LOUISVILLE, Ky.—R.D. Abbott Co. Inc. has reached an agreement with Italian firm RDC s.r.l. to be exclusive distributor in the U.S. and Canada of RDC's line of rubber dispersion chemicals.
The deal gives RDC the opportunity to grow its business in the North American region and provides R.D. Abbott with what it said is a world-class supplier of dispersions that will be a strong alternative to other players in the predispersed chemicals market.
Officials discussed the new partnership during the recent ACS Rubber Division International Elastomer Conference in Louisville.
RDC—which stands for rubber dispersion chemicals—was founded in 1976 in Milano, Italy, and for the first two decades of its existence it basically was a local Italian company, according to Giorgio Marzari, the firm's sales director. About 90-95 percent of the company's business is dedicated to rubber processing, but basically its only exports were to Pirelli's foreign operations or to subsidiaries of other Italian-headquartered customers.
But Marzari said he was hired in 1996 to help the company branch out from its Italian base, and that is a process that continues to this day. "If you look at the sales figures, you see how quickly we developed (export) business," he said. "Something I'm proud of is, from the first moment we started this process, all the people who joined us in this project are still with us. The companies we started doing business with, we're still doing business together."
One thing that sets RDC apart is its focus on technology, knowledge of compounding and concentration on quality control, R&D Manager Gianluca Melillo said. That starts from the incoming of raw materials until the final material is approved for the customer. The two main issues are the chemistry and dispersibility of a masterbatch inside a compound.
"We are able to check these issues," he said. "When we give the green light to a product, we are telling the customer the product is stable, has a good chemistry and the dispersion inside your compound will be good."
But during the time it was expanding its business outside of Italy, Marzari said RDC wasn't able to make any serious inroads into the U.S., mainly because it hadn't come across the right partner. "It's difficult from Italy to chase any reliable customers here," he said. "You need support. You need a partner. As long as you don't come across the right one, there's nothing you can do."
That changed about a year ago, when RDC was approached by Gregory Hrenya, executive director of R.D. Abbott's performance polymers business unit. Hrenya said R.D. Abbott, a full-service supplier of rubber polymers and elastomer technologies, was looking for a world-class partner for dispersions.
"We started contacting some of our major global customers to see who they would recommend," he said. "RDC came up several times in the recommendation process, and we reached out to them. Both sides felt the other side could fulfill the needs we had."
Marzari said from RDC's perspective it is important to know what the customers need, rather than just selling them what RDC produces. While the Italian chemicals firm has its portfolio of standard dispersions as does any of the other players in the dispersions market, meeting needs is something totally different, he said.
"That is what the rubber people are looking for today," Marzari said. "They've had enough of the me-too players who can offer standard products."
R.D. Abbott CEO Keith Thomas said this philosophy plays right into his company's strengths. "We're very aware of who RDC is, who they've been and that they're driven by superior technology and are extremely customer-focused. They're speaking our language. The market has changed. It's a perfect opportunity to introduce their products into this market."
Krista Toutant, a product manager for R.D. Abbott, said the distributor will make sure to promote RDC's line and get its name and products, sold under the Premix brand, out into the market.
"It's the perfect time to introduce them as an alternative," she said. "They have a strong technical product line that is of value to so many customers. Their flexibility is incredible. So they're not only looking at big, big volumes, but they're also interested in customer-specific opportunities."
Thomas has lofty expectations for its partnership with RDC. "There's something to be said about being hungry," he said. "It's having the right technology but also the willingness to do that extra amount that differentiates yourself in the market."