Founded in 1969 as a regional contract manufacturer of agricultural chemicals, American Vanguard Corp. has grown into one of the world’s top integrated producers of branded specialty products. The company creates products for agriculture, turf and ornamental, pest control, and consumer and animal health. Golf falls under AMVAC’s Environmental Products (AEP) division, which focuses on protecting public and animal health, preventing damage from pests and enhancing the quality of the environment, according to Jeff Alvis, business manager for AMVAC’s Environmental Products.
“We’re preserving and renewing familiar brands through innovation and unique delivery systems,” Alvis says. “We’re really a solution driven company that’s taking branded products and finding ways to maximize their potential. Our products are made in the USA by American workers. We have an entrepreneurial history, and I think our aggressive growth strategy really differentiates us from other chemical companies. Our business model operates in a market segment with tremendous potential. In turn, we want AMVAC to realize its full potential by helping superintendents maintain healthy, attractive and highly playable courses. It’s a win-win approach.”
Q. There’s an interesting set of trends in the chemical field right now. On one hand, there is consolidation, but there are also antitrust issues. How do those two diverging trends affect AMVAC? How is your business model impacted by consolidation on one hand, and the opportunity to buy certain IP and assets on the other?
Alvis: As you noted, the mergers and acquisitions market has really picked up its pace over the past 10 to 15 years due to forced trade commission divestitures as larger companies merge. AMVAC has benefited from this situation by acquiring products from Adama, Syngenta and private companies like OHP and Grupo Agricenter. These acquisitions have been key to AMVAC’s overall growth strategy. And now we want to develop products in-house.
Our approach is to:
- Develop our existing molecules into new uses by combining them with other chemistries;
- Enter into partnerships with other companies to acquire and develop new molecules and expand market access;
- Create value-added delivery systems; and
- Develop unique patented formulations.
We determine how these formulations can fit into the puzzle of this industry by solving the problems superintendents have. We also acquire existing molecules from other companies and keep those successful, mature chemistries going through our regulatory nimbleness. We’re always looking to see how we can grow a product line organically by finding more uses for them.
Q. Looking forward, do you expect consolidation to continue? What macroeconomic factors will be affecting that trend in the coming years?
Alvis: Yes, we do expect consolidation to continue. Technology is ever-evolving, and that brings new opportunities to AMVAC. After mergers, larger companies in our industry will try to further optimize and focus their portfolios. That’s likely to result in further product divestitures that AMVAC could seek to acquire in the years ahead. Quite frankly, as the big companies get bigger, they tend to focus on the molecules coming out of their very expensive, long-term discovery programs and lose interest and focus on smaller products – products requiring more [IP] defense. Then, they stop looking for solutions for some of the smaller markets outside of the broad-acre crops. That’s where we come in. This creates opportunities for AMVAC because niche markets are where we thrive. We have a dedicated team of functional professionals in product development, regulatory, formulations, and sales and marketing. Most of them come from those larger companies, so we know how to do this quickly and efficiently.
Q. Specific to golf, what is AMVAC’s role and business strategy?
Alvis: The golf industry has gone through some tough times in the past 10 years, and we understand the pressures that superintendents face.
That’s why we currently offer a wide array of products for golf courses, including fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. Our portfolio contains proven, reliable and effective solutions to keep golf course turf looking its best while enhancing overall playability. And, in the future, we’ll rapidly bring more differentiated, value-added products to the market.
We call our approach “Innovation with Speed and Discipline.” But in addition to providing excellent product solutions, we understand that consistency, proper inventory management, supply reliability and future innovation are also important to the golf course market. We’ll soon be launching a new website called “AMVAC Answers,” where we’ll provide product information, training, business services and more of what golf course superintendents want and need to be successful.
Q. Are there any upcoming product acquisitions or new product registrations coming in the near future?
Alvis: We have a very full product development pipeline right now, and we plan to introduce several new products in the next year or so. Our focus is on clearly differentiated, value-added products. I think our most recent introduction, Premion fungicide, is a great example of the innovative approach we’re taking. Through rigorous trials, we discovered that PCNB is surprisingly effective against anthracnose. Although that active ingredient has been around a long time, it now essentially represents a new Mode of Action and FRAC category for treating anthracnose, a disease with growing fungicide resistance issues. Premion is a convenient premix of PCNB and tebuconazole, another effective active ingredient against anthracnose in a different FRAC category. It offers superintendents a new, unique tool in a rotation program against a very troublesome disease.
In 2018, we’ll be introducing a number of new products at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. PREVIA fungicide contains the active ingredient chlorothalonil, which is a standard for broad-spectrum disease control. Fast-acting SUREPYC turf herbicide, featuring the active ingredient sulfentrazone, provides excellent control of sedges in turfgrass. We’re also introducing a new combination fungicide – no name just yet – with the active ingredients azoxystobin and tebuconazole.
In 2019 and beyond, we’ll be launching some new combination herbicides. One is for warm-season turf and the other is for cool-season. Both will provide broad- spectrum control of postemergent sedge and broadleaf weeds.
Q. How does AMVAC support supers when they have turfgrass or product problem?
Alvis: We’re always there to offer technical support whenever and wherever it’s needed. However, while going out into the field and investigating problems is certainly important, we feel that the best and most efficient way to prevent those problems is to first support our distributor partners by equipping them with the right knowledge and tools.
We work hand-in-glove with those partners to help ensure they can deliver the best service possible to their customers. We feel the strongest point of connection should always be between the superintendents and their trusted, distributor representatives.
Beyond products and technical advice, we support superintendents through our support of industry initiatives. AMVAC is a major sponsor of the Environmental Institute for Golf and the GCSAA’s Grassroots Ambassadors.