ success.”
The Azelis Customer Portal features comprehensive downloadable product information.
Investing in digitalization
In pursuit of these goals, Azelis has been investing in digitalized systems in different regions for some time. Two examples of such efforts include an on-line formulation project management channel aimed at optimizing customers’ time to market in the Americas and a portal for customers in a selected number of EMEA countries that provides product and marketing information.
“In our industry, business is established through personal long-lasting partnerships based on knowledge-sharing and industry expertise. Taking our innovation capabilities into the digital space, which has been accelerated by the coronavirus crisis, will however never replace the importance of these personal relationships; digitalization is complementary to these personal relationships and will take our interactions with suppliers and customers to the next level.”
Matthew Nancekivell says Azelis’ platforms are there to service customers in the best possible way and enhance their experience of working with the company, providing much more added value than just sales: “To further standardize, professionalize and boost our original and individual digitalization efforts, we kicked off the global digitalization programme in September 2019. We had several drivers to start this global journey: first of all, we see that B2B buyers are using online portals to find information on sellers, products and formulations. Buyers today want high-quality technical information without lead times and at Azelis we are developing new digital offerings that respond to this demand. We made a decision to start from customer experience but to focus on all our users.
“For our employees, we will offer new digital tools to work even more efficiently. For our suppliers, we will offer a connected platform to share data and insight. In a nutshell: our vision is to be a connected enterprise that delivers shared value to our customers, suppliers, and our employees.
“Virtual collaboration, new content formats, and new types of events are key to inspiring our customers in the digital era, which has proven critical during circumstances such as the ongoing crisis. We expect virtual collaboration to become more of a norm in the more traditional chemical industry and for Azelis this is a truly exciting opportunity to learn from the needs of our internal and external stakeholders and be able to enhance our digital offerings globally. Digitalization is all about knowledge-sharing; at Azelis this knowledge has been tremendous already but we are making it available more quickly, more efficiently and in a more accessible way than ever before,” he says.
Generating value in the supply chain
“Having expert content on the digital platform will also enable us to stimulate our customers and help them in their new product idea creation process which means that our expert work shifts from problem-solving to co-creation of new products with customers, helping them to shorten their time to market. This is where we want to be as this will generate value for all partners in the chemical supply chain – not just ourselves, but more importantly for ourcustomers, suppliers, to end consumers and the environment,” Heli Kilpala concludes.
The Azelis CustomerPortal also includes extensive information detailing how products have been formulated.
Matt Nancekivell, Director Commercial Operations
Meet Dr. Heli Kilpala and Matt Nancekivell of Azelis
Dr. Heli Kilpala has been Group Strategy & Digitalization Director at Azelis since November 2019.Prior to joining Azelis, she held the role of Digital Principal at DSM, where she was responsible for stimulating the digital mindset across the DSM IT organization and business, increasing the number of digital initiatives, bringing in digital knowledge and expertise, and driving digital initiatives aligned with the company’s strategy. Prior to this she worked at DSM Food Specialties, Deloitte Consulting and as an independent consultant.Dr Kilpala holds an MSc in Economics and Business Administration from Oulu University, Finland and a PhD in Civil & Environmental Engineering from Utah State University, USA.
Matt Nancekivell is Director Commercial Operations at Azelis. . He has 15 years’ experience in the specialty chemicals industry in New Zealand and Australia with roles in operations, supply chain management and technical sales for the personal care, homecare and industrial, and surface coatings sectors.He graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce (Strategy and Operations Management) and he also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts (History and Politics).