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Since its inception in 1991 as the first commercial food-testing laboratory of its kind in South Africa, Mérieux NutriSciences (formerly Swift Silliker (Pty) Ltd) has built a brand name synonymous with quality and service.
In South Africa, Mérieux NutriSciences provides a comprehensive product-safety service to the food and beverage, cosmetics, hospitality and related industries throughout the SADC region from its branches in Cape Town, Midrand, Durban, George and Jeffreys Bay. By addressing needs such as microbiological and chemical testing of products, the design, implementation and auditing of quality management systems, staff training (from floor-worker to management level), as well an on-site technical consultancy service, Mérieux NutriSciences builds long-term partnerships with its clients.
Globally, with over 80 accredited laboratories and more than 6000 employees across 21 countries, the Mérieux NutriSciences network works with clients as a trusted partner to promote public health through analysis, consulting, auditing, training, contract research and sensory analysis services.
Mérieux NutriSciences is proud to be BEE rated in South Africa.
Its microbiological testing service is the company’s core business and clients have access to the largest range of ISO 17025 accredited microbiological test methods available. The two state-of-the-art laboratories in Midrand and Cape Town employ laboratory staff, most of whom are qualified microbiologists or food scientists. Each branch also employs three drivers to collect samples from clients’ premises.
Technical specialists in the Quality Management Systems (QMS) Department utilise their vast industry and systems experience to offer clients hands-on assistance with the design, implementation and verification of Quality Management Systems. Trainers present customised training courses in-house at clients’ premises, at Mérieux NutriSciences’ training venues in Midrand and Cape Town, or at general venues in major centres across South Africa and Namibia. Mérieux NutriSciences is a FoodBev SETA accredited training provider.
The Hygiene Department comprises consultants who are qualified in Environmental Health and/or Food Technology. Hygiene audits are based on regulations under the National Health Act (Act no. 61 of 2003) and R918, but they are customised to meet the individual needs of clients and industry. Audit findings are backed up by scientific evaluation of swabs and product samples tested in Mérieux NutriSciences’ ISO 17025 accredited laboratories, and audit reports provide detailed action plans and recommendations.
Mérieux NutriSciences’ Sales and Customer Service department consists of staff members who are technically qualified in the fields of Microbiology and/or Food Science. In addition to providing clients with quotes and marketing-related information, the core function of this department is to provide technical back-up for clients in any of the disciplines offered by the company. From interpretation of results and reports, to problem solving at customer premises, this team adds value to the services offered by other departments and ensures client needs are identified and met.
Swift Micro Laboratories (Pty) Ltd was established in October 1991 as the first commercial microbiological service laboratory in South Africa utilising modern electrical techniques. Shortly afterwards, it became the first laboratory of this kind in South Africa to acquire international accreditation and has successfully maintained that status (today called ISO 17025 accreditation) ever since.
For the next ten years the company expanded its service portfolio by increasing the number of accredited microbiological tests offered and adding complementary services such as hygiene auditing, on-site sampling and consultation. The company changed ownership three times during this period, its dynamic growth making it a lucrative investment opportunity for the Medical Research Council (MRC), the pathology group Dietrich, Street & Partners and, finally in 1998, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
In April 2001 the company achieved a significant milestone when current Managing Director, Valmé Stewart, privatised it during a management buyout from the CSIR. After a decade of ownership by parastatal organisations, privatisation marked the beginning of a new era for Swift. Building on the strong foundation and loyal client base established during the first decade, the company’s focus shifted to improving competitiveness and adding a more commercial approach to customer service. Working hours were immediately extended to meet industry demand. Other measures which were implemented (and still remain a rarity amongst commercial testing laboratories today) include the appointment of drivers to collect samples from customer premises and the establishment of a Marketing and Technical Liaison Department to provide a crucial technical support service to clients.
Three years later, in April 2004, Swift expanded its portfolio by acquiring the CSIR's HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) and training section. The acquisition included all existing CSIR training courses and the services of its experienced technical specialists.
By March 2006 Swift Micro Laboratories had reached its five-year (since privatisation) growth objectives, obtaining between 23% and 28% revenue growth per year and maintaining a 25% growth in staff numbers each year. The company invested heavily in staff development, quality control (to meet and exceed customer expectations), and product development during this time. Today, these objectives remain the company's top three priorities.
Swift’s next milestone was the opening of its Midrand laboratory in July 2006, offering Swift’s full portfolio of services. For years, laboratory samples had been couriered across the country and Namibia to Swift’s central laboratory in Cape Town, but the time had come to provide the Gauteng market with local access to the service excellence it had already experienced for 15 years from Swift’s Cape Town laboratory. The Midrand branch exceeded its growth targets within the first six months and the staff complement increased to 20 within the first year.
The company relocated the entire Cape Town operation to its own custom-renovated premises in Claremont, Cape Town in September 2007. In January 2011 an administrative office was opened in George, servicing southern Cape clients. Swift entered into an exclusive agreement with George Weston Technologies in Sydney, Australia for the provision of nutritional and other chemical analyses to the South African and African markets from 1 April 2011. Our second regional office was opened in Durban in June 2011 bringing Swift closer to our Kwazulu-Natal clients.
In August 2012 Swift Micro Laboratories announced an international joint venture with Silliker, a Mérieux NutriSciences Company. Present in 17 countries, Mérieux NutriSciences employs more than 6 000 people in 80 laboratories worldwide. The joint venture enabled Swift to further grow their brand, gave them access to international expertise, and enabled Swift to rapidly expand its service portfolio with internationally proven methods and services.
A new brand name was launched on 1 August 2012, namely Swift Silliker (Pty) Ltd. The company’s legal identity remained unchanged, as did the management team and staff. The name change also did not affect the accredited status of its laboratories. The announcement of the joint venture and the name change was accompanied by the launch of a large range of added services.
As of 1 March 2016, Swift Silliker (Pty) Ltd officially began trading as Mérieux NutriSciences.
In South Africa, Mérieux NutriSciences’ core business goal remains the continued building of its brand name and reputation, which has become one of the strongest in the industry over the past 26 years. The company's phenomenal growth in a very competitive service industry is inextricably linked to the quality of its service. This, in turn, is directly attributable to the quality and dedication of its staff.