Speciality Products from Austria’s Easternmost State
The Oqema Group and Austria’s CB Chemie Are on a Shared Growth Path
This product range complements the Oqema Group’s offering in the food and life sciences sectors, especially in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Christian Braunshier, Managing Partner and founder of CB Chemie, talks about the company’s development so far, the background behind the partnership with German chemical distributor Oqema and their shared objectives.
CHEManager: Mr. Braunshier, CB Chemie has been part of the Oqema Group for just over a year now. What made you decide in favor of this strategic partnership?
Christian Braunshier: What contributed to this partnership was the combination of CB Chemie’s young, dynamic team with the Oqema Group’s 100 years of experience, expertise and international network. Both companies’ existing product portfolios were also a strong argument for it. What’s more, it was also a good mix personally right from the start.
Your company is just five years old. What motivated you to start a company and what role does your background have in this?
C. Braunshier: I have always had a penchant for entrepreneurial thinking, and it has always been ingrained in me as my father was a businessman, too. I spent many years working at a large corporation. It went through a restructuring and the internal politics became more and more significant, with hardly any opportunities for having an influence or developing. I also had a desire to create and build up something of my own. Starting CB Chemie let me achieve this desire. Now it is up to us to continue the success story together with the Oqema Group.
CB Chemie was established as a start-up. What challenges did you have to overcome?
C. Braunshier: At the start, our priority was to reach a certain position in the industry. We had to persuade customers and suppliers to work with us. We also found it very important to find qualified staff who wanted to join us on our journey over the long term. These days we have an excellent footing. Another major challenge in our first few years was maintaining the liquidity needed to enable rapid, sustainable growth.
Why did you decide on the state of Burgenland as the home of CB Chemie?
C. Braunshier: Burgenland is not only my home but is also a region with an optimal strategic location. We are near a motorway with short distances to many of our Austrian customers, we have fast connections to Vienna Airport, and we are geographically close by our foreign subsidiaries in Hungary and the Czech Republic. Here we can ensure that goods are available for local customers and check product quality on site while also doing product tests in our own laboratory. Our upcoming move to Siegendorf will facilitate our ongoing expansion into eastern Europe even more in a logistical sense.
You have been busy building this new site over the last few months. It will result in you moving your company’s head office from Baumgarten to the neighboring community of Siegendorf. What is special about this?
C. Braunshier: The construction of our new company site in Siegendorf is intended to benefit our customers above all. By maintaining fast availability of key raw materials for their production and expanded options for quality control, we will get one step closer to our goal of being the first port of call for specialty products in Austria and beyond. We want to have sufficient storage space to ensure flexible delivery to our customers and we also want this storage space to be temperature-controlled so that we can store sensitive products. To make the site perfect, there will be an integrated laboratory and automated silage station for refilling from big bags and sacks in silo trailers. There will also be sufficient space for realizing further expansion at the site in the future.
Sustainability has been integrated into the site. We made a deliberate choice to source our power from a photovoltaic system and can also feed power into the public grid on days of heavy sunshine. We have also planned for EV charging stations as we intend to convert our fleet of cars to electric ones in the future.
Your company consists of the legal entities CB Chemie, CB Nutrition and Tegaferm. What drove you to create these three foundations in particular?
C. Braunshier: CB Chemie is specialized in the construction sector as well as the paint and lacquer industry; these industries are repeatedly exposed to economy-related upturns and downturns in demand. By contrast, CB Nutrition and Tegaferm are mainly partners for the food industry, which provides more certainty for our planning.
In times of crisis like now, flexibility is crucial for a company. Entering the business for medical diagnostics and disinfectant production represented an additional growth lever for us, letting us serve another attractive field of business with our portfolio.
How do the services and products of CB Chemie differ from other suppliers in the market?
C. Braunshier: We are not a classic full-line distributor. Instead, we focus on specialized products such as thickeners, binders, pigments, functional additives and silanes or special phosphates from reputable manufacturers, alongside the medical products and disinfectants mentioned before.
This means that we are intimately familiar with our customers’ needs and can respond to many requests with expert knowledge and professionalism. Additionally, we offer an opportunity to cooperate in research with our university partners, TU Wien and IMC Fachschule Krems, which makes us an appealing partner for small- to medium-sized enterprises in particular.
Despite the challenging times and supply chain disruptions, you have managed to supply your customers on time and even gain new ones. What were the factors in this success?
C. Braunshier: First and foremost, it requires a motivated, committed and professional team. Constant dialogue throughout the entire supply chain is also crucial in order to anticipate potential issues as well as opportunities. This lets us solve potential customer problems before they even happen.
Having joined the Oqema Group, what is your vision for the future?
C. Braunshier: We want to continue on our growth path and maintain our successful development in Austria and other countries, together with the Oqema Group. As part of Oqema, we want to become the market leader for specialty products and additives in Austria. Our wish is for customers to come to us first when they are starting on new projects.
You mentioned plans to expand your business into neighboring countries. What is your assessment of the demand trends in your customers’ industries, especially in the Austria/Czech Republic/Hungary triangle and its surrounds?
C. Braunshier: All economic forecasts, especially those concerning construction chemistry, talk of a further increase in construction activity and therefore positive development. I expect the same, too. In addition to private demand, there is also a significant contribution made by the government stimulus programs supporting various investments. I also see very positive development for our second foundation, the food industry. Its large share of innovation and new development will certainly have a role in this.
Christian Braunshier is managing partner of CB Chemie, which he founded in August 2016. Braunshier studied technical chemistry at TU Wien, where he also earned a doctorate, and commercial consulting at FH Wiener Neustadt. His career then brought him to Brenntag, where, among other things, he spent nine years working as a Business Unit Manager. He also teaches polymer chemistry at FH Krems and sales management at FH Wiener Neustadt.