Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Upstart distributor takes on Spanish wines

Published:Sunday | August 21, 2016 | 8:00 AMNeville Graham
Carmen Rives, Charge d’Affaires in the Spanish Embassy in Jamaica, is presented with a bottle of Castillo de Damiel wine by Verbert Sutherland, chairman or Olive Investments International. Felix J. Aguirre, wine master at the Los Posos wine cellar, is at centre.

A new Jamaican company, Olive International Investments Limited, is attempting to corner a piece of the local wine market by specialising in the distribution of Spanish wines.

Olive International's main business targets are local Spanish hotels, to start, but the company plans to add new distribution channels over time.

The company has secured an exclusive partnership with Agrocampos, which in turn has an agreement with Los Pozos de Daimiel, a Spanish cooperative of about 130 farmers that owns an associated winery. To start, Olive International will sell five Los Pozos wines - a rosÈ, a white and three reds - mainly to the hotels that proliferate Jamaica's north shore.

Spokesman for Olive International, Troy Cockings, says he and his business partner, CEO Verbert 'Jerome' Sutherland, saw an opening in the market. However, they were mum on the level of investment they are making to exploit it.

"At the moment, there is a deficit of Spanish wines in Jamaica, and the Spanish hotels are growing. As such, we saw that as an opportunity to provide them with the service rather than for them to seek to, on their own, bring the products here," said Cockings.

Cockings, whose background is in marketing, is employed at FLOW Jamaica, while Sutherland does international marketing and mostly operates in Europe.

The company rolled out its portfolio on Wednesday night at the Bahia Principe Jamaica Resort in Runaway Bay.

Olive International will distribute in Jamaica as well as Caribbean, Latin American and North American markets.

The company is just two months old, having been incorporated in June, but Cockings said their efforts at entering the

business long preceded the formal registration.

"We just registered the company, but this is our third go at a product," Cockings said.

Pressed about the company's ability to fully satisfy the Jamaican market, Cockings said other arrangements are being made for the "heavy lifting".

"Negotiations are under way with a major distributor," he said.

"We don't want to be making an announcement at this time, but the large properties have their direct arrangement, the Spanish hotels in particular, but for the smaller hotels retail outlets, grocery stores and so on, the

established distributor will be handling that."

Olive international says they expect demand to be high, based on the performance of the wines in European and Asian markets.

Under the deal with Agrocampos, the Jamaican company will focus on business in the Americas.

"There are five partners, including the producers of the wine. They are very keen on what we want to do and they are giving us a very competitive price. They've also given us exclusive rights to sell their wines in the Americas - both North and South - and any of the islands in the Caribbean chain," said Sutherland.

"There is a high level of trust between the Jamaican partners and the Spanish counterparts, and we thought that this is a way of building on that trust and building on that relationship," the CEO added.

Olive International enters a distribution market that includes serious actors - Caribbean Producers Jamaica; J. Wray & Nephew Limited; and conglomerate GraceKennedy, which recently reconfigured and rolled out its Harbour Wines Division for a bigger play for market share.

But Sutherland says they have no plans to test the big boys.

"We have no intention of taking on anybody or reshuffling the game, so to speak. We are offering products that are exclusive, and we are satisfying a need that is there for Spanish wines that we see in the market," he said.

Olive International also aims to expand its operations beyond wine into supplying Jamaican commodities that are in demand internationally, and whose distribution are facilitated by existing trade arrangements.

The company is looking to supply Jamaican coffee to the Spanish market, to start.

"Bilateral trade is one of the fundamental objectives of the company. It will not be one- way traffic for us. We are looking for those opportunities to take Jamaican products to Spain," Cockings said.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com