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Sigma-Adrich Corp., a St. Louis-based manufacturer and global distributor of life sciences products used in the research and development of pharmaceuticals and health care products, did $1 billion in e-commerce and EDI sales last year through two business units that, with offline sales included, together account for two-thirds of its total corporate sales. And with the Internet channel a key part of its growth plans, it’s already lining up more business for the web through an exclusive global distribution deal with chemical products manufacturer Roche Group.

“The Internet continues to change the markets we serve in terms of access and exposure to existing and potential customers,” Sigma-Aldrich says in its annual financial statement for its fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2014. “Ensuring a strong presence in this channel is critical to our long-term success as it enables us to find innovative ways to meet our customers’ information and product selection needs.”

Sigma-Aldrich sells products through three business units:

• Research—for providing chemicals and related scientific products to scientists who use them to discover and develop pharmaceuticals;

• Applied—for providing similar products and other materials and services to laboratories and companies that use them in pharmaceutical testing and other operations; and

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• SAFC Commercial—for providing chemical raw materials, often in bulk, as well as other product and contract manufacturing and safety testing services to companies involved in developing and manufacturing products for commercial markets.

The Research and Applied units together accounted for about 66%, or about $2.08 billion, of total 2014 sales, the company says. And of that $2.08 billion in sales, it notes that 48%, or $1.00 billion, were transacted through a mix of sales through its web site and through electronic data interchange. The company classifies combined web and EDI sales as e-commerce, but doesn’t break out web and EDI sales.

The company’s $1.00 billion in 2014 Research and Applied business unit sales were up 2.6% from $974.88 million their prior year, when e-commerce also accounted for 48% of total sales in those units.

Going forward, however, Sigma-Aldrich says it’s focusing on more growth in its e-commerce channel.

One first big step in that direction is the deal it announced last week with Basel, Switzerland-based Roche Group, which has granted Sigma-Aldrich the exclusive global rights to distribute its biochemical reagents product portfolio. Reagents are chemical substances used in scientific experiments to test for the presence of other chemical substances by causing chemical reactions with them. The portfolio, produced by the Roche Diagnostics division, includes diagnostic kits and enzymes used in such applications as cellular analysis and proteomics (the study of proteins and their structures and functions).

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Roche Diagnostics, which sells other reagents and other products through its own online catalog, is looking to Sigma-Aldrich to help it reach a broader base of customers, says Paul Brown, head of Roche Molecular Diagnostics. “With this agreement, we are able to provide more customers with access to high-quality Roche Biochemical Reagents products through Sigma-Aldrich’s expanded e-commerce and distribution networks,” he says.

Roche doesn’t break out e-commerce sales. The Roche Diagnostics division did 10.8 billion in Swiss francs (US$11.0 billion) in total sales in 2014, the company says.

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