When you've been the key drivers behind one of the world's most iconic horticultural and turf brands, you could be forgiven for facing rebirth under a new name with some trepidation.
Not so for the duo behind Everris, the name chosen for the new company created by the global fertilizer and specialty products giant ICL's takeover of the Professional arm of The Scotts Miracle Gro Company's business back in March this year.
Reinvigorated and clearly relishing the challenges that lie ahead, they have seemingly cast aside the traditional bonds of the Scotts brand and embraced the multitude of opportunities that being part of the ICL group will bring.
It was in December 2010 that news of the takeover broke in the UK. Since then, the transition from Scotts Professional to Everris has been rapid. Scotts is a household name across the world, with consumer products accounting for 90% of its business. If you've not worked in the fertilizer business however, you'll probably be unfamiliar with ICL. It is an ambitious player, active in mining and trading important minerals, principally potassium and phosphorus, which has diversified into specialty fertilizers and specialty products over the past decade.
Everris gives ICL the opportunity to complete its route to market and diversify its product offering in to Asia Pacific and Latin America and to further increase the use of efficient, enhanced fertilizer technologies. Its strengths lie in its marketing, sales and service infrastructure and its long-established relationships with the professional market, which complement the access to raw materials, significant R&D investment and commitment to the ornamental horticulture, turf and amenity and specialty agriculture sectors that its new parent company will provide.
The Netherlands-based CEO of Everris, Fred Bosch, has spent 11 years with Scotts, as Vice President of Sales, General Manager of the EMEA region and latterly Global Business Leader for the Professional business. Over the past decade, he forged a strong management team that includes Joan Verhoeven, now Vice President - Global Marketing and Business Development, resulting in a marked increase in the use of the company's unique slow-release and controlled-release fertilizers technologies, and its market share in sports and amenity fertilizers, plant protection products and grass seeds.
When asked if he considered the somewhat abrupt replacement of the Scotts brand with its 140 years of heritage to be risky, the pair were unequivocal in their response: 'Scotts has a strong image, but professional customers' loyalty is to our two greatest assets - our high quality brands, which deliver market-leading, cutting-edge technology, but most and to all our people, whose wealth of knowledge and passion for the professional turf sector provides them with first class technical back-up, both of which we have retained in full. Every single individual in Everris, and each of our distributor partners, is dedicated to and passionate about the 'green world' and offering products and solutions of consistently high quality,' Bosch explains.
'The Scotts name was associated with innovative solutions and the Everris brand mirrors that. In the same way that Scotts was arguably the best known fertilizer company in ornamental horticulture and turf across Europe, our aim is to position Everris similarly, but our ambition reaches even further. Sometimes, working with a brand that steeped in tradition, it's hard to be seen as modern and progressive. Everris is new, it's fresh, and our new strapline - 'Driven by innovation, inspired by nature' - describes our vision in one short sentence. As a company, we look at how the grass plant or crop looks and performs, identify nutrient deficiencies and other problems, and offer tailored solutions. For turf applications, we carefully analyse the environmental footprint of our products and work hard as a company to promote responsible environmental stewardship by advocating the maintenance of healthy turf, using less inputs, at the right time and in the most appropriate way.'
'I think our launch has clearly communicated our strategic ambition as an organisation,' Verhoeven adds. 'We're pleased with the positive feedback we've received from customers and industry partners, and there's much more news to come.'
Despite the fact that Everris has some of the turf industry's strongest brand names in its portfolio, including Sierraform GT, SierrablenPlus and Greenmaster, Bosch and Verhoeven are clearly most excited about the sourcing, supply chain capabilities and research and development opportunities that being part of the ICL group brings.
The group's R&D resources are significant. Its IMI research institute in Israel is staffed by 120 scientists dedicated to product development and the creation of new technologies. It has already enjoyed significant success in the production of speciality plant nutrition and specialty products for food and non-food crops. So what is Everris hoping to achieve that will interest the turf manager?
'We're confident that with the fundamental research investment ICL has pledged, we can make some great advances in the products we supply to the turf and amenity sector,' Bosch says. 'As we gain a better understanding of plant science, we'll continue to improve our analyses. Our core fertilizer brands are renowned for the accuracy of their nutrient release provided by our unique coating technology. We believe that we can improve the accuracy still further to match the grass plants' exact needs. Sierraform GT, our slow release potassium and slow release nitrogen fertilizer is already unique. We have recently introduced a controlled-release plant protection product into the ornamental horticulture sector in the form of a granular application with an active ingredient. We will explore the possibility of a 'nutrient plus plant protection product' combination. Also newer generations of other turf inputs, such as wetting agents, have our close attention.'
Scotts Professional pioneered the integrated turf management approach with iTurf, a range of tools and practises to help turf managers use products in the most efficient, environmentally-friendly and economical way.
'Everris will continue to champion integrated turf management through iTurf,' Verhoeven confirmed. 'End-users are increasingly required to keep clear records of all their turf applications and to manage their turf responsibly. Our technical advisers are on hand to support them in maintaining healthy turf by applying the right amount of the right products in the right place at the right time. Adopting an ITM approach will prevent the over-application of product caused by fire-fighting, limit the use of water, avoid flushes of growth and prevent diseases taking hold.'
Both are clear about their goals: 'We aim to grow organically and by making strategic acquisitions to have a presence in more countries. We'd like our products to set the benchmark in the turf and amenity market for quality and results, becoming the choice of every turf manager. As a company, we'd like to be the turf manager's preferred partner, championing best practice in application. Grass seed is a part of our business that we will also build upon. We have access to some wonderful varieties and blends that, used in conjunction with our fertilizers and plant protection products, enable us to work with our customers on a holistic approach to turf management - from sowing through to mowing you might say!'
Investing in the future
The major plus point for Everris is the availability of vast natural resources, such as potassium and phosphate, from ICL. The price of world commodities is rising because of the growing population and depleting quantities of natural resources. ICL's readiness to invest in the professional turf business will enable the better use of scarce resources. How so?
Like any other natural resources, we all are under increased pressure to use them efficiently and effectively. The public in general wants to see less waste now, rather than legislators telling us we should create less, but at the same time we don't want to compromise on the benefits we're receiving. That's why the coating of professional fertilizers is key, because it uses less mineral resources, with less leaching, but achieves better results. Couple that with an ITM approach to turf management and you're reducing other inputs too, by reducing mowing and therefore fuel and clippings yield for example. Some countries, like Japan, have used controlled-release technology for decades to grow rice to feed its population, but others have yet to take advantage of the technology that's available, and it's in these areas that Everris will want to try and facilitate change.
In the same way as technology has played an increasing role in the lives of those in developed countries, turf managers have benefitted from the advances in product technology, and clearly from companies such as Everris leading the way in their commitment to innovation, there's very much more to come.