Tameka Gordon, Business Reporter
Pure Bulk syrup manufacturer Very Amazing Products Limited (VAP) has ramped up production capacity to meet what it describes as increasing demand for contract packaging services both locally and overseas.
The company, based in White Marl, St Catherine, has acquired a US$40,000 nitrogen doser and a heat exchanger in its bid to improve its bottling and production outputs, aimed at satisfying "the numerous requests" as well as to expand on the suite of products under its line, Managing Director Pierre Chin told the Financial Gleaner.
"We are bombarded daily with calls from people who want us to make products for them, but we do not have the equipment right now," Chin said.
"There are a lot of business opportunities that we have turned down because we didn't have this vital piece of equipment. For example, somebody wants us now to do a pumpkin juice, but this requires pasteurisation which is what the heat exchanger does," he explained.
Chin said the company has used the National Export-Import (EXIM) Bank to get the funds for the two machines, which will improve the speed and efficiency with which VAP can turn out the products. However, he declined to state the loan figure.
VAP entered the manufacturing industry as a bulk syrup producer in 1988, but has, over the years, used the loan facilities at the EXIM Bank to expand its product offerings to ketchup and juices, the manufacturer said.
The company also manufactures fruit wine, vinegar, lemonade, orange, and grapefruit squash and is now looking to increase exports and contract packaging in the United Kingdom, its chief export market.
"Not many people want to set up a plant. They come with product ideas, some of them sourced through the Scientific Research Council, and they want to have it manufactured. Some want to get into export. We are supplying that service and the machine will allow us to do these products for them in a very efficient way," Chin said.
Contract packaging accounts for 50 per cent of the company's revenues. VAP offers the service to local players as well as companies in the US and UK. Expansion of the company's line and its contract services, however, depend on creating products with longer shelf life.
"What deteriorates products, especially products with natural inputs, is the oxygen. What the nitrogen doser does is put a drop of nitrogen in each bottle on the line which displaces the oxygen and preserves the product, giving it a longer shelf life," the manufacturer explained.
The heat exchanger, on the other hand, "brings the product up to a high temperature, kills the bacteria then brings it back to room temperature rapidly so you can bottle faster it," he said.
Both machines will enhance VAP's capability to satisfy the increasing need for production of natural juices and "allowing us to expand revenue in this regard," Chin said.
Exports of VAP's products currently account for 25 per cent of sales, Chin said, noting that "the goal for 2014 is to increase this to 40 per cent".
Some 286,000 cases of the combined products are exported annually. "Of this amount, 104,000 cases are done as contract packaging," he said.
While declining to state the level of revenues expected to be achieved, Chin cited the annual £1-billion UK market for squash, which VAP intends to tap into with its squash line.
"Because of its current shelf life, we have not been able to really pursue markets overseas for squash. People come here, buy it and take it overseas. There is presently a big export opportunity for our squash but because we didn't have these machines, we were unable to really push for export of squash," he explained.
The 25-year-old family-owned company is also brand owners of Taboo and Mandingo energy drinks.
Taboo, which was launched in 2005, is produced overseas but packaged for distribution at VAP. "The Taboo brand and formula are completely owned by VAP, making it the only fully Jamaican-owned energy drink," according to information posted on the company's website.
Good sales for carbonated drinks
Mandingo was introduced in 2008 and last year VAP added its Pure Ketchup and Pure Splash juices.
Market reception and sales of the carbonated soft drink, available only in major wholesales, have been "good", Chin noted, adding that the drink and Pure syrups were "the fastest moving items" for the company currently.
The company will be introducing new products to the market next year, as well as take up new offers for contract packaging in New Zealand and the UK.
"We are coming out with natural juices and sauces by the first quarter of next year. The sauces will first be introduced to the UK market," Chin said. The initial shipment will be a container load, he said.
"We also have a recent offer from the Netherlands, where we will be packaging tonic wines under the brand of another company, to start by the end of the year," said Chin.
VAP started on the entrepreneurial dreams of co-founder Victor Chin. The name was derived from the first letter of his name and that of his sons, André and Pierre.
The then fledgling company manufactured bulk syrup for the hotel industry under a contract with GraceKennedy. "Then we just built from there and eventually went into bottled syrup," said Pierre Chin.
VAP exports its products to Canada, the US and UK. Its Caribbean markets include the British Virgin Islands, Antigua, St Martin, Cayman, The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Trinidad, Guyana, and Cuba. Grace Foods International distributes its product in the Caribbean.
The factory operations now include bottle-making plants, a quality-control lab for testing, and a Culligan water-treatment plant.
The 26,000-square-foot factory is staffed by 58 and will see an additional 18 members added with the planned improvements. Chin said with additional factory space also on the horizon, the company may add a second shift.