It has been a little over a year since Ecolab Pest Elimination acquired Food Protection Services (FPS) of Indianapolis, Ind.; Royal Pest Solutions of New Castle, Del.; and Research Fumigation Company of New Orleans, La., to expand its nationwide fumigation capabilities for which it had seen increasing customer demand. And that year has seen some significant value for both Ecolab and the acquired companies — as well as their customers.

Ecolab’s fumigation acquisitions have enabled it to play a bigger role in food safety from farms to consumers.

Since the December 2017 expansion, the division has gained traction with some very large customers, said Vice President of Sales Kris Prentice. “And in one case, fumigation really opened the door.” According to Prentice, excitement is carried by the value customers see in Ecolab’s complete Integrated Pest Management offering, in addition to other complementary Ecolab solutions. “Our combined pest offering has the other (Ecolab) divisions taking note of what we have to offer, so there is a lot of growth opportunity enterprise wide.”

The acquisition also has enabled the division to play a bigger role in food safety from farms to consumers, she said. “From post-harvest, loading and transit to the consumer and in food processing — we play in all those markets, so it’s a stronger value proposition than we were able to offer prior to the acquisitions.”

Before acquiring the three companies, Ecolab’s fumigation services were primarily provided in the central U.S. for existing customers. Through the expansion, the company is able to provide services across the food supply chain including grain, seed, milling, food processing and manufacturing, warehouses and distribution centers, and import and export.

The acquisitions also have been good for the acquired companies, said Vice President of Specialty Pest Services (SPS) Sales and Operations John Mueller, who was a former FPS co-owner. “For us the biggest successes are that we’ve maintained our people and we’ve maintained our customers.” Although Ecolab had done some fumigation before the three companies were brought on board, he said, “Things have changed very rapidly in the fumigation market.” So being able to share their best practices and scale up Ecolab services has provided value across the board. To enable a smooth transition, the three companies retained their brand identities for a year, converting to the Ecolab brand in January 2019 as Specialty Pest Services.

“We’ve gone through the practice of sharing best practices and aligning with the regions, and moving that forward is energizing the team and growing the business,” Mueller said. “We will use the 2,200 employees to help scale the business. We’ve leaned on our much bigger brother — they’ve fed us business and helped supply us with talent. It’s made the selling of our businesses make sense to the team.”

The transition also has carried lessons learned for both, particularly the acquired companies. One of which is, Mueller said, “How time and resource-consuming it is to integrate three companies into a fourth. The amount of work is tremendous.” But he credits Ecolab with smoothing the transition. “They’ve been very sensitive to the cultural differences of the companies and very patient. It’s been a very conscious, deliberate, fair-minded process,” he said. “There’s so much involved with the three legacy fumigation companies, but Ecolab’s focus is on people, customer, then company, and they have lived up to that.”

Prentice agreed. “We place high value on people, and having the same goals has been very important.”

Although she was not able to share any specifics, Prentice said that the division is looking forward to continued growth in 2019. With its focus on some imperatives and making sure it is aligned with its customers’ evolving needs, “Ecolab is always looking at ways to deliver greater value to our customers,” she said. “We constantly look to innovate or acquire capabilities that allow us to better serve our customers and grow our business.” — Lisa Lupo