Business / Companies

Developing a recipe for food you can trust

By Shi Jing in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2012-09-27 09:59

US multinational Ecolab opens new plant in Jiangsu province

Ecolab Inc, the world's leading provider of water, hygiene, public health and energy technologies by sales volume, has opened a manufacturing plant and distribution center in Taicang, Jiangsu province.

The company's chairman of the board and chief executive officer, Douglas M. Baker Jr, described it as a signal of its belief in China's "bright" future.

Related reading: Ecolab to increase employee numbers at R&D centers

The Taicang hub, Ecolab's third-largest in the world and the largest in the Asia-Pacific region, cost $90 million. It has a designed annual production capacity of 150,000 metric tons and currently has 55 employees, a figure expected to exceed more than 350 by 2017.

Developing a recipe for food you can trust

People flock to a food safety exposition in Foshan, Guangdong province. US-based Ecolab Inc regards food safety as one of its core businesses in China. [Photo/China Daily]

It can produce the full portfolio of the company's products, including cleaning, sanitation, food safety and infection prevention across a wide range of industries including food and beverage production, retailing, hospitality and healthcare, solely for the China market.

"We are doing this for two reasons. It costs a lot of money to ship our products. It gives clients a natural currency offer. If they buy, manufacture, pay labor and sell locally, currency is not a strategic problem," said Baker .

According to the General Administration of Customs, China's financial export volume growth rate fell by 18 percentage points year-on-year to 8 percent in the first six months of this year. Zheng Yuesheng, a spokesman for the administration, said the figure was much lower than expected.

The Yangtze River Delta region is one of Ecolab's major markets. The biggest support the local government gave the company was infrastructure. The second was a tax incentive, said Baker.

When asked when the Taicang plant will make profits, Baker, a 53-year-old English major, said, jokingly, "next week".

"We don't look at plant profit in the same way as other people do. It's not how we measure things. We measure how our company is doing on a regional basis and across the country. Our expectation is that it will temporarily hurt profits. Obviously, when you invest in a facility, you have to pay for it. It's a new expense. But we expect in the next several years to have more capacity," said Baker.

"According to China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), improving food quality and ensuring food safety will continue to be a major focus. The Taicang plant shows our commitment to providing innovative and sustainable products and services to support food safety and public health solutions in China," he added.

US-based Ecolab entered China in 1987. Since 2008 it has invested $150 million in the emerging market. China currently accounts for 4 percent of Ecolab's global sales revenues. Baker forecast that the growth of the China business, supported by six plants, including the one in Taicang, will double that of any other area in the world.

Baker started his career with Ecolab in 1989, holding key roles in marketing, sales and general management within the company. In July 2004, he was named president and CEO of the company and, in May 2006, added chairman of the board to his duties. In 2011 he led the company's merger with US-based water treatment company Nalco Co, an $8 billion transaction that nearly doubled the size of Ecolab.

Ecolab's sales had increased 62 percent by 2011 from when Baker took up the CEO role, and adjusted earnings per share have increased 133 percent, both prior to the inclusion of the Nalco transaction.

Baker said what he really cares about and is proud of is the zero waste-water factory the company provides for companies.

"It's a significant part of the investment and it's throughout the design. If you design it at the beginning, it doesn't really cost more to engineer it. But if you do not plan it that way, it will cost a lot more money to fix it," Baker said.

Developing a recipe for food you can trust

The central government has made environmental protection and the greening of the economy two of the top tasks during the 12th Five-Year Plan, elements to which Ecolab abides.

It looks at reducing the need for water, drainage, re-use, minimizing use and recycling.

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