(From the March 19, 2012, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
DULUTH, Ga.—Vystar Corp. has become a chameleon of sorts, adapting quickly to a constantly changing environment.
It's a technology company that repeatedly has branched out while surviving its share of lows, always emerging as a stronger business, President and CEO William Doyle said. “It has become more diverse than ever before.”
That has helped Vystar, creator and producer of a natural rubber latex that reduces antigenic proteins found in NR latex, attain many of its goals.
One objective that eluded the maker of Vytex NR latex for some time is to become a full-fledged manufacturer of specialty examination and/or surgical gloves. That was the plan when it announced a merger agreement with EcoGlove Asia Pacific Sdn. Bhd. in July 2011.
But the deal collapsed later in the year—Doyle won't say why—and the search for a merger partner continues.
Even without EcoGlove at its side, Vystar already was well-positioned to grow, he said, through ways such as product development and manufacturing via alliances with other product makers.
“We use our contract group—essentially people well entrenched in the industry—to help develop products,” Doyle said during an interview at the company's headquarters in Duluth. “Companies come to us and say this would be perfect if it can do this, this and this. So we try to meet their needs.”
Throughout the last year, Doyle said, Vystar has evolved from being a bulk raw material supplier into a far more well-rounded operation “by initiating and being centrally involved with the product development, manufacturing, marketing and sale of Vytex-based products.”
There is an advantage to being in front of the product development curve, as well as in developing alliances with large processors.
Vystar, formed in 2000 and incorporated a few years later, has developed business relationships enabling the company to share revenues from the sale of Vytex-based products while giving it some control over the product design and especially marketing and sales. That allows the firm to control its own destiny on earning revenues from the sale of Vytex-based products, Doyle said.
“We are and will be getting closer to the customer with every transaction,” he said.
Because of that, product development has become a key part of its business, with various possibilities in the works at several stages, from conception to development to completion.
For instance, in late February Vystar announced a pact with two long-time veterans of the textile industry to launch a Vytex brand of foam products for the home textile market.
The line will include pillows, mattresses, toppers and other products made with Vytex.
The project pairs Vystar with Beacon Sales & Business Solutions' two managing partners, Steve McGee and Tedd Smith, who together have more than 60 years of experience in the textile business. They will serve as Vystar's sales arm in the home furnishings industry and oversee its entry into the marketplace, Doyle said. “And we are confident that our joint efforts will result in significant expansion of the Vytex NRL brand into the rubber latex pillow and foam mattress markets.”
The firms also will explore other ways to use Vytex in various home textile products.
Another potentially strong offering, this one aimed at the health care industry, is ProstaGlove, a diagnostic device that's going into clinical trials. That project involves Vystar and urological medical product maker MedicaMetrix Inc. of Wayland, Mass., and was launch-ed in July 2011.
The glove was designed to improve the diagnosis of prostate cancer and reduce unnecessary prostate biopsies. Development of the glove “is moving along very well and is ahead of schedule,” Doyle said. “It has been well received by urologists” and is entering the clinical test stage.
Vystar also is working with Manchester, England-based Tamicare Ltd. to devise a Vytex-based nonwoven brief that's primarily aimed at women with heavy flow periods. The nonwoven material is made from a special form of Vytex that's leak-proof and breathable.
While still in the development stage, Doyle believes the product, called Cosy-flex, has great possibilities.
Others projects include: adhesives for the automotive and food industries; top-of-the line balloons (produced by Pioneer Balloon Co.); condoms made by a Southeast Asia firm; shoe insoles and a long line of other goods.
The firm is looking at the surgical gown, industrial ear plug and other markets as areas where Vytex-based products could succeed.
“Now that we have expanded our view of what Vystar is willing and capable of getting involved with in the product development and market integration arenas, we can envision potentially being involved in, and the raw material choice for, any products now made with latex or any number of the synthetic raw materials being utilized,” Doyle said.
As for the raw material itself, in 2011 Vystar sold “quite a large amount of metric tons of Vytex” and it expects those sales to shoot upwards in 2012.
Good and bad fits
Over the last several years, Vystar worked closely with customers to determine their needs and budgets, focusing on where the company fit best or did not fit. “There were, and still are, certain applications where it doesn't make sense to use Vystar NRL,” according to Doyle.
By meeting with manufacturers, however, it discovered key adjustments for specific product applications “and we adopted Vytex NRL to fit those needs,” he said.
“Adhesives are a key application for Vytex since there is no post-leaching associated with adhesive applications, thus the purity of Vytex NRL is essential,” Doyle said. “Glove manufacturers found they can reduce pre- and post-leaching steps using Vytex compared to regular latex.”
He said Vystar is aware the marketplace changes very quickly. “We also understand that if you don't change with it, you will perish. The Vystar day-to-day operating team is made up of people with entrepreneurial backgrounds and spirits. Change for the team is a way of life and we embrace it.”
The company's biggest hurdles came back-to-back. In 2008 the struggling U.S. economy hurt its investment strategy, and that was followed in 2009 by the deteriorating global economy, which hampered the firm's initial sales efforts.
“Suddenly, manufacturers who were evaluating Vytex NRL with excellent results slowed their ordering and some went out of business,” according to Doyle.
The run-up of NR latex pricing during the past few years was another challenge. “We weathered each circumstance by relying on an entrepreneurial spirit and a laser focus on specific projects rather than being everything to everyone,” he said.
Down the road, Doyle envisions that Vystar will make products outside the latex industry, as the firm continues to raise the bar in its quest for greater growth.
In five years, he would like to see Vystar positioned as a diversified group of companies focused on the green aspect of NRL and demonstrating how, through the use of one of the many versions of Vytex, the rubber industry “can reduce leaching and putting harmful chemicals into the environment while respecting our natural resources and continuing to develop products for niche markets.”