Mink wants to make Innophos a billion-dollar brand while promoting STEM

By Meg Fry
Cranbury | Oct 9, 2018 at 7:00 am
From our print edition

Kim Ann Mink said she knew she wanted to be a scientist in the second grade. 

“We were asked to create a three-dimensional replica of ourselves from milk containers to indicate our choice of career,” she said. “I chose to wear a lab coat, high heels and pearls, while holding a smoking test tube.

“I was very proud of my uniqueness.” 

But Mink said she often stood alone. 

“I remember a boy sitting next to me said, ‘Girls can’t be scientists.’ 

“I learned then that having a goal laced with determination and resilience was just as important a variable for success as one’s capabilities.” 

Mink never gave up her dream, she said, and after nearly three decades in the engineering and chemicals industries, Mink became the chairman, CEO and president of Innophos in Cranbury — a $722 million global company that partners with clients to create essential ingredients and science-backed solutions for the food, health, nutrition and industrial markets. 

Now, she helps other young women get to where she stands today. 

“Innovation science is at the heart of our success,” Mink said. “It is a business imperative that we nurture the next generation of scientists, engineers and chemical industry leaders. 

“We have to be committed.” 

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With the help of dedicated teachers and her supportive parents, Mink said, she grew to be her own advocate. 

“I was the only female chemistry major in my graduating class from Hamilton College,” she said. 

However, after earning her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Duke University and embarking on a nearly 20-year career with Rohm & Haas, Mink said she questioned whether she wanted to spend her entire life in the lab. 

“I wanted to be more involved with assessing customer needs,” Mink said. “I wanted to extend my skills into the commercial arena sooner rather than later, and I made that very clear. 

“It was just that you didn’t see a lot of women — or former scientists, for that matter — in the commercial field.” 

Rohm & Haas, a chemical manufacturing company, was very supportive of her endeavors, Mink said. 

After graduating from the Wharton School of Executive Education at the University of Pennsylvania, Mink said she was given full profit-and-loss responsibilities and became corporate vice president and global general manager of ion exchange resins. 

This opened the doors for her to be named global general manager of performance materials, then CEO and president of ANGUS Chemical Co., a fully-owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Co., and, finally, a business president of elastomers, electrical and telecommunications at Dow Chemical.

“I was one of 12 presidents at Dow Chemical, a $60 billion company, and I loved every moment,” Mink said. 

Until she heard about Innophos. 

“Innophos had established a solid market leadership position, (but) the markets it historically served at that time — phosphates, in particular — were slowing down, presenting the company with somewhat uncertain future growth,” Mink said. “I saw that as an exciting leadership opportunity in which I could leverage all of my work experience.” 

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Mink joined Innophos in 2015 as CEO and president.

“I saw an opportunity to implement structures and processes to strengthen the company’s foundation while focusing on operational and commercial excellence, safety, talent management, and to really pivot the company’s strategy to expand its focus beyond its historical roots in phosphates and capitalize on emerging opportunities,” Mink said. 

Today, Innophos focuses on the food, health, nutrition and select industrial markets, Mink said. 

“It has been a very exciting, rewarding and transformative journey over the last two and a half years,” Mink said. “Thanks to our relentless organization-wide focus on executing our strategic pillars, operational and commercial excellence, and strategic growth, and implementing our Vision 2022 Roadmap, which I rolled out to my shareholders in April 2017, Innophos is fast becoming known as an essentials ingredients solutions provider (in these markets).” 

The company has manufacturing operations across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and China as well as a manufacturing plant and additional administrative site in East Hanover. 

“We also fuel our inorganic growth with very active mergers and acquisitions,” Mink said. “Our recent acquisitions and our new product development processes have really strengthened our ability to serve this (new) high-value role. 

“For example, we developed a formulated dietary supplement for a customer’s cognitive health product that incorporates one of our higher-margin branded ingredients with other products from our specialty ingredients portfolio; we recently launched a customized B vitamin product for a leading producer of dietary supplement and gummy products which promotes healthy energized living claims, convenience and a clean label; and we have developed several products that respond to consumer demands for organic, plant-based protein sources with clean labels.” 

Mink said she intends for Innophos to become a $1.25 billion company by 2022. 

“We are bringing our customers solutions to address their demands and, of course, capitalizing on industry trends,” she added. 

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Innophos employs 1,400 worldwide across 13 sites, with 170 of those employees — including food scientists, pharmacologists and nutritionists — working from its Cranbury headquarters.

Mink said the company always needs more talent — and, therefore, needs to help grow it. 

“We have an active corporate giving program at Innophos,” Mink said. “For example, for the second year, we’ve donated to the Chemical Education Foundation, an organization committed to science education for New Jersey youth in grades K-8. That is in support of their ‘You Be the Chemist’ Essential Elements program, which offers primary and middle school educators access to resources to conduct hands-on, STEM-based learning in the classroom at no cost to the school or the educators. 

“We’ve also supported the annual gala for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Funds raised at that event have helped to enable programs which diversify, strengthen and retain undergraduate engineering students in college.

“You have to start to embrace STEM education, innovation and leadership early.”

New Jersey’s commitment to STEM education, Mink said, is just one of the many advantages of being a growing public company in Cranbury. 

In addition to its proximity to shareholders and the New York stock market, it also is an easy place for employees to get to, she added. 

“We benefit from an extensive talent pool of bright scientists from both the tri-state area and schools such as New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton and Rutgers,” Mink said. “It is an especially great area for recruiting, because as people move between companies for career development, we also can recruit from the other top companies here as well.

“New Jersey is simply a fantastic place to be.”

Gender roles

As an executive woman in what historically has been a male-dominated industry, Kim Ann Mink, chairman, CEO and president of Innophos in Cranbury, said she often found herself to be the only woman at the table. 

“I had dealt with people made uncomfortable by change, especially gender equality,” she said. “They really felt threatened, as they perceived the increased participation by traditionally underrepresented groups in the workplace.” 

She would not have that within her own company, Mink said. 

Therefore, more than 40 percent of Innophos’ Executive Leadership Council and its board of directors are female. 

“Including women and minorities as leaders at companies and members of the board is not simply about checking a box,” Mink said. “It is about gaining new perspectives, skillsets and talent that transcend gender.”

Mink said society is still not where it should be regarding gender issues in 2018. 

“This may cause women to think that they cannot be their true, authentic selves if they want to be taken seriously,” she said. “But what I have learned is that it really does start with building a strong sense of self. 

“Never give up your authenticity. Believe in your value.” 

And know that it is okay to seek guidance from your friends and colleagues, Mink added. 

“The reality is that it is still an uphill climb for many women and we must continue to be one another’s advocates and honest soundboards,” she said.

Three things to know about Kim Ann Mink

  • She wears many hats, even outside of Innophos.Kim Ann Mink has served as a board director and environmental, health and safety committee member at PolyOne, a global provider of specialized polymer materials, services and solutions, since 2017.She also recently was appointed board director and audit, finance, health, safety, environmental and security committee member at Eastman Chemical, a global specialty chemical company that produces a broad range of advanced materials, additives and functional products, specialty chemicals, and fibers.
  • She continues to make a name for herself as a woman leader in science.Mink was named one of the Top 25 Most Influential Women of the Mid-Market by CEO Connection both this year and last.
  • She continues to remain committed to STEM education, both for others and herself.Mink was named a Top 100 Diverse Corporate Leader in STEM by STEMConnector in 2014.

Conversation Starter

To learn more about Innophos, contact investor relations at: IPHS@investorrelations.com or 617-542-5300.

Meg Fry | mfry@roi-nj.com | megfry3