Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Nestle - nourishing Jamaica for 75 years

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 11:02 PMAnastasia Cunningham
Jurg Blaser, Country Manager for Nestle Jamaica
Nestle products.
Jurg Blaser, Country Manager for Nestle Jamaica
Jurg Blaser, Country Manager for Nestle Jamaica
Nestle products.
Nestle products.
Nestle products.
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For 75 years, Nestle has been nourishing Jamaican families with high quality foods, in keeping with its core focus of nutrition, health and wellness. And that's a commitment they intend to keep for another 75 years and beyond.

"Over the last 75 years, Nestle has enjoyed tremendous brand loyalty among Jamaican consumers. The key to that is trust. Consumers trust the Nestle brand, which is why they will always pick up a Nestle product. They say 'we know the brand, we know we are getting quality for money, we know it is good'," stated Jurg Blaser, country manager for Nestle Jamaica.

"That is something we take seriously. We have committed to not only maintain but to improve on the Nestle quality, because we will not do anything to jeopardise that trust. If you have a solid base of trust and a good relationship with your consumers, then that is something you have to guard with great care."

Founded by Henri Nestle in 1867 in Switzerland, where the headquarters remain, today the multi-national company has branches in 190 countries across the world. Producing approximately 146 products, some of Nestle's many brands include Betty, Maggi, Milo, Nescafe, Gerber, Stouffer's, Coffee Mate, Supligen, Trix, Cheerios, Nestum, Nesquik, Gloria, Carnation, Nesfruty, and the Nestle lines of breakfast cereals, baby foods, ice creams and desserts. The company also produces a line of pet foods under the Purina and Friskies brands.

When the company set up shop in Jamaica in 1940, it built a factory in Bog Walk, St Catherine, initially producing only sweetened condensed milk. Today the Bybrook plant manufactures both the Nestle and Betty sweetened condensed milks, the Supligen line, both the Gloria and Carnation evaporated milks, and the boxed cow's milk line.

Between the factory, the corporate headquarters in New Kingston and the numerous distribution centres islandwide, Nestle Jamaica employs approximately 300 permanent staff and hundreds more through contract, indirect and seasonal employment.

KEEPING UP WITH CONSUMER DEMANDS

Blaser, who has been with Nestle international for 25 years, the last two of which as country manager for Nestle Jamaica, said the economic climate has proven to be quite challenging over the last few years.

"There is increasing competition, the Jamaican dollar continues to devalue which considerably increases the cost of raw materials we need to import, and people have less money to spend which translates into less consumption. Not to mention the high cost of energy. Added to that, consumers are demanding more value for their money. They want the same great taste but with quality nutritional content, because persons are becoming more health conscious and are paying closer attention to their intake of fat, sugar and salt," said Blaser.

"This means we have to become better everyday in order to make them choose our brands, and over the years we have been doing an excellent job of refining our products, making them better yet affordable, with more nutritional value, as well as add new products and flavours."

He continued: "At the end of the day people want products that they like, products that taste good, while being good for them. One thing is sure, you may have the healthiest product in the world, but if people don't like it, they will not buy it.

"I'm proud to say we have done a fantastic job at striking that balance, because Nestle remains a brand consumers know and trust and continue to support. We have been able to give consumers great taste and nutritious quality, as well as improve the service we offer and the social outreach programmes we do the country."

Blaser said being part of a big family has been a great advantage to Nestle, allowing them to stay on top of the game.

The company has a massive research centre in Switzerland and 27 product technology centres around the world, employing over 700 scientists, who carry out extensive scientific research and development.

The organisation also has numerous consumer focus groups, where it employs the 60-40 system. In that, before a product is launched, at least 60 per cent of the consumers have to approve it.

"We at Nestle are very serious about listening to the consumer and giving them what they want. We have numerous platforms for them to share their concerns, compliments, likes, dislikes and make suggestions. This gives us an insight into the mind of our consumers and their views about our products," stated Blaser.

He added: "As a group, we have huge investments in product technology, research and development. We are always staying a step ahead. We are not just thinking about the product we are going to launch next year, but we are thinking about the product to be launched in 2020."

To keep up with consumer demand, Nestle also places a keen focus on re-branding and repackaging its products with more attractive and informative labelling that includes recipes and nutritional guide.

Another important concept of the multi-national company is what it refers to as 'glocal', tailor-making their products to suit the taste profile of each market.

"The concept is global, but the application has to be local. No two sets of consumers are alike. The taste profile of consumers here in Jamaica is quite different from consumers in Europe, so our products have to be tailor-made to suit each market," stated Blaser.

INITIATIVES

Going beyond the brand to give more value to consumers, over the years Nestle has launched a number of initiatives in keeping with its health, nutrition and wellness focus. They include the Nestle Schools Wellness Fiesta, Good Nestle Breakfast Starts Here, Nestle Healthy Kids, Nestle Community Fest, Nestle Corporate Wellness, and its feeding programmes in schools and homes for the elderly.

"We have been working with the ministries of health and education in the fight against childhood obesity, because we strongly believe that there has to be a combined approach to combating this serious problem," noted Blaser.

"It is frightening to hear the reports that this generation has a shorter life expectancy than their parents. We have to do our part to remedy this. We have to go on a serious campaign to promote a healthy lifestyle, making better nutritional choices, practising portion control and being active."

He continued: "We at Nestle firmly believe we have an obligation and a responsibility to the public that we serve, because in the long term we can only be successful as a company if the environment where we operate is also successful, healthy and growing."

On March 4, Nestle Jamaica will unveil the full range of plans for its 75th anniversary celebrations.

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com