Move Solidifies Becker Underwood’s Leadership Position in the Mulch Colorant Industry
Becker Underwood recently completed the acquisition of one of its chief competitors, Wood’n Colors. With the addition of Wood’n Colors, Becker Underwood solidifies its leadership position in the mulch colorant industry.
Ever since the beginning, Becker Underwood has been on a mission to diversify, innovate and dominate in industries not particularly known for experimentation. “We never want to sit still,” said Roger Underwood, president of the Iowa-based company. “The more we work in this industry, the more opportunities and niches we see for us in new, vertical areas.”
The 1990s saw Becker Underwood moving into and taking a dominant share of several diverse manufacturing areas, such as micronutrients, microbiology and aquatics. Today the company has more than 140 employees. Besides its headquarters facilities, Becker Underwood maintains offices, laboratories and production facilities in Canada and the United Kingdom. Last year, in its 19th year of business, Becker Underwood’s overall sales eclipsed $40 million, with the mulch division leading the charge. Sales are projected to double within the next four to five years.
Roger said that his company has done everything possible to make the transition seamless for customers of Wood’n Colors. “We sent Wood’n Colors’ customers information about the acquisition,” he said, “and then we called them personally to answer their questions. They’ve been very receptive to us.”
David Blue, president of Wood’n Colors, expressed his satisfaction with the acquisition. “Becker Underwood is a tremendous company, and this action will allow my former customers to continue to receive quality colorant products while enjoying the benefits of Becker Underwood’s extensive service and distribution system,” he said.
Roger feels the market dominance resulting from this addition will allow Becker Underwood to significantly increase and enhance his company’s research and development programs in the mulch market segment and beyond. “It will help create additional synergies to improve many of the products we manufacture and market,” he said. “We are continually looking for new and better ways to bring products to the various market segments we serve.”
Unlimited Growth Potential
Since Becker Underwood’s mulch division was formed 12 years ago, its overall goal has been to become a leader in its product category, a goal that the acquisition of Wood’n Colors has helped make a reality. Patterning itself after Becker Underwood’s growth strategies, the mulch division began its climb to the top through a combination of quality, innovation and problem solving.
The division’s first product, its patented Mulch Magic® spray colorants, reflected this philosophy. Discovering that landscapers needed to replace colored mulch frequently due to fading, the company created fade-resistant Mulch Magic colorants. Created as a topical spray application, Mulch Magic colorants returned long-lasting color to mulch without the need — or the expense — of remulching.
This led to the introduction of the company’s popular Mulch Magic PF® (Professional Formula) line of colorants (now sold as Mulch Magic Premium®). At the time, a new market was emerging: premium, colored landscape mulch made from shredded wood pallets. “Entrepreneurs always saw that there was a demand for colored mulch, but until Mulch Magic PF, there wasn’t a colorant that delivered the long-lasting, fade-resistant coloration that was practical,” said Brent Lester, manager of the company’s mulch and aggregate coatings division.
Soon after Mulch Magic was launched, its performance and bright, fade-resistant hues made it the colorant of choice in many mulching operations. As demand grew, the timber and natural mulch industries were quick to enter into the production of colored mulch as well.
Once Mulch Magic Premium captured a significant share of the colorant market, Becker Underwood took the next logical step and looked at the mulch industry from an equipment standpoint. After talking to companies with colored mulch operations and listening to their concerns and ideas about coloring systems, the mulch division decided to create a new style of coloring machine that would optimize production.
Delving into equipment manufacturing for the first time, the result was Becker Underwood’s Second Harvester line of mulch coloring machinery, another of the company’s success stories. “The Second Harvester has revolutionized the mulch coloring industry,” said Brent. “It lets operations color more mulch, more thoroughly with less water. There is no run-off.” The machine’s high efficient multi-stage mixing system exposes more mulch to the colorant for vibrant, thoroughly colored mulch that is produced cost-effectively.
But the company’s innovations did not stop there. Becker Underwood capitalized on the success of its original Second Harvester by improving it. The result, introduced last year, was the Second Harvester Sahara.
As the name implies, Becker Underwood’s Sahara uses even less water than the original Second Harvester. This high-efficiency system colors the mulch effectively with less water, which leaves the finished product much drier. Because of this, freshly colored mulch is dry enough to be bagged immediately, right from the conveyor. Since the mulch is much drier, it weighs considerably less, so transportation costs are reduced.
With its micron optimizing colorant delivery system, lower water dilution and aggressive mixing action, the Sahara produces brighter, more brilliant colored mulch. These efficiencies have stirred tremendous interest among mulch producers, many of whom placed orders for a Sahara machine before it reached the production stage.
Obsession with Quality
To create new products and offer customers refinements on existing ones, Becker Underwood invests a significant amount of capital into ongoing product development. “Being a pioneer requires a lot of time and testing before a product goes to market,” said Jeff Becker, the company’s senior vice president.
To meet those demands of R&D and day-to-day production, Becker Underwood maintains its own research laboratories at its headquarters in Ames, Iowa. Sophisticated testing and quality controls are performed to assure the company and its customers that each product is as good as it can be and exceeds expectations.
“We’re extremely careful and watchful with everything we produce,” said Jeff. “Because products like Mulch Magic Premium come into contact with water, animals and the ground, we have a serious responsibility to leave the environment unharmed.”
Becker Underwood became an ISO 9001 registered company several years ago and meets the stringent manufacturing criteria of the organization. “Actually, we were already manufacturing our products to strict standards,” said Roger. The ISO 9001 designation allows customers to buy Becker Underwood products with the assurance that formulations and colors will not vary.
When asked what to expect from the company after the acquisition of Wood’n Colors, Roger only hinted at things to come. “All I can say is that when the next big thing hits the mulch industry, there’s a good chance we’ll be behind it.”
For more information, contact Becker Underwood at (800) 232-5907, fax (515) 232-5961, or visit the Web site at www.bucolor.com.