KitoZyme, a SME located in Herstal (Belgium), is the only company in the world to provide chitosan and chitin-glucan manufactured from non-animal and non-GMO sources. Lately, KitoZyme has a strong record of technological and commercial successes.
Over the past two years, the company has expanded its range of products with the launch of three new dietary supplements for weight management, cardiovascular health and digestive health. KitoZyme also has shifted gear, doubling its growth but also accelerating its international outreach with the signature of distribution agreements in Persian Gulf countries such as Koweït, Qatar, Bahreïn and Oman.
In an exclusive interview, François Blondel, CEO of KitoZyme, comes over the business strategy of the company and shares his vision for the future.
Our ambition is to remain the number one global leader. The challenge now is to let people know about it!
Why did you decide to create your own labels?
F.B – It is actually quite simple. We have an innovative product which is truly unique in the world. That is a fact. From a strategic point of view, we therefore thought that it was interesting, at this stage, to consider covering the whole value chain to create more added-value. Initially, KitoZyme was selling ingredients that were used by others companies to develop new products. Then, our business model has evolved towards offering manufacturing also finished products, branded by other companies. Now comes the time to also consider selling, in certain territories, our products under our own labels. This is a key milestone in the evolution of KitoZyme. We are testing a new business paradigm that requires significant internal resources in marketing and sales! What matters are the choices that the company makes. Today, the choices that we made for the company are bearing fruit, whether it be for our strategic positioning or be it for our commercial development, the launch of new products and the operating efficiency.
Are you considering biomedical applications for your products?
F.B – No, we are not. KitoZyme’s core business focuses on medical devices. Actually, KitoZyme used to develop pharmaceutical applications and medical devices from its chitosan technology. But these are two different things. This is the reason why we decided, in 2013, to divide our activities and spin-out Synolyne Pharma from KitoZyme.
Your international strategy currently lies in commercial distribution agreements. Are you planning to develop R&D activities abroad?
F.B – We are convinced that we can do much more than what we are doing now. International partnerships are very important in our sector. Nonetheless, the creation of technological partnerships abroad will not result from our proactive market research but from R&D collaborations requests that we will receive from foreign companies – which is actually already the case.
What are the next milestones for KitoZyme?
F.B – Our next milestone is to keep on extending our range of products in the three strategic areas we operate in and in which we have acquired a clinical credibility. Our international expansion is also at stake. Today, our market shares represent 20 % of the market in France and in Switzerland. We would like to reach the same level in the UK, Germany and in Spain. Of course, we also aim at developing our commercial activities in the US and in Asia (more especially in Thailand, Korea, etc.).
What is your positioning on the global vegetal chitosan market?
F.B –Our technology is unique and aims at tackling one of our century’s main health issue which is obesity. Non-animal chitosan and chitin-glucan are very original products and this originality is a strong and distinctive asset in our positioning. Our ambition is to remain the number one global leader. The challenge now is to let people know about it! For a SME like KitoZyme, raising awareness on the local and international stages is not always easy. Moreover, visibility means exposure at the risk to draw too much attention from our potential competitors. This is why it is paramount for us to keep a head start on them, being even more innovative and efficient.
We talk a lot about IPOs boom in the biotech sector. Do you think that KitoZyme will embark in this adventure one day?
F.B – I am a strong believer – and a vocal partisan ! – in favor of the listing of healthcare companies. The stock exchange is a great financing tool. I have personally been involved in several IPO’s but when it comes to KitoZyme, I think it is somewhat too early at this stage, eventhough the company has clearly the required profile to launch an IPO one day. At the moment, and since its creation, KitoZyme has benefited from the very strong and constant support of its shareholders (the Montulet and Mestdagh families together with SRIW, Meusinvest, University of Liège’s Gesval).
Key facts & Figures
- Employees : 46
- Revenue (2014): EUR 5 million
- Growth rate of the company since 2013: over 50%
- More than 1/3 of the Middle-East population suffers from weight management problems.
- Market value (weight management and drainage – France): EUR 87 million
About François Blondel
François Blondel – current CEO & Managing Director of KitoZyme – has a broad experience in the management and the development of innovation driven companies. He has co-founded several start-ups and is today holding non-executive board memberships, either as Chairman of the Board (OncoDNA, Delphi Genetics and Uniteq) or as an independent Board member of several companies active in Medical, Health Care sector and/or the Technology sector (Nanocyl, Ovizio, Synolyne Pharma, etc.). In addition, he serves as an independent director with BioWin, AWEX. Blondel started his career in the chemical sector and undertook assignments both in the United States and in Europe. In 1999, he joined International Brachytherapy (IBt), a medical device startup that focused on cancer treatment. He served as CEO, leading IBt, a Euronext stock listed company, from its R&D stage to a successful and well-diversified international group that became a European leader in its market segment.
For more information: www.kitozyme.com
CEO & Managing Director