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Read our interview with... Ian Panton

Ian Panton, CEO of the worlds largest poultry breeding company speaks exclusively to

Ian Panton
CEO Aviagen Group Ltd.

Ian, the son of a well-known horticulturist, and a native of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK, decided at the age of ten to pursue a career in the poultry industry. He received his formal poultry education at Harper Adams University College and spent his first working year with Cample Hatcheries in Scotland - a job which he describes as "character building".

He joined Ross Breeders in Edinburgh in 1970 and spent the majority of his career in Scotland involved in Production, responsible for both farms and hatcheries, and has provided technical support in the UK and mainland Europe. He was appointed Production Director in 1985.

Ian relocated to the States in 1992 to run Ross Breeders, Inc., based in Alabama.

Ian was appointed CEO of Aviagen, a group formed following BC Partners' acquisition of Ross Breeders and Arbor Acres in 2000, and has since been involved in positioning Aviagen as the largest broiler breeding company in the world whilst overcoming the challenges of integrating two previous competitors and establishing Aviagen's brands within the global marketplace.


The formation of the Aviagen Group in July 2001 brought together four of the poultry industry's most successful and well known brands - Arbor Acres, L.I.R., Ross and Nicholas Turkeys.

The Aviagen group is the Worlds largest animal breeding company with an annual turnover of around $230m and has recently been acquired by Advent International, a global private equity investor for $360m.

The interview with Ian Panton, CEO of the Aviagen Group, explores the impact that changes within the global poultry industry will have on the way the Group operates.

How does the Aviagen Group manage its branding and product differentiation?

Aviagen has three brands of broiler breeding stock: - Arbor Acres, L.I.R. and Ross, the Nicholas Turkey brand, one of the world's leading turkey breeding brands and CWT, which provides broiler hatching eggs for the North and Central American markets.

This brand portfolio provides us with significant advantages- not only adding value to the company - but the resources and technologies that Aviagen can apply mean that each of the brands can benefit from the expertise of the whole Group.

Our aim is to support all of our brands through dedicated regional teams, brand specific marketing and by using our central resources to build on individual product strengths. We are committed to developing a range of different products for each of our brands.

The recent change of ownership from BC Partners to Advent International signifies recognition of the value of the core business. It also offers an opportunity to build on the Group's market position, broaden our product portfolio and extend into technologies related to our core business. We intend to continue to invest in the Group to ensure ongoing organic growth in addition to making further acquisitions in the near future.

Do you envisage any radical change in genotype selection strategy in response to the growth in organic and free range product demand?

Our research and development strategy has evolved substantially over decades and is driven by customer needs, market requirements, product performance and the identification of future business opportunities. All birds, whether they are being considered for free range use or not, require a certain level of robustness and health across a range of environments. The products available from Aviagen have to meet all the requirements of the global poultry industry, including those of the consumer.

At Aviagen we only use natural selection techniques and implement balanced breeding programmes, which generate significant product gains on an ongoing basis. We continue to introduce new technologies to enhance selection efficiency, and this, coupled with our own research, enables us to fine tune our pedigree selection programme.

The recent outbreak of Avian Influenza in the Netherlands may affect the organic and free range market in Europe. The tight bio security measures that have been implemented in the region as a result of this outbreak, and the fact that this type of production carries higher risks of disease, have had an immediate impact on this sector of the industry and the industry as a whole.

How many breeding companies can the world poultry industry support?

New entrants to the market place are unlikely given the initial high costs of setting up a breeding company. Over the last five years, the industry has been experiencing a significant period of change in terms of consolidation and closure of smaller companies.

Aviagen has good competitors in a tough environment, given the challenges and demands of the global poultry industry. At present, two main groups - food service and retailers, are increasingly driving the industry's direction and development.

Would you agree that the poultry industry isn't as much fun to work in as it has been?

I would say it is still fun but its also harder work. As global poultry consumption increases there is a growing market to service - Aviagen currently supplies 85 different countries across the globe and today our global market share is estimated at 49%.

We have had to develop in line with the rapid growth of the industry as a whole over the last decade. The perception of fun is a direct result of the stage of development a company is at within an industry. The rapid economic development in some regions has led to globalisation of the poultry industry. The impact of this sudden growth can be felt in many different ways. It is always fun to be part of the success of a new distributor in a developing country, helping them to grow a profitable business and adding value to it. It is also fun to maintain personal and business links with our established customers over many years.

Where are the next challenges facing the worldwide broiler industry?

The global poultry market remains hugely challenging. Aviagen has always offered its customers an extensive product range designed to meet their individual market needs and this remains a priority for us.

Undoubtedly, health, environmental and welfare issues will increasingly dominate the worldwide agenda. In today's global market, all producers need to conform to the requirements of the market they are selling into whether that particular market is being driven by welfare issues or consumer demands.

In particular, Free Range and Organic production methods are providing exciting challenges to today's modern breeding companies, both in terms of bird development, welfare and health issues.

The total poultry market continues to grow relative to total meat consumption and the future for chicken looks particularly good. The move towards processed production continues in line with the strong growth in fresh ready meals and the convenience factor remains the key as the demand for fresh poultry products continues to drive the market.

It is our role as a primary breeder to ensure that our products meet the demands of the modern broiler and turkey industries. At Aviagen we can do this by providing a range of products supported by dedicated teams of specialists.

Source: ThePoultrySite's intrepid interviewer - September 2003

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