Trading in China: “Strength in pharma is price and quality” | Member story

Globe Fine Chemicals (Globe) is an independent international trading company and distributor of amino acids, vitamins, enzyms, food additives, pigments, proteins and trace elements. Though China’s past food ingredient quality issues may suggest otherwise to outsiders, Frànk van Eeden, Partner at Globe in Beijing points out: “China is one of the largest and most trustworthy producers of feed, food and pharma ingredients.”

Globe is a successful supplier of a wide range of animal feed and food ingredients and products that are used by pharmaceutical companies. With offices in The Netherlands, China and Colombia Globe’s sourcing activities are focused on China; the company sells its products to almost any country in the world, with vitamins and amino acids as its greatest strength. Globe buys its raw materials from quality-certified suppliers, that are located all over China.

Frànk van Eeden, who settled in China as a buyer for Dutch company Provimi in 1997 and started for him self in 2007, has seen China’s ingredients industry grow over the years. Together with his business partner Martijn Krijgsman, they became the owners of Globe Fine Chemicals. The company has now over 20 people working for them in different offices in the world.

Consistency of quality

“In the early days, the consistency of quality offered by Chinese suppliers was not always as good as it is now. Some factories had no problems at all with delivering poor quality to make a few extra dollars. These ‘cowboys’ have all disappeared by now. The industry has definitely come of age and large Chinese corporations that dominate the market are very aware of the importance of delivering top quality, all the time. At a very attractive price, I may add.”

Sourcing vitamins

That aspect of sourcing vitamins, amino acids and other feed, food and pharma ingredients has not changed since the industry started to grow about twenty years ago. “Price is an issue in our customers’ industries. Twenty years ago China offered the affordable alternative to Europe’s large producers like DSM, Adisseo and BASF. It still does that, with one big difference from twenty years ago: the quality is always comparable, if not better.”
Van Eeden has learned his lessons, though, like always putting quality first. This requires quality checks on products, in factories and when goods and containers are loaded. “We only work with manufacturers and suppliers which have been approved following our quality procedure.” Sourcing the right products also requires regular visits to factories, and looking for new suppliers in remote areas, even in Mongolia.

Keep eye on things

Frànk has also found out the advantages of working within China, instead of from an office in Europe. “I can keep an eye on things and, as a result, misunderstandings and disputes are solved in an early phase. Being here myself has great advantages over hiring a Chinese agent. I can be on top of things and apply more pressure in critical situations than a local agent could do. .” After having lived in China for 17 years, Frànk has learned to respect and admire the business spirit of his Chinese counterparts. “Although we have firm and historic ties with lots of the suppliers, they are masters at the ‘trading game’. Any big fluctuation in the world market price may lead to a sudden cancellation of contracts or delays in delivery and shipping. I must admit: I have learned some of these negotiation tricks myself over the years.”

Frànk van Eeden is confident about China’s pricing and quality position in the world market for feed, food and pharma ingredients, especially in vitamins and amino acids. “The future looks bright, as long as companies like us can source good quality products at the right price and – this is important – in large and smaller quantities for customers in South America, Africa, Europe, North America and the Middle East.”

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