Andrew Egan is Commercial Director at Kerry – a world leader in taste and nutrition for the food and beverage industry with operations in more than 150 sites across six continents.
Can you fill us in on your background, and a bit about your role as Commercial Director at Kerry?
I’ve always been in dairy. I grew up on a dairy farm so I’ve been involved in the dairy industry since the day I was born; from a very early age I was out on the dairy farm milking cows and feeding calves, so from that I’ve always had an interest in the dairy industry. I went to university in Cork and studied Food Business – a spinoff of the old dairy science business. Then from university I went straight into working for Kerry. Kerry is a massive success story in Ireland. The company started from very humble beginnings in the South West of Ireland and grew into a global multinational company. I’ve been with Kerry for 16 years, working in many different aspects of Kerry group including procurement, operations, supply chain to commercial and in many different business units from Dairy to the Meat Industry, Nutritional Beverages, Infant Nutrition and across many regions including South East Asia, Western Europe, South Africa; I’ve been all over the world with the Kerry group. I’ve had great opportunities to open my mind to many different cultures and different ways to do business. My main markets at Kerry for the last 2.5 years for Dairy Commodities have been Western Europe and South East Asia – predominantly selling SMP and managing the SMP and Fat book for the Kerry Organisation (fat being predominantly Butter).
“What I like about Vesper is that it summarises the key snapshot about what’s happening in the market”
In your role as Commercial Director, and for Kerry as a company, how are you using data on a day to day basis? How often are you looking at data and how does this influence the different decisions that you make?
That’s a great question and every company should ask themselves that. In an organisation like Kerry, we are inundated with data. There is data coming at us from every angle; every morning I wake up to 5 -10 emails of different market data. Of course you don’t read that everyday, but there is some great information there. What I like about Vesper is that it summarises the key snapshot about what’s happening in the market particularly on prices and milk supplies etc. But you also have to use your own gut instinct on the feel of the market. The fundamentals of supply and demand aren’t the only drivers of the market and the sentiment is a big driver in the dairy industry. Vesper is the main program that I use now, as Kerry Organisation we haven’t moved away from others just yet. For me personally I use Vesper the most. Does it influence your decision making? Of course it does. Each organisation has its own sales strategy and you get good indications from Vesper about where you should be, or the tool gives you that extra bit of information to make a final decision. It doesn’t drive our sales strategy, but it certainly influences our sales strategy. There is no tool or one piece of information that should drive your own sales strategy, that is unique to the organisation.
“In terms of getting the return – it saves me time”
What is the main benefit you’ve found from moving to Vesper?
I like the snapshot of the prices, you open Vesper and bang it’s there; Vesper gives you live prices based on the independent data that they have collected. What I also like about the tool is that you can look at the different milk valorizations quite quickly. You can start to make decisions for example if WMP is overvalued, is that going to pull away from fat streams? If cheese is undervalued is there going to be more milk moved away from cheese, where is that going to go? You can start to make those quick decisions on the big flows around the world at a high level without killing yourself in detail. I can look at Vesper every single day, it’s there in front of me and I’m not wondering “am I reading the same information a different way”, you can customise it depending on the way you like to view the information. In terms of getting the return on investment – it saves me time. It’s interactive, the numbers are there, they’re exactly what I want to read on a daily basis. But if I do want to go more in depth I do go reading the other reports.
What are your thoughts around COVID-19 and the flow of effect from this in the dairy industry?
COVID-19 has and will continue to have a massive impact on the dairy industry. In terms of sales and procurement it is very much a relationship game – I think we will really see where companies have a strong relationship with customers. The strength of the customer’s relationship is going to mean a lot more in the future because I think in regards to travelling – no company is going to go back to the level of travel we used to do. So you’re going to have to build the time you get with customers and suppliers – it has to be more quality time rather than frequent. I think companies will need to get a lot smarter in terms of quality time to ensure a strong relationship with suppliers and customers. Which means the conversations with customers need to be a lot more fact based rather than just ‘feelings based’.
“You can customise it depending on the way you like to view the information”
What’s your favourite part of Vesper?
I like the dashboard, especially in terms of looking at the price indications. One of the other good features on the dashboard is the Private Storage Scheme numbers; that was easy to get, no fiddling around, it’s just right there in front of you. What I also like about Vesper is the forecast; I do think there is mileage in this. It makes you stop and think for a minute about the future pricing and opens a conversation for us about buy/sell decisions in the future. We have our commercial meetings where we analyse the market based on all of the data we receive, and Vesper would come into the conversation particularly on the forecasting front. There is a need and willingness for accurate market intelligence – how it is interpreted and how it is used is still down to each business. I like Vesper because it’s numerical, and provides a great snapshot; I don’t like to spend hours reading material so for me that’s why it really works. With Vesper, you get the numbers that allow you to form an opinion. How you interpret the numbers is up to you – it allows you to be objective.