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New LASD head refreshes portfolio, hunting new deals

Published:Friday | November 5, 2021 | 12:08 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter
John De Silva, managing director of Lasco Distributors Limited.
John De Silva, managing director of Lasco Distributors Limited.

Six months into his role as managing director of Lasco Distributors Limited, John De Silva, has started making adjustments to the portfolio of products the distribution company carries, a move intended to deepen its market share as well as gin up revenue, the growth of which has slowed since the pandemic.

LASD’s business is divided into three portfolios – nutrition, hygiene and healthcare. The changes have started with LASD’s hygiene portfolio, under which De Silva has created a ‘home care’ segment, as well as expanded the beauty and personal care products carried by the distribution company.

The company, which in year ending March 2021 set another sales record with revenue of $20.3 billion, now distributes the laundry brand Surf and has reintroduced soap brand Lifebouy to the market. Both brands are owned by Unilever, a company LASD had heavy distribution arrangements with, but was downsized in 2017 under former MD Peter Chin’s leadership, in order to reduce operating costs.

De Silva fills a post that was left vacant for two years, following Chin’s resignation.

The new MD joined LASD with over 25 years of international experience in the food and beverage, nutrition, home care and personal care business. Prior to this job, he was managing director of Unilever Caribbean Limited, based in Trinidad.

Unilever trades in home care, beauty and personal care products, and LASD has been distributing its brands, such as Breeze, Comfort, Dove, Tresemme, Vaseline, St Ives and Axe, for years.

“Lasco Distributors will continue to expand the availability of the Unilever portfolio to consumers across all relevant channels, categories and segments. The portfolio is perfectly designed to meet consumer needs for home and personal care products, through a wide range of brands, formats and price points,” De Silva told the Financial Gleaner on Thursday.

The MD says there are plans in place to ensure the accelerated roll-out of new brands, as well as the addition of new product portfolios.

Lasco Distributors represents local and foreign brands, and is the sole distributor for its sister company, Lasco Manufacturing Limited. LASD earns more revenue than LASM, but the manufacturing operation has generally made higher profit annually.

The most current numbers, covering the half-year results from April to September 2021, LASD reported earnings of $489 million off revenue of $11.5 billion. Revenue grew 15 per cent in the period, while profit was close to flat, with just a $1.3 million gain.

LASM’s half-year earnings totalled $737 million off revenues of $4.1 billion.

In conjunction with new products, De Silva says LASD will continue to widen its distribution footprint across Jamaica over the next two years. The company is also taking steps to incorporate more technology and digitalise the business.

New partnerships are being sought, amid the plans to push the flagship powdered Lasco food drink as well as iCool beverages into new markets, while beefing up quantities in markets where the distributor already has a presence.

The markets being targeted were not disclosed.

“We are in advanced discussions with several companies wishing to enter Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, and we will be launching new products in the near future,” said De Silva, a Trinidadian with market knowledge of Trinidad & Tobago, Switzerland, Dominican Republic and Mexico.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com