Thu | Jul 19, 2018

Craig Hendrickson CRAVEs his own business, but sticks close to home

Published:Friday | March 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Craig Hendrickson, managing director of CRAVE Manufacturing and Distribution Company Limited.
Desrine Lewis, sales manager at CRAVE Manufacturing and Distribution Company Limited.
The first five products placed on the market by CRAVE Manufacturing and Distribution Company Limited.
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Craig Hendrickson hung out his own shingle as a pastry maker under a start-up operation called CRAVE Manufacturing and Distribution Limited, whose products are deliberately targeted at market segments that its effective parent, National Baking Company, does not supply.

National, which is operated by Craig's father, Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson, is a top Jamaican brand mostly known for its breads, buns, and biscuits, but the bakery also produces a range of snacks.

CRAVE, which operates from National's complex at Half-Way Tree, is specialising in 'sweet pastries'.

Hendrickson, 30, launched his new company in January and has since placed five products on the market - strawberry Danish, lemon Danish, coconut swirl, cinnamon roll and a sugar bun - which are sold in what the CRAVE managing director described as "bright, loud and sexy" packaging.

He plans to double the number of products by year end.

Hendrickson comes from a line of entrepreneurs and, in the culture of the family headed by magnate Karl Hendrickson, he wanted to carve out his own space in the business arena. Those thoughts engaged him as he headed towards graduation from Sacred Heart University in 2012, where he pursued business studies.

"I wanted to do something; I wanted to do something different than what we were doing before," he said in an interview with the Financial Gleaner on Wednesday.

"There was a little space which I cleared out. Pastry was the only part of the market we weren't in, so I decided to go for it. I took a risk, borrowed some money from the old man, and started a company under his nose without him knowing," he said.

His father was in the room for that comment, but his expression gave nothing away.

The investment in CRAVE to date amounts to $20 million, all of which came from internal sources, Craig said. He adds that CRAVE is effectively a subsidiary of National Baking Company, but operates its own bakery, sales and distribution all spanning 6,000 square feet of space. However, Companies Office records name Craig and his siblings Amanda Hendrickson and Rachel Hendrickson as the owners.

The pastry company's fleet of vans carry the pink CRAVE signage, as distinct from the red and white colours of the parent company.

The company is now distributing to supermarkets, convenience stores and mom-and-pop stores in seven parishes. They are hoping to penetrate all 14 parishes by year end.

Desrine Lewis, sales manager for CRAVE and one of 15 employees, says that since the company's launch on January 15, volumes are up almost 80 per cent.

"The market is very fragmented, but what we are trying to do is bring some amount of structure to it," Lewis said.

In the sweet pastries market, products are supplied fresh by a range of shops and shop chains, and in packaged form by local operators such as Honey Bun Limited. Within that mix, a range of pastry brands are also imported and distributed through grocery chains.

Packaged to grab attention

Craig said his products are packaged to grab the attention of children, young adults, and persons who generally like to consume warm pastries. The pastries are microwaveable.

"It's a segment of the baked goods market where we

expect continued growth. We constantly see new entrants and everybody is doing well. It tells you there is demand," Lewis added.

National Baking is seen as the largest bakery outfit in Jamaica, but that remains a guess as, with the exception of listed operations Honey Bun and Purity Bakery, the operators in the baked goods market are private companies that do not disclose earnings.

Craig says in five years, he hopes to achieve at least one quarter of the revenue earned by National. But as to what National's turnover is, that will remain an industry secret, he said.

'Butch' Hendrickson, who operates National and sister brand HTB through Continental Baking Company Limited, said breads now account for 60 per cent of sales, biscuits and snacks 25 per cent, and buns 15 per cent.

He also told the Financial Gleaner that the business started by Craig was basically a revival of past operations.

"Sweet goods is not a new thing to National. We had a huge pastry shop up front operated by my grandmother," he said.

But as National grew, it began running out of operating space in the 1960s and the shop was sacrificed.

"We are going back into it, but they have taken it to a different level," he said, adding that for one, the operation is more automated. "I don't think it will stop at the five products you see there," Butch added.

Continental had its genesis in the 1950s in St Elizabeth, and Butch Hendrickson has run the business since 1994.

As to the next in line for succession at National/Continental, the young entrepreneur boldly declared his hand.

"I hope so. I am not going anywhere," Craig said.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com