THERE is a tale of two horsemen, one a baker by trade and the other a salesman. The baker is best described as ‘a quiet genius,’ he developed a supplement initially aimed at treating and preventing gastric ulcers, which had a number of added benefits. The product was developed for three years before the two men crossed paths. You could say that the rest is history.
Immun-Ocean is a 100% natural feed supplement which targets gastric ulcers and does not require any withdrawal period. The two men behind bringing Immun-Ocean to the market are Alan Robertson and Kim Smith-Bingham. They met at exactly the right moment through mutual friend and chiropractor Ted McLoughlin. Over the past five years they have introduced seven Immun-Ocean products to the market, with great plans for the future.
THE QUIET GENIUS
Alan Robertson is the quiet genius. He is a baker from Northern Ireland who is very involved in the sport horse industry. Through Euro Stallions, Robertson stands some of the top sport horse stallions in Ireland.
Roberson’s passion is developing the product, his focus is strongly set on creating the best possible product. He said: “It has to be real, honest and genuine.”
His excitement for developing a new product is infectious. Robertson can’t help but smile as he talks about the process of coming up with each product in the Immun-Ocean range. Although even he seems unsure exactly how his minds works sometimes.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly from where the idea stemmed. Robertson has always been interested in the medicinal values of feed. He believes the product is something which has evolved from his own passion.
Kim Smith-Bingham used his experience in the industry to bring the product to life. He was involved in Equissage for over 20 years and is still the Irish distributor for it, his father was a bloodstock agent, and he is an avid hunting supporter.
Smith-Bingham describes the early stages of product development: “From bringing the product to the market point of view we had a great product but no image, branding or anything like that.
“We started to talk together and work together. We ended up in my shed in October five years ago with tubs of product and labels, sticking on the labels, trying to get them straight and this was just the starting time.”
And so the product developed by the quiet genius came to life and it continues to grow. Immun-Ocean recently launched their Pro-Globin blood tonic which symbolises the continued growth and success of the company.
Gastric ulcers are a huge problem in performance horses of all disciplines. When Robertson first began developing the product, 90% of horses scanned were suffering from ulcers. He believes this is down to horses being fed a high sugar modern day diet combined with irregular feeding practices.
Robertson began with a product to work against ulcers because no matter what your end goal is you have to start with a healthy horse who can fully digest their food. Smith-Bingham echoed similar sentiments: “Training horses is a jigsaw and if the first piece of the jigsaw, which is a healthy horse, isn’t right you might as well leave the rest in the box because you are going nowhere.”
Where Immun-Ocean stands out is they have developed products that are broader than just treating ulcers. Smith-Bingham said: “From our point of view, from working with the customers, nearly every other gastric product is a one trick pony it just does gastric.
“Our product is much broader than that, it’s an immune boost, it has the magnesium which is great for muscles and for the brain, it has natural Omega 3, natural MSM, it’s a much broader spectrum of what it does and I think that’s a massive. If you can have a really effective gastric product that has other benefits, that sets us apart.”
Although Robertson is against feeding a high sugar diet he is aware that it is very hard to avoid. Immun-Ocean works with feed products to help horses get more out of the feed. Immun-Ocean is a maintenance product which neutralises sugary feed. It works as an acid buffer, creating a layer within the stomach lining which protects against acid splashing which is the cause of gastric ulcers.
Every Immun-Ocean product goes through a rigorous testing programme before they hit the market. The ongoing issue of horses testing positive for arsenic and cobalt is not something which worries Robertson. They worked closely with international marco algae expert Professor John Spence during the product development stage.
Robertson explained how in the first three years, before he met his now business partner, he worked with a number of consultants and addressed the arsenic issue. He explained that the threshold of arsenic is the key issue and it is down to the type of seaweed used.
Every Immun-Ocean product is tested at the LEH laboratory in Paris. They use this laboratory because they do all of the testing for FEI. Robertson said: “It’s really important because you need that now you can’t really take a chance.”
Overfeeding any supplements such as Immun-Ocean can result in horses reaching a toxic level although through no fault of the company. This is something the team are keen to avoid and have done so by selling directly to the customer.
Smith-Bingham explained: “Because we work directly with all our customers we don’t go through shops. We actually have a relationship where we go in and talk to our customers.
“On the outside of the tub is feeding instructions, in the tub is a scoop and it’s only one small scoop twice a day. We’re going to know by how many horses they have and how much they’re ordering off us.”
Robertson is confident that his product will not result in any positive tests: “We know our product is clean and the homework has been done and we’re well below the threshold.”
THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE PRODUCT
Robertson is very clear how he wants the products to be sold, he never wanted it to become lost on a shelf, and wants it to be personal.
“I wanted the story to go with it and I wanted our personalities to go with it. It’s not about the quantity sold. I want people to use it and feel the benefit of it, that’s what it’s about.”
The team has grown with the product and consists of very like-minded people. Sitting with Robertson, Smith-Bingham and marketing manager Sarah Aldous there is no doubt they are passionate about the product. They understand horses and the industry, and they only employ people who share their drive and passion.
Immun-Ocean sells approximately sell 60% of the produce in the UK, 25% in Ireland and the remainder is split between Sweden, Germany and Norway.
Smith-Bingham added: “We want to expand. We’d love to be working in France, we’re talking to people there. We want to be with the right people.”
Talking to Robertson in particular, there is a sense of disbelief about the success of Immun-Ocean so far. In April he travelled with Smith-Bingham and Aldous to Newmarket and visited some of the big yards using Immun-Ocean and describes it as “a real goose-bump moment.”
After an hour of chatting I’ve decided the description of Robertson as a quiet genius is completely accurate. Smith-Bingham and Aldous are crucial cogs in the machine, they all bring something unique to the table and combine to bring a unique range of products to life.
Sonia Purcell represents KSB Equine in Ireland.
Sonia Purcell represents KSB Equine in Ireland. Sonia’s father, Philip was a well-respected auctioneer at Tattersalls and she is a keen horsewoman, as well as being Secretary of the Irish MFHA. Sonia fits in very well with Immun-Ocean team and really cares about her customers, working closely to help and advise them. She is knowledgeable in all aspects of racing, breeding and competition. Feel free to contact Sonia.
Mob: 086 835 2998