"Our global-to-local structure gives us the pathway to introduce new sustainable solutions faster and make a real impact."
Could you give us an overview of Univar Solutions’ recent performance and investments?
Last year was a record year for the industry, and Univar Solutions was no exception. While this year has shown its challenges, our mindset has not changed. We have never ceased investing in training our employees and upgrading our facilities across several sites in the region, adding more capacity and modernizing technology for better performance and safety. Univar Solutions has also invested in existing and new labs—our “Solution Centers,” including inaugurating a new Mexico City pharmaceuticals lab. As the market continues to change rapidly, we have the right teams to assess, adjust, and adapt and in many sectors we are growing our market share and volumes.
Could you briefly comment on the recent acquisition of Univar Solutions by Apollo Funds?
As of August 2023, Univar Solutions is no longer a public company (NYSE), after completing its transaction with US private equity, Apollo Funds. Apollo provides us with more flexibility to explore and pursue new growth opportunities to enhance our product offering and regional presence.
Univar Solutions recently completed two acquisitions in Latam, expanding its presence in Brazil and Central America. Could you elaborate on the strategic significance of your recent M&A deals?
M&A is a core component of our growth strategy in the region. At the beginning of 2023, Univar Solutions acquired ingredients and specialty chemicals distributor ChemSol, expanding our position in Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, and Honduras. ChemSol comes a year after another important acquisition in the region, Sweetmix, a Brazilian distributor of food ingredients and CASE products. These acquisitions demonstrate how Latin America remains a key destination for investments globally. Our most recent acquisitions have been geared toward the specialty space, but this does not mean we are not looking at the commodities space as well.
Which sectors are showing greater resilience in 2023?
Essential markets have shown resilience during different economic cycles, among which the beauty and personal care, food ingredients, pharmaceutical ingredients, and energy stand out, just to name a few. In Latam, we had recent supplier agreements with Leprino Foods in Brazil and Mexico, with SI Group for active pharmaceutcal ingredients in Brazil, and with Croda for sun care filter ingredients for the Brazilian personal care market. Many other partnerships are in the pipeline. Thanks to our diverse portfolio and broad supplier network, we have been able to navigate volatile market conditions, offsetting the decline in certain segments with growth in others.
The distribution model remains very popular in Latin America, much more than in other places around the world. What is the unique value that a player like Univar Solutions can bring to the region?
Latin America is huge. Individual countries like Brazil, Mexico, or Argentina are vast on their own, so having a local commercial, technical and supply chain team on the ground to cover the entire country is physically difficult and not always feasible or recommendable. This is why distributors can bring so much value into this market, allowing suppliers to focus on manufacturing and R&D. Revisiting and sharpening our business model, Univar Solutions has differentiated itself over the past few years by becoming a full-line provider of specialty and commodity chemicals, along with value-added services (like technical supply chain or sustainable solutions). Our role as distributors is to continue delivering safe and reliable supply to meet demand. To do this successfully and consistently, we have adapted the latest digital technologies to innovate, streamline and grow our customers’ suppliers; we have expanded our sustainable and natural solutions; and we have helped our suppliers become more successful in the marketplace while connecting customers to chemicals and ingredients that are vital for daily life.
Could you elaborate on how Univar Solutions adds value from a sustainability perspective?
We have a dedicated global team that works with our suppliers to define the best sustainable offerings. With that, we launched a new global Sustainable and Natural Product framework to filter products by six sustainability characteristics and then provide our customers with the data and ingredients they need to formulate products more sustainably. Our Solution Centers are plugged into this global setup, bringing the knowledge to our customers in Latin America. This global-to-local structure gives us the pathway to introduce new sustainable solutions faster and make a real impact.