International Absorbents Inc. (IAX)
This is a printer friendly page!
International Absorbents CareFRESH®
pet bedding has superior odor control, is super
absorbent, and does not contain aromatic hydrocarbons found in pine and cedar
All of its animal care products are 100% natural, and are superior in preventing and neutralizing odors to competing pet care brands. They absorb more moisture, and are easier to handle and clean up than shavings or corn cob based bedding, or clay cat litter.
CareFRESH® is the ideal pet
bedding for small animals. It has superior odor control and is super absorbent so your
pets stay cleaner and drier. Clean up is fast and easy because CareFRESH®
wont stick to the cage or pan. CareFRESH® does not contain
aromatic hydrocarbons found in pine and cedar shavings and it lasts twice as long between
bedding changes as other pet bedding because ammonia odors are controlled. It is sanitized
to kill bacteria, mold & fungus.
CEOCFOinterviews: Mr. Ellis, what was your vision when you started International Absorbents and where are you headed today?
Mr. Ellis: The vision in 1987 was that the company was going to take the world by storm, with the most environmentally friendly and best cat litter on the market. The cat litter was the best but we found that people liked it as animal bedding because you can put it into the cage under the birds, gerbils, rabbits and even horses. We learned from our customers that we had a very good product, used by veterinarians, students, and doctors. We manufacture our product from fiber and are now the largest manufacturer of pet bedding in North America. When a paper mill makes paper, the long fibers that fall through become a waste product, and they are too short to be used by the paper company, so there is a disposal problem. We take the disposal problem and make it into a product. CareFRESH® is our main product and is about 60% of our sales.
CEOCFOinterviews: What makes your product the best?
Mr. Ellis: If you use it in a bed, it is comfortable to animals and the animals like it. It is environmentally friendly, is cost effective and it controls the odor in the animals bed. Veterinarians use it and many people tell us their veterinary hospitals have never smelled so good and it lasts longer and they do not need to change it as often. It can be disposed of by flushing it down the toilet, burning it, or putting it in the waste; it is an excellent product. It does not contain things like aromatic hydro-carbons.
CEOCFOinterviews: Do you do anything outside of North America?
Mr. Ellis: We are doing an exchange program with a company in Europe called Supreme PetFoods, which makes a line of pet foods. We sell the pet foods in North America and they sell CareFRESH in Europe. When we first started to make our products, we also made industrial products. We sell a lot more of those in foreign markets than in North American markets. We sell overseas but our prime target is North America; we manufacture on the West Coast and plan to open a manufacturing plant on the East Coast. Our focus is to sell where we know there is room for expansion here in North America.
CEOCFOinterviews: What is the market for the product?
Mr. Ellis: Animal bedding is broken into the two areas of pet market and big boxes/ generic food market. We attacked the pet market first and sell through Petco, Pet Smart; virtually every pet-chain in North America. There is about an eighty million-dollar market for our product in this market segment. We are selling 15-20% of that at this point and over half of that market segment is held by hundreds of manufacturers of wood shavings and similar kinds of products. The other segment of the animal bedding market is big boxes like Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target and regular local grocery stores. We are just entering that market with Wal-Mart and introducing a product called Critter Care. You can buy CareFRESH at pet stores or you can buy Critter Care or HealthyPet at other big stores. That is another eighty million dollar market and you are talking about 160 to 200 million dollar market place for animal bedding in North America.
CEOCFOinterviews: How do you get more of that market?
Mr. Ellis: We get more of that by doing two things; one is focusing and increasing our market share in the specialty pet area, which is one thing we are doing. The other thing, which leaves us with a bigger market potential right now, is to focus on all of the areas where we havent made penetration yet and that is all of the food chains and big block stores. We have developed an excellent distribution network within the pet market. We have about 15-20% of the bedding market with CareFRESH. We cannot compete on price alone with things like shavings locally. We built a new product line called Super Shavings. It has an excellent marketing program and we are moving into the shavings market. With the distribution system we have in place, we are putting more products on our plate to be able to offer to our buyers and among those are cat litter and shavings.
