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The UDEC building in Paarl, South Africa.


The relationship with our South African partner, UDEC, spans back more than
20 years. During this time, UDEC has always stood by our side, assisting us in our ambitions to improve as a company. In this interview from November 2021, we
met with Barbara Farrell and Xander Kock to discuss what forms a good relationship and what we can expect from UDEC in 2022.

Hi Barbara and Xander, what are your roles at UDEC?

Barbara: I am the founder of UDEC. I was introduced to Anders Skeini and the Jacobi team in 2003 during the founding year of the UDEC Group. It is my privilege to have experienced the growth of Jacobi, from being a relatively small player in the market, to the global giant Jacobi is today! 

Xander: I joined the team recently as the Managing Director, but in my previous roles, I have been exposed to Jacobi’s products, from the user side, the design side, and the implementation of the products, so I’m very familiar with them. It’s always been one of the premium carbons, so I’m very excited to be on the other side of the fence with the Jacobi team and develop the business further.

As a founder, what is your daily role?

Barbara: With Xander joining, I have become less operational focused than I have been up to now. However, the highlight of my responsibilities remains customer visits. I love going into plants, whether it be gold mines or refineries. I hope that I will continue to have the privilege of doing so for years to come.

Could you describe the company briefly?

Barbara: UDEC specialises in the supply of speciality process materials into the Southern African market, with Jacobi as one of our anchor partners. What makes UDEC unique is that we have a very diversified footprint throughout all the industries. We are present in water, food, industrial gas, refining, petrochemcial, gold and other mining industries.

Barbara Farrell, founder and Xander Kock, Managing Director.

As one of our distributors for various activated carbon applications, including supply to the gold mining industry, what do customers like most about the product we supply?

Xander: From our point of view, the reason our customers like the products is because of the excellent and consistent quality, it’s one of the top products in the industry. The second is the sales support we can offer jointly between UDEC and Jacobi. We do monthly reports for our clients, visit them regularly, and do surveys and training, and we are always available.

So, premium products combined with excellent service is what makes the offering so successful. 

As a stockist and a local supplier to your customers, how important do you think it is to offer that ‘local’ touch?

Barbara: This is key! We are successful because we understand our customers’ needs and challenges. We make time to listen and understand! We are certainly so much more than simple traders; our quest is to always add value. This is the case with Jacobi’s products and with all products in our portfolio. This can only be achieved by having a very good understanding of our clients’ processes and being ready to assist them with optimisation, training and trouble shooting. 

Xander: We are all about personalised service and the only way to do this is to be close to our clients. The UDEC team really values our relationships with the people in our client’s organisations. We are passionate about helping them improve yields and reduce costs and as such we are available to assist anytime during the day or night. As Barbara says, we don’t want to be seen as traders selling a product and walking away, it’s a journey with the clients, and I think that’s been a huge part of the success.

How has the pandemic changed the relationship with the clients?

Xander: It has been a challenge, but I think people do understand the global challenges that we are facing, so at present, people are reasonable and understanding, and as long as you can show that you are making an effort and you are active on their behalf, then clients are well aligned with us. And I think it does move you closer to your clients and our suppliers when we are facing common challenges and fighting in the same trenches. So, there are definitely positive aspects we can take out of it. 

Barbara: I believe that the pandemic has tested our worth to our clients; or rather we have been put to the test! We were able to demonstrate that we deliver on our promises no matter what! Throughout the chaos in the global supply chain, our manufacturing partners continued to produce exceptional quality products, all delivered on time with the continued technical support, either on-site or via online portals.

What makes for good cooperation between Jacobi and a distributor?

Xander: From our point of view, the relationship should rest on the culture of the two partners. I think there is a very good alignment between UDEC and Jacobi with our can-do attitude in these Covid times. We’ve had many problems and challenges during the last couple of months, and it has struck me that from a senior management perspective, I have seen a determination to make a plan and make it work instead of walking away.

Barbara: A good relationship is based on mutual respect and trust; this has been forged over the past two decades and due to this strong partnership, Jacobi and UDEC are able to offer our clients consistently high-quality products and services.

The UDEC team. specialists in the purification of liquids and gases by adsorption, catalysis or filtration.

Sustainability is a key focus for most businesses these days; how are you working sustainably in different areas of the business?

Xander: Obviously, it is very close to our heart, and we subscribe to all the concepts and principles of sustainability. We find ourselves with our product range really in the centre of the South African industry, which traditionally is one of the biggest polluters, so we do feel that we have a responsibility to assist the industry in the transition to a more sustainable point and we truly believe that by sourcing the best products we can assist the industry in realising these goals.

Barbara: Quality is a vital contributor to sustainability. UDEC takes this one step further by actively getting involved in ensuring that our products are used optimally, which leads to better production yields using less product, making less waste. In essence, high quality products combined with correct and optimal application is key to sustainability.

We know that ion exchange resins are a fairly new area of the business; for us, this is an interesting market development. How do you see it moving forward?

