08 Mar 2019 14:54

‘Sustainability is important in our entire value chain’

Isabelle Ducellier and Margareta Hagman

“Personal relationships are the most important part of a banking relation – having a helpful contact person who can bring in various types of specialists when you need advice,” says Margareta Hagman, CFO of the Swedish healthcare company BioGaia. She also says that sustainability was a deciding factor when her company chose SEB as its new home bank three years ago.

BioGaia is a research-based company that develops probiotic dietary supplements, that is, products that contain living microorganisms with clinically proven health benefits.

We meet BioGaia’s Managing Director Isabelle Ducellier and CFO Margareta Hagman for a talk on the company’s growth journey and need of financial services. But also about their personal passion for the use of beneficial bacteria to promote health and prevent disease.

“Research on bacteria and gastrointestinal flora is increasing explosively, and the market is growing,” says Isabelle Ducellier. “I think probiotics are something that more and more people will rely on every day both for general health and as a prevention against illness. One example can be seen in antibiotic resistance, which is one of the world’s biggest health problems. In this area probiotics are part of the solution.”

Biogaia was established in 1990 by Jan Annwall and Peter Rothschild, who is today Chairman of the Board. They ran a company that imported vegetables from France and came up with the idea of using beneficial bacterial to preserve the vegetables during the long transport. They began collaborating with scientists in Lund, Sweden, and together they decided to start the company BioGaia with the basic idea of replacing antibiotics in animal food.

The focus changed at an early stage to products designed for people, initially as a supplier to makers of functional foods. In 2000 BioGaia developed its first product in tablet form, which today is one of its most important products. The company subsequently developed probiotic drops for infants, which is now its largest product.

Biogaia has 130 employees, holds 440 patents, and sells its products in 100 markets. Production and packaging are conducted in Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Spain and the USA.

In 1998 the company became listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange’s mid-cap list, and it has turned a profit since 2006. BioGaia has thus managed to finance its rapid growth with own funds. In 2017 BioGaia had sales of SEK 615 m, an increase of 16 per cent over the preceding year.

BioGaia has relied on SEB as its home bank since 2016 to manage payment flows, for currency hedging and for analysis services.

“Banks’ services are virtually identical, so personal relationships are important. We think SEB are professional, they offer a high level of service, and they offer interesting seminars and talks,” says Margareta Hagman.

“We also feel that SEB are at the forefront when it comes to sustainability, which is important for us since we work with sustainability across our entire value chain.”