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After beverage deal, Rerum hunting spot in billion-dollar sales club

Published:Saturday | October 9, 2021 | 12:05 AMNeville Graham - Business Reporter
Rerum Trading CEO Omar Newell
Rerum Trading CEO Omar Newell

Banking on new drinks distribution contracts, Rerum Trading is looking to break through a $1 billion in sales by next year, CEO Omar Newell has said.

The company formed two years ago now has a three-year deal with Trinidadian manufacturer SM Jaleel to distribute three lines of drinks in the Jamaican market under an exclusive arrangement.

Newell declined to provide details of the partnership and Rerum’s deliverables, but said he expects the deal to lead to a spike in the company’s beverage division revenues from 20 per cent of total sales to 50 per cent by year end. Rerum also distributes a range of consumer items.

“Our revenues are pretty strong. We can now claim top three in the distribution of rice,” he said. “With that soft drinks movement, it will certainly put us in the region of the coveted billion-dollar mark by next year,” he told Financial Gleaner.

Rerum Trading, a distribution company based at the Garmex Complex in Kingston, was incorporated in October 2019. Its name is Latin for ‘a collection of things’ or, using trade vernacular, ‘commodities’. Key shareholders include business partners and politicians Peter Bunting and Mark Golding, as well as Chairman Vernon Hendricks.

The company at first dabbled in trade financing before launching into bulk rice importation from Guyana and Suriname.

Amid big rivals Derrimon Trading and Musson Jamaica and its member company T. Geddes Grant out front, Newell asserts that Rerum is slotted in with the top three rice importers; and that Park Rose and Kestrel round out the top five rice distributors.

The SM Jaleel drinks deal covers three brands, Cole Cold soft drinks, Cool Runnings flavoured water, and Caribbean Cool juice drinks. Other brands from the SM Jaleel portfolio are handled by other distributors.

“We exclusively carry these products,” said Newell. “We can appoint sub-distributors and we’re tying up those contracts as we speak,” he said.

The Cole Cold line was previously carried by Massy Distribution. That arrangement long came to an end, resulting in the product being off the Jamaican market for the last four years.

Newell says Rerum runs a lean operation, with 13 permanent and about 15 casual team members. The company operates a fleet of 50 trucks with three-person crews that handle road distribution, while merchandising has been outsourced to specialist company Turnkey.

“We’re able to have a small, nimble staff structure because we outsource a number of functions so that we can focus on our core parts of the distribution effort, which is the logistics and sales,” said Newell.

With only about six weeks since the SM Jaleel distribution contract was awarded, Newell says Rerum has already managed to cop about 25 per cent of the peak volumes formerly moved by Massy Distribution, and that the cranberry, banana and apple flavoured sodas have been well received. He once again declined to give specifics, citing competition.

In addition to rice and now soft drinks, Rerum also distributes the Value Tree brand of condiments in partnership with local manufacturer Spur Tree Spices. The line includes ketchup, lime juice, vinegar, and hot pepper sauce in various sizes.