After weathering a difficult first year in China, Ashland Distribution arrived at Chinaplas 2009 this week with a growing list of distribution agreements in the region.
In April 2008, Ashland announced agreements in China with Teknor Apex Co., LTL Color Compounders Inc., DSM NV and BASF SE.
In an economic downturn there are some advantages to being a new arrival, said Larry Hunt, commercial director of the company in the western United States, Mexico and Asia Pacific.
If a customer is running only 30 percent, but we didn't have their business before, that's still growth, Hunt said. Dublin, Ohio-based Ashland Distribution has grown nearly 50 percent in the region since September and nearly all growth is due to attracting new customers, he said.
Ashland Distribution announced its expansion into China at last year's Chinaplas. Of course, as an arm of Ashland Inc., the company's presence isn't entirely new. In the past, the company has served existing clients that happened to be operating in the region.
Today, however, the company has a number of warehouses throughout, along with a full sales staff and a sourcing manager. The company's imported resins run the gamut of applications and include medical, irrigation, consumer and automotive.
Every market you could think of, Hunt said.
In Asia, most of Ashland's customers are export-oriented, he added, and have been hit hard by the crisis.
Ashland recently reached an agreement to distribute polylactic acid resins for NatureWorks LLC in North America. Partnering with NatureWorks is a great opportunity for us, Hunt said. We've had a lot of requests for green solutions.
In the U.S., people won't spend a lot more for green, he said. But it's starting people are willing to spend more and more.
In China, Hunt also sees an increasing demand for eco-friendly products. Our China-based customers are looking to make a higher-quality product, he said.
It helps that many companies in the region are starting to feel an upswing in the market, he said. I think people are starting to feel more and more optimistic, he added.