This is the fourth of five business features highlighting Saskatchewan companies that are finalists in the Saskatchewan Trade & Export Partnership’s (STEP) 2018 Exporter of the Year Award.
If sales growth is an accurate measure of a business’s success, then the Saskatoon Colostrum Company Ltd. (SCCL) has had about 13 million reasons to celebrate over the past decade or so.
From humble beginnings in the mid-1990s, the Saskatoon-based company has enjoyed phenomenal growth, thanks to an ever-expanding global supply chain and strong international demand.
SCCL collects raw frozen bovine colostrum from dairy farms across Canada, the United States and Europe.
The frozen colostrum is shipped to Saskatoon where it is processed, dried, packaged and sold — through various distribution arrangements — to livestock producers around the world.
SCCL general manager Michael Chubb detailed just how quickly the company has grown during a recent interview while on a business trip to Wisconsin.
“In 2011, we were collecting raw colostrum from about 110,000 Canadian dairy cows and we were selling our products into about six countries around the world,” said Chubb.
“As of this year, 2018, we have a supply chain that includes roughly 650,000 dairy cows in Canada and the United States as well as 55,000 cows in Scotland.”
In 2007, the company generated top line revenue of about $5.5 million, Chubb added.
“This year, we’ll be around $18.5 million. That’s pretty substantial growth and it will continue, based on our expansion of supply.”
SCCL’s origins date back to 1994 when veterinarian Debbie Haines and some colleagues at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon identified a process to improve the immunological properties of natural bovine colostrum.
Using a specialized heat treatment process, Haines determined that harmful elements often found in bovine colostrum, such as E. coli bacteria, salmonella and paratuberculosis, could be eliminated without damaging the beneficial elements, most notably immunogammaglobulin (IGG).
Unlike many mammals, newborn calves have no immunological function when they are born. Instead, immunity is acquired through the ingestion of colostrum, which is rich in IGG and other growth factors.
The company, now under Dutch ownership, soon determined that the global market for processed colostrum had huge potential.
In 2007, SCCL purchased a processing facility in Saskatoon, installed a specially designed heat treatment and drying system and scaled up production.
By 2016, increased production prompted ownership to expand the facility’s footprint by roughly 30 percent, making room for additional freezers, processing and packaging capacity, product handling and warehouse space.
According to Chubb, another expansion will likely be required in two to three years.
“We’re a small company, but we’re very good at what we do,” he said.
“We are 56 people and we do just one thing. We make natural colostrum better by cleaning it up, spray drying it, and making it stable and safe.”
SCCL products are now shipped to dozens of countries around the world with the biggest markets existing in the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.
Remarkably, SCCL has no competitors in Canada and very few in other parts of the world.
A handful of American companies sell dried colostrum products.
But SCCL is the only North American company that is authorized to sell its colostrum as a veterinary biological product.
“In Canada, there is nobody else doing this crazy thing — and I call it crazy because our supply chain is really, really long and decentralized,” Chubb said.
“There are more than 5,000 dairy farmers in North America on whose farms we have installed closet freezers that we own.”
“We’ve also given those farmers buckets, lids and labels so that they can collect excess colostrum that would otherwise be thrown away.”
With so much of SCCL’s production destined for foreign markets, the importance of solid international trade agreements is essential to SCCL’s continued growth, Chubb added.
“We’ve more than tripled our sales in the last 10 years … and our ownership is very supportive of further expansion,” he said.
“So international trade is hyper-critical to our existence and our success.”