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ABB hopes to feast on food and drink
Published:  01 June, 2005

ABB hopes to feast on food and drink

ABB has launched a bid to become the leading supplier of drives to the food and beverage sector in the UK, with the aim of capturing 25% of the £13m market by 2008.

At present, ABB holds "a miserable 4%" of the market, admits Steve Ruddell, the company`s general manager for drives and motors. But he is confident that ABB can repeat its success in the HVAC market, where it claims to have boosted its share from around 6% to a market-leading 30% within three years.

ABB has set up a dedicated team to target the food sector, led by Gary Busby (shown above, right, with Ruddell) who previously covered the sector for Control Techniques and Omron.

The food and beverage industry represents about a fifth of the UK drives market and the current market-leader is thought to be Danfoss. The market is growing by about 6% a year and a key attraction for Ruddell is that it is "one of the only future-proof markets - as the population grows, so will the demand".

There is also plenty of potential for energy saving in the food sector. It is the UK`s third-largest energy-guzzler, after metals and chemicals. ABB plans to expand its "six-step energy plan" to the sector and to encourage companies to replace older drives with more efficient modern versions.

The initiative is part of a global ABB strategy to target the food and drinks industry. The company is hoping to benefit from the success that its instrumentation division has had in the sector.

It also expects that a new generation of small, low-cost drives, due to be launched in the autumn, will appeal to the food market. ABB says that, in the past year, its production of drives smaller than 110kW has grown by 67%, driven largely by the increased sales to the HVAC sector.

ABB says that is success in the UK HVAC market has led to intensified price competition, with some suppliers dropping their prices by 20% over the past year.

But Nick Thorne, ABB`s HVAC drives sales manager, denies that the company is taking part in a price war. "We merely follow the market," he declares, adding that ABB is not threatened by the simple, low-cost products that some suppliers are now offering the HVAC market. "Our product has a range of features that the customers want," he argues. "If we wanted to tackle the low-cost end of the market, ABB has other products in its portfolio with which we could achieve this."

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