Winfresh to roll out banana products
The London-based Winfresh Group, which describes itself as the Caribbean's premier supplier of bananas to the United Kingdom market, says it is executing "progressive and innovative changes" to its business in the Windward Islands.
Winfresh has managed the shipment and sale of the bananas, primarily to the UK market.
"However, along the way, the company has faced and continues to face enormous challenges, the most formidable of which was the liberalisation of the EU banana market and the dismantling of the preferential arrangements which Windward Islands bananas previously enjoyed on the market," the company said in a statement.
It said since then, the situation has worsened with the unrelenting downward pressure on prices in the market, supply disruption caused by adverse weather conditions and the advent of Black Sigatoka disease, compounded by the lack of consistency of product quality.
"Against this very challenging backdrop, the company has persevered, determined not only to keep the Windward Islands banana industry alive, but assisting farmers with interest-free loans for farm improvements and constantly searching for and employing new approaches to make the industry more productive and competitive to secure and sustain it for the long term."
Winfresh said a few years ago, it took the decision to rebrand and reposition itself in the market in order to secure and grow the business, and that the journey has taken the company from the position where it dealt exclusively in bananas to now where it is expanding its product range to include not only other fresh produce, but also value-added manufactured products.
"We took the decision to diversify, not out of bananas, because it is still our core business and a very important part of our operations, to secure and grow the business," says Winfresh Chief Executive Officer Bernard Cornibert.
"We decided to go into agro-processing because we wanted to utilise the other produce or crops that are produced in the Windward Islands by adding value to those that will have difficulty making it to the market as fresh produce. That is the rationale for our investments in agro-processing facilities in the islands, which are intended to utilise local produce."
Cornibert said these new ventures, which are all wholly owned by Winfresh, represent a new thrust by the company to broaden its product base and to expand market opportunities for local crops, and also show a demonstration of the company's commitment to crop diversification in the Windward Islands.
Meanwhile, Winfresh said it is preparing to launch a number of its new products by year end.
"We want the Winfresh brand to be known for good quality, wholesome and tasty products right across our product range that customers can enjoy and trust. Our flagship product will be a product that we call 'Fruit Scoop'. It is a product that is unique to Winfresh. It is made entirely of fruit, has the consistency and 'scoopability' of ice cream, but is dairy-free and with no added sugar."
Conibert said it would be produced at the company's plant in Grenada "where we will also produce fruit-based dairy ice cream.
"We have had some delays and so we have had to push back the launch date but, barring further unexpected delays, we expect to formally open the plants and to launch the first set of products before the end of this year, when we will be unveiling a line of very exciting products."
In a separate statement, Winfresh Chairman Simon Stiell said the company plans to remain in the banana trade, saying there is demand in the UK for good quality Caribbean bananas.
"Presently, we are looking at how we can best serve that market with all the competitive pressures that we are facing. The major suppliers are in Latin America and West Africa, and our biggest challenge in the market is competing on price," Stiell said.