Which comes first: the product or the customers? For St. Louis-based Jost Chemical Co., the answer isn't black and white – it's shades of 250+ high purity, specialty bulk chemicals that the company has produced over the past 25 years. And with customers pitching several new product ideas each month, this symbiotic relationship is a supplier's dream come true.
"That's how we add products to our product line," said Andy Clutter, market manager for Jost. Customers often request new particle sizes, ranging from ultrafine powders (less than 6 microns) to granular material and materials specially processed to prevent caking. While new product ideas may be ruled out before they ever reach the lab because they don't fit the company's strengths, said Clutter, more often than not they go into research and development.
Recently, customer interest in iron products increased and Jost has begun offering two new new iron salts: ferric pyrophosphate and ferric phosphate hydratefor nutritional applications. "It's another high purity salt that brings iron into the nutritional product," Clutter said.
But business didn't start this way in 1985 when chemical engineer Jerry L. Jost founded the company. Initially, he thought the opportunity was selling reagent chemicals, which are used in laboratories. There wasn't a ready market so he shifted focus to opportunities in the nutritional space. This turned out to be a good move: For the past several years the company has had 15-20 percent growth per year.
"What separates us from our competitors is we don't compromise on quality," said Clutter. "In many cases we produce products that are higher-purity and lot-to-lot more consistent than anybody else in the industry." Jost manufactures everything it sells and has an FDA registered facility operating under cGMPs.
Top sellers include calcium citrate, magnesium phosphate and zinc products. The company also plays in the nutraceutical space and supplies ingredients that make their way into vitamins, supplements and sports drinks. Beyond nutrition, Jost supplies for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries and to most of the major toothpaste manufacturers.
Ten years ago the company went international, and has been distributing in Western Europe, operating a sales office and warehousing space in Belgium in addition to its California and New Jersey locations. With 20 percent of its sales in international markets, Clutter says the next step is expansion into Eastern Europe, Latin American and Asia/Pacific.
While the company mantra –"It's in the details" – is reflected in its products (no matter where they're sold), it's also apparent in its people. Jost culture is all about collaboration among its 120 employees, of which 25 percent have technical degrees.
"We have a committed, can-do workforce that is always looking at ways to do things more efficiently and effectively," said Clutter. "There is no such thing as a bad idea."
How to stand out from the competition
Take cues from Jost Chemical Co.'s 25-year history
- If one market isn't working, try another.
- Don't compromise on quality.
- Produce a pure product.
- Quickly respond to orders, getting them in transit in a matter of days rather than weeks.
- Provide support for technical questions from customers and prospects.
- Customize your product and be open to customer suggestions.
- Think beyond your country's borders.
- Know what you do well – and know when to say no.
- Invest in and hire great talent.
- Encourage innovation.