The Wilbur-Ellis Feed Division, based in Vancouver, Wash., is stretching out from its traditional Western territory and continues to look at options for growth. Rob Fullerton, who after a 21-year stint with the company took over as feed division president on July 1, is excited to take over the leadership role as Wilbur-Ellis expands.
"Over the years, Wilbur-Ellis Feed Division has been focused more on the Western U.S. and Western Canada. But the growth opportunity for our feed division lies in the Eastern U.S. and Eastern Canada," said Fullerton, who for the past two years served as the division's vice president.
Since early 2012, Wilbur-Ellis has opened offices in Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Nova Scotia. Moving into these areas has allowed Wilbur-Ellis closer access to larger manufacturers and users of feed, Fullerton said. The business was already actively doing business in those regions, but having a physical presence there is important to the success of the feed division.
"We know we need to be local. We need to have local representation. We need to have local offices. We need to hire local people that know the industry and know the culture in those areas," Fullerton said.
Exploring operations in Latin America
In addition to expanding eastward, the Wilbur-Ellis Feed Division is also exploring growth opportunities in Latin America. Fullerton reports that the company is "making some initial inroads into Mexico," where it already does a significant amount of business from a supply side.
Fullerton also sees significant opportunities in South America and Central America. Chile, for instance, is a huge player in the aquaculture sector, which is the fastest growing segment of the South American feed industry.
Carefully pursuing acquisitions
Wilbur-Ellis is looking at acquisition opportunities, as Fullerton said several acquisitions over the last several years have been good for the company. Among those are the 2011 purchases of American By-Products Inc. and New Zealand and Australian Pet Food Ingredients.
Potential acquisitions remain central to the division's growth strategy, Fullerton said, but he remains cautious that all growth plans be in the best interest of the company.
"I believe the words stability and growth belong squarely in the same sentence. We don't want to grow and hurt ourselves in the process. Managing our current business is every bit as important as our growth strategy," said Fullerton.