ST. LOUIS — After two years of focusing on its portfolio and operating model, its discipline around capital deployment and risk management, the frame is in place for Bunge to now home in on growth, Gregory A. Heckman, chief executive officer, told participants during a Sept. 8 presentation at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference.
“We’ll always, of course, stay close to the real core of this business, which is our leading oilseed value chain, the position that we have as a leading global oilseed crusher, and kind of everything we’ll do, we’ll continue to lever off of that,” Mr. Heckman said. “So whether that’s find key acquisitions to strengthen us regionally or if we find the right larger acquisitions, of course, we’ll look for those opportunities on the M&A. We’ll continue to also build our origination and distribution that not only supports our crushing business but our third-party customers.”
Asked by an analyst how confident Bunge is about the future demand for different products and which segments the company expects to provide the biggest opportunities for growth, Mr. Heckman responded by saying now “is an exciting time in our industry.”
“If you look at ag and food, we rarely get one big structural change in demand, but to have multiple going on is really fantastic,” he said. “Renewable diesel is a new source of demand. It has come on much faster than we thought here in North America. It has the support we’ve seen from the consumer — is demanding it. Policymakers are demanding it. The investors are demanding it, and it’s a great opportunity. So we’ll continue to debottleneck our assets base in crushing to meet that demand for oil. We’ll continue to look at brownfields and greenfields and be part of that transition that vegetable oil can help the energy companies play for the next 10 to 15 years.
“Additionally, as we look at our refined and specialty oils business, we continue to make improvements there, a new plant in India, a new plant that we’ll be building in The Netherlands, and those are about really future-proofing our cost structure and having the product mix to feed our customers long term with the specialty fats and oils, our specialty lipids business as well as continuing to develop some areas where we have a right to win in the specialty ingredients and lecithin and nutritional lipids.”
Another structural demand change is emerging around plant-based proteins.
“We’re already enjoying that growth the last few years with our specialty lipids business as we provide a lot of the products that give the mouthfeel and the bite and the taste in those plant protein-based products that people love,” Mr. Heckman said. “And now we’re working with our customers backwards and to be a supplier of the plant protein. And that’s something you’ll see us develop over the next couple of years. That won’t be an overnight flip the switch, but we’re excited about that demand that is in place, and our customers are asking us to get involved. We’ve been a commodity supplier there before, and now it’s time to be a value-added supplier. We’ve made some improvements in our Creative Solutions Center, our product development center, how we work with customers and excited about the things we’ll be able to announce in the future.”