National Starch is the leading global supplier of specialty starches, with a principal focus on supplying the food industry. We also serve niche papermaking markets and supply high value industrial starches for use in a variety of other consumer and industrial products and processes.
The global corn wet milling industry experienced tough trading conditions in 2009, primarily caused by increased net corn costs. This was brought about by a collapse in by-product pricing and soft demand in both industrial and food sectors. The decline in demand in the food segment was prompted by a combination of factors, including de-stocking across customers’ supply chains, rationalization of brands and changes in consumer choices regarding eating away from the home. The papermaking segment experienced a more pronounced decline due to its more cyclical nature and negative market drivers.
National Starch recovered from the softness in sales and finished 2009 strongly, with overall sales in line with the previous year. High input costs and unfavorable currencies were a dominant theme in 2009 and they impacted margins. Overall, costs were well controlled as a result of focused profit protection plans, including staff reductions and the closure of a manufacturing facility. We performed strongly on cash delivery due to a focused working capital reduction program.
Strategic progress was also made in expanding our market leadership position. We acquired the Australian specialty starch business of Penford to strengthen our supply network in support of the growing Asia-Pacific markets. We also launched innovative food texture solutions, a major factor in the consumer appeal of new products. Work in understanding the science of texture earned us an innovation award at the Institute of Food Technologists Food Expo in the US, while we also picked up the prestigious Food Innovation of the Year Award at the Food Ingredients Europe Expo.
The ability of our specialty starches to replace synthetic compounds is a source of new market opportunities, particularly as manufacturers seek to raise the levels of sustainable content in their products and packaging.
We continued our strong HSE performance, earning recognition for two of our largest facilities from our peer trade group in the US. In Thailand, we received the Outstanding Labor Relations and Welfare Award from the Thai Ministry of Labor and Welfare for our commitment to safety, fair and equal treatment and employee development. In addition, 2009 saw significant activity and progress towards the completion of the self-sufficiency agenda which separates National Starch from the former ICI infrastructure.
in € millions
James P. Zallie