Xander: We are very excited about the resins; we do see a place in the market, it’s obviously a very mature market, but there is definitely space for a new competitor if we can position ourselves correctly. For us at UDEC, the resin products now complete our water treatment product range consisting of media, carbon, RO membranes and specialty chemicals. This allows us to offer a full process solution to our clients. We are really excited about it and looking forward to receiving the rebranded and new marketing material that Jacobi is working on.

Barbara: We are continuously looking at expanding our portfolio with high quality products and Jacobi’s IER is a great fit! We are pleased that it is gaining traction and look forward to growing this part of our business.

What can our customers expect from UDEC in 2022? Any new actions in the pipeline to note?

Xander: We are looking at a couple of ideas to grow the business sustainably. We have identified some opportunities, and there is definitely scope for applying Jacobi’s products as part of this plan. We mentioned resins as one of them, we have identified our water treatment portfolio as a potential growth area and resins will play a pivotal role here. We do see application for our products in other growing sectors such as battery metals and green hydrogen as well. Hopefully, we can tap into that growth specifically in a changing world where sustainability will become more important.

I think UDEC, as Barbara mentioned, are very well positioned in the South African industry having an established brand presence allowing us to grow deeper in our current industries but also diversifying into new emerging industries.

Barbara: We are looking forward to an exceptional year! We have many exciting projects planned for 2022 and our customers can expect even more from us both in product and service offering.

Finally, do you have a message you would like to give the team at Jacobi Group?

Xander: It’s been some challenging four months since I started, but the support I have seen and the support the team has received under these trying times have been excellent. Every week there’s a new challenge, but I think it’s important to keep a sense of humour and see the challenges for what they are and try to see the opportunities that lay therein. What resonates most with the UDEC culture is that the Jacobi team is always keen to make a plan and see how we can actually turn a challenge into a positive.

Barbara: It been an amazing journey of exceptional growth with Jacobi; from the days of visiting clients with Jacobi’s founder Anders Skeini to today where we are the leading suppliers of activated carbon to Southern Africa!

It’s been a pleasure talking to you Barbara and Xander and we are looking forward to our next 20 years of collaboration. If you would like to know more about UDEC, please visit their website at

The person responsible for the collaboration with UDEC is Pierre-Eric Blanc. We caught him on a lunch break to share some thoughts about our joint business.

Hi Pierre-Eric, let’s start with a brief introduction; what is your role at Jacobi?

I’m the Sales Director for the Asia Pacific region, located in Singapore.

So, you are handling the business in South Africa from Asia?

Yes, and now you will say: ’Strange, I didn’t know that South Africa was in Asia’. Well, that’s the beauty of Jacobi; even the geography is a bit different.

I moved to Singapore five years ago, when I was in charge of South Africa in the EMEA region. And we had such a good relationship with UDEC; we were growing the business together so well, so we decided to continue working together even after making my move. I think it shows how important they are to us, and we to them, that we even adjusted the regions. It also shows the flexibility of Jacobi because, in most companies, you would say, “Oh sorry, South Africa is not in Asia, so we have to find another solution”.

After talking to Barbara and Xander at UDEC, we know that the relationship was formed long ago.

I’ve been working with them for ten years now, and from Singapore for the last five years. But yes, the relationship goes back to 1999, and it’s still alive with record sales in 2021, which is quite amazing.

What makes UDEC such a good business partner?

Several things. First of all, we are very complemental. Our value propositions are not overlapping but enhancing each other. They are highly customer dedicated and well known for their excellent support. And their network in Southern Africa is outstanding. UDEC is our exclusive distributor for both carbon and resins, and I think that is a globally unique solution.

Normally, we have several distributors per country, because different distributors have their speciality, but UDEC have a vast portfolio, they are very strong in marketing and sales and are distributors of many different products.

 What does our team look like?

I’m not the only one dealing with UDEC of course, we are a team of people, with the customer service based in Sweden. We thought it would be good to have the customer service in the same time zone as South Africa and that works really well. Then I have Carmen Lee (who we interviewed in our previous issue of this magazine) who is the Sales Manager based in Malaysia, helping me grow the ion exchange resins side of the business, together with the rest of her team.

What industries do we serve with the help of UDEC?

Historically, the majority of the sales have gone to the gold industry. We have grown from zero ten years ago to being the leading supplier of carbon to the industry. But we also sell our products to the water, air, and food industry. We are extremely versatile with our joint offer with UDEC.

As a round up, would you like to give a final message back to UDEC?

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the people at UDEC and recognise them for their fantastic job. We have a unique business collaboration and I think that all the efforts from the past are paying off now. And I’m really looking forward to discussing the new business areas that Barbara and Xander are mentioning, we have a lot to do together growing our business further. Hopefully, we will soon be able to travel again and meet in person, I’m really looking forward to that.

Pierre-Eric Blanc, Sales Director for the Asia Pacific region.

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