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Caribbean Flavours looks to Cuba

Published:Sunday | August 11, 2019 | 12:00 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter
Howard Mitchell, chairman of Caribbean Flavours & Fragrances Limited.

Jamaican manufacturer Caribbean Flavours & Fragrances Limited, CFF, has commenced regulatory filings for permits in Cuba as part of plans to trade with that country.

Concurrently, chairman of the company Howard Mitchell is focused on innovations in beverage flavourings, particularly improvements to a sugar-reduction solution, which was introduced to the market in 2018 in response to increased awareness of the incidence of lifestyle diseases due to high-sugar diets.

Mitchell is pumped up about the prospects for improved performance on the double-digit revenue and ­bottom-line growth for CFF based on the two initiatives.

“Cuba is a big market, and we believe that there is tremendous potential there. We know that they have been locked out of the world, but we don’t think that’s going to be permanent. Also, Cuba’s research and development in many areas is highly developed because the country has indigenous agricultural products that we believe we could get nutritional benefits from,” Mitchell told the Financial Gleaner.

CFF, whose product portfolio spans flavourings for beverages including syrup, sanitisation fragrances, baking and ice cream additives, and essential oils, currently has a foothold in home market Jamaica, Barbados, St Kitts-Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Grenada, Suriname, Canada, and the Dominican Republic. Its plan to distribute to Cuba should result in the company maximising its plant’s production capacity, which currently has a utilisation rate below 60 per cent.

According to Chief Financial Officer Ian Kelly, CFF’s entry into the Cuban market will be done in two phases. The first phase will see the company shipping products to the Spanish-speaking island, and later, CFF will seek government cooperation and patents to use some of Cuba’s indigenous agricultural products as inputs in its production process, he said.

In its Jamaican market, CFF will continue to focus on the development of locally grown products for extraction such as sorrel and ginger while keeping its medium-term focus on Cuba.

“We are in discussions now, but in terms of when we make a move in Cuba, that would depend on what’s happening in the global context,” Mitchell said.

“Sanctions still exist against Cuba, there are issues with the US trading with Cuba, and we have to take those into account. So we are thinking that it’s a medium-term target. In the meantime, we are studying the market,” he said.

CFF has invested heavily in the upgrading of its manufacturing facility over the past three years, which has allowed the flavour company to attain the International Food Certification – SQF Food Safely Code for Manufacturing, Edition 8 as well as aided in its ­decision to add a suite of sugar-­reduction products to its line of beverage flavourings and additives.