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Company Reports - Irvine’s Africa Poultry  


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Irvine’s Africa Poultry

Africa's Leading Poultry Company

Written by Chris Farnell & Produced by Stuart Shirra

In 1954 Irvine’s began as a family firm based in Harare and quickly expanded into an integrated business, serving all sectors of the Zimbabwean poultry industry. Today, Irvine’s Zimbabwe is the largest integrated poultry company in Zimbabwe, employing more than 2,000 people.
Africa's Leading Poultry Company

In 1954 Irvine’s began as a family firm based in Harare and quickly expanded into an integrated business, serving all sectors of the Zimbabwean poultry industry. Today, Irvine’s Zimbabwe is the largest integrated poultry company in Zimbabwe, employing more than 2,000 people.

Irvine’s Africa, based in Johannesburg, South Africa and formed in 2001, has taken the Zimbabwean company’s approach and applied it to the development of other businesses in Africa. Given the international trend towards looking to Africa to bolster sales and market share, this business strategy may look quite appealing from an outsider’s perspective, but as Managing Director, Craig Irvine explains, “Africa is a very specialized market with a unique and challenging trading environment. Offering a range of products that fits the individual client’s requirements, while being able to service the market logistically as well as technically, is the basis of the business and has been fundamental to its growth and success.”

It is also essential to offer a diverse product portfolio that is trusted in the market by virtue of its quality and resulting performance. Africa is not only a very price sensitive market, but is also a quality driven market. Part of the assurance Irvine’s Africa offers its clients is that the majority of the products in the portfolio are also used within the Irvine’s Group.

The key products within the Irvine’s portfolio include Cobb and H&N breeding stock, hatching eggs, disinfectants, vaccines, packaging and a full complement of nutritional products.

“We manufacture premixes and macro packs in partnership with SA PREMIX to both custom and registered specifications. In addition to premixes and macro packs we also offer amino acids and other animal feed additives to a broad spectrum of the animal agricultural industries beyond the poultry sector and throughout the Sub Saharan African region,” Irvine says.

Irvine’s Botswana, located in Francistown, locally produces hatching eggs and supplies Cobb broiler day-old chicks throughout the Botswanan market.

“Irvine’s Botswana is the leading supplier of day-old chicks to the independent poultry farming sector, and through our distributor Feed Center Botswana, supply more than 1,000 small-scale farmers throughout the country.”

In line with their strategy to grow the Cobb broiler and H&N layer markets in Africa, Irvine’s Mozambique was set up in 2004.

“The Irvine’s Mozambique hatchery in conjunction with its contract breeding farms,” Irvine says, “is producing Cobb Broiler and H&N Layer day-old chicks for the Mozambique market. This business is focused on supplying small-scale farmers with the aim of developing them into more commercial oriented producers, in order to grow the poultry sector in the country. Again, Cobb broilers are by far the most dominant breed in the country.”

Irvine’s continues to expand into further market sectors through Cobb Africa. The focus of Cobb Africa is to market and support Cobb Parent Breeding stock and Cobb Hatching Eggs into Sub Saharan Africa.

The General Manager, Patrick Murphy, continues to rapidly expand market share in new territories through West, East and Southern Africa, which is testament to the quality and performance of the Cobb breed. Cobb Africa sells Cobb products into more than 14 countries throughout the Sub Saharan African region, and the list is growing.

Although Irvine’s has seen some impressive expansion, it has always remained a family business - something which Craig believes has given the company a great deal of benefit, especially given that many of their customers are also family-run businesses, “I feel that we are at an advantage, as we understand not only the market but also the business culture and the problems that they face. In addition we do not have the bureaucracy of a corporate company.”

“I think it gives us a large amount of flexibility in dealing with our clients across borders. In Africa’s very dynamic and challenging business environment we are able to make quick decisions, which is essential for success. It is a very personal business, very relationship-driven, and I believe being a family business is really to
our advantage.”

These customer relationships are integral to the Irvine’s business strategy. “We have developed many valued long term relationships with both suppliers and customers alike. True to our beliefs we are the oldest Cobb distributer in the world, having been a distributor for close to 45 years and similarly, one of our oldest customers based in Mozambique has been buying Cobb products from us for 35 odd years.”

While nobody can deny that growth is a good thing, it also presents its own challenges. One such difficulty is the growing skill shortage in Africa. “That’s a major problem,” Irvine admits.

“To combat it we take a varied approach. We run a year long programme for university and college graduates, where they are offered a rotational position in the company with the opportunity of full time employment at the end of their internship. In addition we run training programmes for our customers and their customers both at our facilities and theirs. Technical field visits we also feel are an excellent way of disseminating knowledge while further developing client relations.”

A key to the company’s success has been the long-term relationships it has nurtured over the years, but the range and quality of the products it offers, as well as the technical support it provides, are equally important.

“I believe one of the secrets to our success is that most of what we sell, we use ourselves,” Irvine explains. “We are an integrated business, and a number of our clients are as well as such, they are likely to have run across many of the same problems that we have faced over the years. The experiences we have gained in our own businesses better equips us to provide practical solutions. All the premixes and vaccines we sell are products we use in-house, so we are basically taking the knowledge and experience we have and we’re passing that on to our clients.”

Jodi Irvine, the company’s Head Nutritionist and a company Director, agrees. “The quality of our inputs is as important for our own farms as it is for our customers. Quality genetics, quality nutritional inputs and quality support products are essential to the productive and resulting fiscal success of our businesses and those of our clients.”

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