CEOCFOinterviews: Will you tell us more about the new facilities?
Mr. Ellis: We have always tried to build the company for the future. We grew fast over the last six to ten years. In the state of Washington, we had seven different facilities and a lot of overhead. We built a new 120,000 square ft. facility in Washington State and we moved all but one of our plants into that site, which cut our costs significantly. We have also tried to automate what we are doing. There are two major costs that we have that we are trying to control, the first of which is shipping. Our product is light, which means we can fill a truck up to the top. Over half of our customers are on the East Coast and we are building another 100,000 square ft. facility there. When we finish that, we will have cut our costs even more. We are now at a 40% operating margin and we want to improve on that. When we get the facility finished on the East Coast, we will be cutting our transportation costs, there will be more automation and we will be cutting some of our labor costs. Every time we make a new move, we try to cut costs to make a higher profit. All this is allowing us to build an infrastructure to service customers throughout North America and the East Coast will allow us to service Europe. As you see us continue to grow, you will see us improve our profit margin.
CEOCFOinterviews: Does the cost of the raw material fluctuate much?
Mr. Ellis: One of the reasons that we moved back to our plant in Georgia is because there are a lot of paper mills in the southeast. The cost of pulp can rise and fall quite a bit depending on the availability. Here in the northwest, mills have shut down and we have had to find sources in other places. Sometimes people will pay us to take it away, which means we have negative costs for our raw materials. Other times the mills have been shut down for some time when they have had problems with their raw materials and we have to go out and buy it for four hundred bucks a ton. We cannot always control that. We have gone and chosen a location where there are multiple sources of paper, and we are building our next manufacturing plant so that they can easily accommodate other types of raw material such as recycled newsprint. By doing that we are stabilizing our costs and making it more consistent so that we can retain our margins well over 40%.
CEOCFOinterviews: Are there areas that you would like to control, but have not been able to as of yet?
Mr. Ellis: We have things under control and we are moving down pathways that will allow us to control most of our costs. The one thing that we do not have any control over is heat; we have to dry our products and gas is expensive. As you know, fuel prices are going up and down, and gas prices are volatile. We can become our own power generator. We can manufacture our own products and add to our own power. Our last quarterly statement showed that we made almost a million dollars before taxes for the quarter and between four or five million dollars in sales and that is a darn good margin. I look at the financial statements of other companies who sell a hundred million dollars worth of products and they talk about how they made a million dollars worth of product this year. If they had any variation whatsoever in their costing then they are under water. We have a stable product in a stable market. People pay to take care of their pets sometimes even when they could not take care of themselves; it is not a very elastic market. We will continue to sell and people will continue to buy for their pets even when the economy goes down. On top of that, we have a margin in our organization that says we will continue to make a profit even if things do get bad because we are in good fiscal shape. It is a good organization.
CEOCFOinterviews: What should investors know that they might not realize when they look at the company?
Mr. Ellis: They should look at the financial statements and understand that continued cash flow is critical for us and that we generate a fair amount of cash flow for a relatively small, growing company. We can continue the growing plan and apply our income to things like a new plant in the east and a new plant in the west to further improve our profits without jeopardizing the welfare of the organization and without going into debt that is questionable. Even when we do finance through debt, we do not want to dilute the shareholders position. The debt we get is supported by government bonds and by local development agencies and very low rates.
CEOCFOinterviews: What are your challenges going forward and how are you ready?
Mr. Ellis: Our challenges are to prove that we can continue to grow at a good rate, and that means that we have to do more than just animal bedding. We can triple the size of our company with animal bedding but we are not going to get ten times bigger with animal bedding alone. We have to capitalize on our strengths, which are marketing and distribution and the ability to manipulate and manufacture products, and find markets. An example of how we are doing this is our current pursuit of the cat litter market, which is a multi hundred million-dollar market. We also need to look at the investment market place, which is strong so that we have the long term capital that we may need to continue to grow.
To view Releases highlight & left click on the company name!
ceocfointerviews.com does not purchase or
recommendation on stocks based on the interviews published.