ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, US — Bunge Ltd. has its sights firmly set on keeping momentum going, said Gregory A. Heckman, chief executive officer.
“On the cost side, we’re never done,” Heckman told participants during a May 19 virtual presentation at the BMO Capital Markets Farm to Market Conference. “It’s continuous improvement. So, we’ll continue to go after being more efficient in SG&A cost and how we run our operating model.”
On the industrial side, Bunge has undergone a lot of change, Heckman said. He credited the company’s industrial team with doing an “unbelievable” job keeping processing and distribution facilities and the ports all running and serving customers the last year and a half. But even with all it has accomplished, Bunge hasn’t had the time to do all the work necessary around industrial costs. The company will look to change that going forward, he said.
“We’re literally looking at the best of Bunge globally and applying that across our asset base to get to the best cost and the most efficiency,” Heckman said. “And you’ve seen just the focus of the industrial team working closely with the commercial team with our record capacity utilizations, we’ve had record unscheduled downtime, been able to lower that. And we still think there’s opportunity there. So, we’ve got some productivity targets. And as we begin to take that focus, excited about delivering on that.”
On the growth side, Bunge plans to put capital to work, whether that be opportunities to consolidate, bolt-on acquisitions, or regional consolidation in the company’s global oilseed processing and origination footprint.
“We’re going to protect our strongholds, and we’ll continue to look for those opportunities to fill in any gaps,” he said.
Heckman said Bunge is particularly excited about what is happening within plant protein ingredients.
“I mean, this trend is in place,” he said. “We’re already serving a number of those customers with our lipids business and providing a lot of products that go into these plant protein products and make them taste great and give them the mouthfeel and the bite and the texture that people love. And those customers are telling us, ‘Hey, we want to see you in the plant protein supply.’ And we’ve begun to make some investments in doing the work, but working with the customers backwards, to put the plan in place to be their long-term supply to meet that long-term demand that is in place on the plant protein side.”
Lastly, Bunge will continue to put capital to work around renewable feedstocks.
“This is quite an investment that’s been made here in North America and is planned to be made here in North America, in the US and Canada, by the energy industry,” Heckman said. “And they’re committed to renewable diesel. And biofuels are already growing globally, but this is kind of really at a different level. And we’re going to continue to work. We’re already supplying those, and we’re working with those customers to supply them as their demand continues to come on. And that’s going to be very interesting on the opportunities that creates, whether it’s debottlenecking, which we’re already doing a number of projects. Whether those, of course, the lowest risk and highest returning; whether it’s brownfield or making changes to our current footprint, maybe adding a refinery where we have crush or converting a soy plant to be dual and be able to run — to crush soft as well; or putting a greenfield in where it makes sense, and where it makes sense not only for serving that demand, but our food demand and thinking about our footprint and keeping our footprint low cost for the long term.
“But look, we’ll be very, very thoughtful and disciplined about putting that capital to work. You can’t fall in love with spot margins when you put assets in the ground that live for decades.”