INÉS JUSTE

Spain 2021 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Inés Juste, President of Grupo Juste, about the group's main achievements, mitigating the impact of the pandemic, and investment in R&D&I.

Grupo Juste is celebrating its 99th anniversary in 2021. What would you highlight as its main achievements over the years?

Juste Group was founded in 1922, almost 100 years ago, and it is a Spanish equity group. My brothers and I are the fourth generation, and each of us have contributed our own strategic discourse and guided the growth of the business. The first generation was my great-grandfather. He was an ophthalmologist and a pharmacist, and he was the founder of the company. The second was my grandfather; they took charge of business development in Spain and began to diversify into other products. My father was the third generation, and he was the one who drove the internationalization and creation of partnerships. He began to look to other markets, mainly in Latin America, and to deal with other therapeutic areas, always looking for a complementary partner who could contribute what Juste was lacking, especially in finance, human resources, and products. He secured well-established strategic alliances, and that is why we have always been such a reliable and well-positioned partner within the pharmaceutical industry. We have gone from being an essentially pharmaceutical group to a wider, more industrial chemical group. We have a greater presence in R&D&I in development and manufacturing, and we are much more open to foreign markets. We have also focused on the first part of the chain, which are the active pharmaceutical ingredients, and on some end products. In the last six to eight years, we have implemented a fairly significant modern business change. What we are especially proud of is the fact that the family values on which the company was founded have been maintained over the years and still today the company operates according to these values, related to the wellbeing of our employees, a positive contribution to society and continuous strive to support the health of patients.

How is Grupo Juste's revenue broken down in terms of foreign and domestic profits?

85% of our sales take place abroad, so we are a truly international company. We are used to operate in a global market and to adapt our offer to our customers needs. Operating for over 40 years in the field of Contract Media, delivering from large multinationals to local pharmaceutical companies, this can only be achieved by delivering the highest quality in product and service. On a national level, our Farma Division serves hospitals with finished products for Contrast Media applications – we have recently added new products to our portfolio and we continue to search for new contrast agents that can better fit the patients requirements.

How has the pandemic affected the company, and what actions have you taken to mitigate its impact?

The company reacted immediately to the pandemic, starting with activities related to the protection of our employees' health and safety. We implemented remote working procedures, increased and improved disinfection processes, modified our habit to avoid potential exposure, and many more changes that were swiftly put in place and that are still valid today. Additionally, we have been testing all employees regularly, and communicated continuously to generate awareness and commitment, because we understand prevention is a personal habit and goes beyond the professional environment. To support our close environment, we also acquired 16,000 protective masks and produced 12,000 liters of hydrogel, all these have been donated to nursing homes, hospitals and law enforcement. For this effort, we have received two awards from The European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) at the 2020 European Responsible Care awards “Caring in COVID-19 Times." The awards were achieved in the categories of “Protection of Workplace and People" and “Community Support", which recognizes the important commitment of our people to help society. Finally, from the business point of the view we have not experienced a major impact, we operate in the pharma sector, which has been one of the least affected by the pandemic. We had to implement some strict controls over purchases, supply chain, finance and other parts of the chain to make sure that everything was under control, and in the end we have been able to produce and deliver our customers without any issues.

Regarding your portfolio of products and services, Grupo Juste sells oral and injectable radiological contrast media, APIs, and so on. Which of them are most in demand, and what is the group's diversification strategy?

Most of the APIs that we manufacture are relatively mature products in all contrast media. Two years ago, we installed a new production line for API dedicated to MRI Contrast Media. This is an area where we see continuous growth globally because of the increased utilization of MRI techniques in diagnostic imaging and the growth of preventive medicine. Our facility of state-of-the-art and it includes some unique production innovations that allow us to deliver the customer with the highest quality standards. Right now, we are in a process of strategic reflection to determine what other APIs we want to manufacture in the future and where we want to position them. Juste can be competitive in product niches. Here, customers value service and quality more and are willing to pay a slightly higher price for it. We are working with a consulting firm that is helping us to carry out research on those markets, based on a series of parameters that we have established. We have also created an advisory council that aids the board of directors and the management team in their focus. It is an ambitious project.

You have highlighted the need for a change in the economic model of Spain to place greater weight on industry, digitization, innovation, and environmental sustainability. How do you see this is evolving in Spain?

I see it evolving slowly, and COVID-19 has struck right at the heart of our economy, mainly on services. It also highlights the need to support the industrial sector and the benefits that it brings: higher-qualified, longer-term, and more permanent employment, and so on. The areas of Spain that are the most industrialized have a greater contribution to the GDP and have the highest unemployment rates, so we should reflect on this as a country. The key is that long term thinking would be required in order to achieve this change. We are a country with little confidence in industry, but I don't know why. We should help each other, the public and private sectors, because the private sector also needs the public for this industrial development. We should invest in R&D&I as much as possible. When we began this reorganization and restructuring process of the entire company, from a pharmaceutical company to one that works more in chemicals and industry, based on R&D, in the development, production and export of pharmaceutical raw materials, we began to put a greater emphasis on everything that contributes to investment in R&D&I. Innovation is part of our DNA. It is the value that you add to the market, and if your products do not have an element of innovation, then you do not add value.

What main priorities would you like to achieve in 2021?

We are focused on the safety of our employees, by following the preventive and protection measures against COVID-19. In addition, with our current business right now, we are looking at the whole aspect of mature products in contrast media, the whole aspect of magnetic resonance that we have started and that we are developing, and new applications in the main business of the company. We want to grow in this part, both within our plant and outside of it should opportunities arise as well as add all this to our portfolio in hospitals in Spain in order to gradually grow in the country. Everything that we will work on must entail that sustainability.