The West India Biscuit Company Limited(WIBISCO) is investing $2.6 million in new packaging and equipment as it prepares to take a fresh crack at
the export market. Speaking on the heels of WIBISCO being named Caribbean Exporter Of The Year, WIBISCO general manager Adrian Padmore told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that the company expected to “open up at least one new market” next year, and “one or two new products” were also on the way. The longstanding Barbados manufacturer has met all of the requirements to export to Cuba and it hopes to start doing so soon, and Padmore said Central America was also being eyed as part of an expanded export thrust.
WIBISCO, which earned a $8.4 million profit for the financial year ended August 31, now exports to 20 markets, many of them in the Caribbean, and
including the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Its export sales represent 55 per cent of total production. Explaining the decision to invest in new packaging and equipment, the general manager said: “The thinking is that the markets are changing all the time and we are seeing a trend towards a greater level of convenient packaging in terms of the layout of the product in the pack and the size of the pack. “So the equipment currently used has some limitations in terms of flexibility and we want to be able to respond more quickly to a particular market’s requirements and this equipment will allow us to do it at a greater output rate and therefore at a lower cost of production. So it helps us to compete more effectively.”
This desired effectiveness would extend to new markets, he noted, including Cuba. “We have been working on getting into Cuba for a couple of years now.
It is a difficult market in terms of the entry requirements but at this point we have satisfied all the requirements have negotiated pricing and so on, so I am very hopeful that we will be able to compete there sometime in the near future,” he said. “If it were to happen in 2017, we would be very happy. We think that our products would do well there, especially the sweet biscuits have a number of different sizes now that are really designed to suit the price point that the consumer is willing to pay.” WIBISCO has also sets its sights on Central America. Padmore said: “We think… Central America has opportunities for us and that’s what we are turning our attention to now.
We are doing feasibility [studies for Central America], we
are talking to a few potential distributors, we are working out the cost of getting product to the market and what the competition looks like and so on.” He called being named Caribbean Exporter Of The Year “a very humbling recognition for us, but it really is very fitting for the team at WIBISCO that works hard on building an export business”. “We went through a difficult exercise at WIBISCO to restructure the business in order to make sure that we could be competitive from a pricing point of view. So we took a lot of costs out of the business and we worked hard on increasing our efficiency, retooling parts of the plant where possible, improving packaging, improving quality and consistency,” he recalled. “So, over the years, we have been steadily continuing to improve and developing that mindset of being innovative, bringing new products to the market. And I think really it’s just a culmination of those factors coming together and over the last three years our exports have increased year on year, so we feel we are heading in the right direction.”
Two new products for the new year
Exports are thriving, but the domestic market has not given the West India Biscuit Company Limited (WIBISCO) a lot of joy in recent years. WIBISCO general manager Adrian Padmore said “the domestic market continues to be challenging, we are seeing the effects of consumers watching their spending very carefully and deciding what to spend their money on”. “The market has been tight for the last three years and it’s really forced us to be more innovative in finding ways to keep our products available, accessible and affordable for consumers. “So we are holding strain. “We are not doing badly, but we certainly are seeing that the local market .has some significant challenges.” The general manager hoped that the planned introduction of new products would boost sales. “We have a few new products in the pipeline. “The most recent product we launched was the Tea Time Blue Vanilla.We launched it in August 2016, nice and early for Barbados’ Golden Jubilee celebrations. “It is a limited edition version in blue and yellow of our famous Tea Time biscuit. “It has done well and when that is exhausted, which will be fairly shortly, we should soon afterwards
be coming to market with a couple of new products in 2017.” With the new year fast approaching, Padmore said: “We are hoping that we can excite consumers with one or two new products and one of our primary goals at WIBISCO, though, is to look after our  staff and protect employment.
“So we stay close to the Barbados Workers’ Union in our discussions and negotiations. “We really see it as a partnership and we have been able to avoid any massive job losses during the tightening of the economy, through growing our exports. “So we want to continue in that vein in 2017,” he said. (SC)
by Shawn Cumberbatch via [www.barbadosadvocate.com]