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China strong for biotech firm

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The Chinese market has quickly rebounded for Hamilton biotechnology company Quantec, which is on track to meet ambitious growth targets despite Covid-19.

It has appointed a general manager of marketing and sales, John Dawson, and has a new range of supplements set for launch.

Quantec manufactures IDP, a bioactive protein complex with anti inflammatory and anti microbial functionality derived from cows’ milk which is used by customers as an active ingredient for products such as dietary health supplements and skincare.

Chief executive Raewyn McPhillips says there is growing awareness in China of the health benefits of milk, where consumers are looking for natural products that support digestive and immune health. “And globally, we’re seeing a big increase in awareness and interest in immune and wellness products.”

Demand “was strong” when Covid-19 hit China at the start of the year, she says.

While that tailed off during China’s lockdown, she says since then Quantec has seen increased
interest in IDP as an ingredient. New customers include a manufacturer planning a range of pet supplements in Southeast Asia.

Quantec’s China office is focusing on sales of the company’s Epiology acne treatment, after it launched there just before Covid hit.

The company also exports Epiology to Mexico and South America, where sales are picking up again. In a curious side effect of the pandemic, acne caused by wearing masks – dubbed “maskne” – may prove a further boost for sales.

Meanwhile, Quantec is set to launch a range of Milk Immune dietary supplements in September.

They include IDP and are aimed at teens, adults and older people looking for health support for their immunity.

In what may seem a crowded market, Quantec is targeting the premium end. “When we benchmark our offer against others, if you look at the bioactive ingredients in ours, we’re certainly at the top end,” Dawson says.

The launch will be in Auckland, with New Zealand a stepping stone to other markets including China.

“The plan is to start in New Zealand, grow the awareness of it, build the brand, and then look for distribution
opportunities in China and from there the rest of Asia,” McPhillips says. “We’ve got great connections [in China]. Plus, we’ve got a great product that’s really strongly backed by the science. We’re pretty confident.”

The company’s growth targets – doubling year on year – are unchanged by Covid-19.

“The sales funnel is actually looking very healthy,” Dawson says. “Despite the disruption to travelling and being able to attend trade shows and get face to face with customers, because everyone’s changed their outlook and are more receptive to working online we’re still getting a lot of inquiries, still a lot of contact and follow-up being done.”

It has been an interesting baptism for Dawson, who started a week before New Zealand’s lockdown.

He brings more than 30 years’ experience to the company, having held significant sales and marketing roles in the packaging industry working with the food and dairy sectors.

He is clearly enjoying the new role, which builds on his food science background.
“I love the science aspects and the learning. It’s been a fun four months.”

Quantec is continuing its strong focus on R&D. “It’s a bit more challenging at the moment, but we’re still going to try, because it’s really important to us,” says
McPhillips.

“We need to just focus our attention a bit more tightly. I don’t think Covid is finished by any stretch. So while we’re still signing up new customers and  doing well, we just need to be cautious as well.

“Ideally, it would be great to get back out there and be able to travel –  trade fairs and the like. But we also recognise that we’re in a pretty idyllic spot right now, and the rest of the world is not the same as us.”

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