Meet Briar Chemicals’ new CEO and explore its most recent partnerships for continued growth 

Norwich-based Briar Chemicals Ltd (Briar) stands as the UK’s top agrochemical CDMO (Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization). Specializing in providing world-class contract and custom manufacturing services, Briar is a trusted partner to global industry leaders in the agrochemical, fine, and specialty chemical sectors. The company’s cutting-edge products are renowned for protecting a wide range of crops, increasing farmers’ yields in challenging climates, and preventing diseases in livestock. Since its previous feature in Manufacturing Today in 2022, Briar has welcomed Chris Fazekas as its new CEO, marking an exciting chapter of leadership. Reflecting on his journey as Briar’s new CEO, Chris tells us more about his approach to leadership, as well as his vision for developing the business.

Chris Fazekas
Chris Fazekas, CEO

“When I joined Briar at the beginning of 2024, I was greeted by a dedicated and passionate team with a strong commitment to safety and product quality. Due to my extensive background in sales and marketing, my leadership style differs slightly from the previous management at Briar, which had primarily focused on operations and engineering. Fortunately, Briar is made up of exceptional operational and engineering team members whom I heavily rely upon. This allows me to support our commercial colleagues in building a platform for establishing new chemistry opportunities with both existing and new business partners. Historically, the business was notably inwardly focused, but our management team has now made a conscious decision to enhance internal communications in line with global markets shifts and trends and relating these insights to our own manufacturing shop floor. Although Briar possesses a solid foundation in manufacturing chemistry for its current partners, our challenge lies in bringing new chemistry opportunities to our site, which presents expansion capabilities,” he begins. 

Long-term opportunities 

Beyond this leadership change, Briar has experienced significant advancements in the last two years. “In late 2022, our previous private equity owners sold Briar to Safex Chemicals Ltd (Safex), a prominent Indian manufacturing company. Making Safex a strategic owner of the business marked a significant milestone for us, given that Safex brought with it a rich history in both the crop protection industry and household insect control market, dating back to the early 1990s. Leveraging Safex’s extensive experience will be beneficial in supporting our growth. Moreover, Safex boasts a strong portfolio of well-established brands in India, along with formulation and synthesis facilities to support these brands. Interestingly, our company was Safex’s first overseas acquisition, aligning with its goal to expand its global footprint in the crop protection sector. Together, Briar and Safex will empower each other, benefiting from Briar’s technologies and processes, while Safex provides raw material inputs and leverages its domestic partnerships in India,” explains Chris. 

Expanding further on the topic, Chris sheds light on the tangible impacts Briar’s acquisition by Safex has had on the business thus far. “Under Safex’s ownership, Briar has transitioned away from former financial investors towards a strategic investor committed to investing in the crop protection segment. At present, Safex leverages our expertise in core herbicide molecule synthesis of intermediates and active ingredients, complementing its existing branded business operations in India. These brands encompass end-use formulations, custom synthesis contract manufacturing platforms, as well as insecticide synthesis capabilities through Briar Chemicals facilitiesShogun Organics Ltd – a specialist in household insect control and grain protection. In essence, this strategic ownership has empowered Briar to explore long-term opportunities for its site and engage with organizations looking for high-quality synthesis capabilities in both the UK and India to support their innovations and developments. Being owned by a legacy company involved in the crop protection industry has given us the chance to display our unparalleled chemistry knowledge across various synthesis platforms. Moreover, Briar’s efficient processes ensure the reliability and quality of its products, complemented by a proven track record of safeguarding partners’ intellectual property and confidential manufacturing processes,” he informs. 

Sustainable innovation 

To navigate the market’s notable volatility over the last few years, Briar has formed an invaluable partnership with ICD Energy Managers (ICD). “Since 2021, we have worked with ICD to effectively manage our energy strategy. As a significant energy consumer, having access to accurate energy market data is crucial for Briar to make informed decisions and control its cost base. Nick Foster, our lead consultant, collaborates with our procurement team to understand our needs, develop effective strategies, and implement both short- and long-term contracts to meet our energy requirements. Given the current volatility experienced in the energy markets, it has been reassuring to be able to review and optimize our strategies, mitigating the impact of market fluctuations that would have otherwise affected us if we had solely relied on short-term purchasing. Additionally, Briar leverages ICD’s expertise to gain insights into the carbon credits market, empowering us to make informed decisions on when to buy (before prices rise) or wait (when prices fall.) Looking ahead, we plan to utilize ICD’s support in determining the efficient operation of our CHP (Combined Heat and Power) unit and optimizing the load on the system during periods of low energy demand. Lastly, ICD also reviews all energy shippers’ invoices, diligently challenging any discrepancies identified. Overall, ICD has been an invaluable partner to the success of our business,” Chris expresses. 

Aware of the impacts of chemicals manufacturing on the environment, Briar places a strong emphasis on eco-friendly practices. “Spanning over 100 acres, our site is located in the outskirts of Norwich, just north of the Sweet Briar Marshes, currently owned and managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. The Trust has recently presented an overview of its vision and plans for development, which we are keen to support as we recognize the importance of this wetland, Hence, Briar will collaborate with the trust to ensure that the marshes can be enjoyed by anyone looking to experience this unique environment. Besides, to uphold our environmental responsibilities, our site possesses its own water treatment plant and works extensively with Anglian Water and its commercial partner, Wave, for efficient wastewater treatment. Furthermore, we are actively engaged in two projects aimed at reducing our wastewater discharges from the site. These efforts not only enable us to maintain our current Silver sustainability classification from EcoVadis but could also potentially improve our ratings in the future.” 

Looking to the future, Briar is poised to continue leading the way in agrochemical innovation while safeguarding local ecosystems.