Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Lasco Distributors crafting new market strategy

Eyeing hotels, restaurants and foreign suppliers for more business

Published:Sunday | June 5, 2022 | 12:05 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter
John de Silva, managing director of Lasco Distributors Limited.
John de Silva, managing director of Lasco Distributors Limited.

Lasco Distributors Limited, LASD, is creating a special team to craft a differentiated market strategy that is more agile and consumer-centric. The new unit being created under managing director John de Silva, just over a year after he was hired...

Lasco Distributors Limited, LASD, is creating a special team to craft a differentiated market strategy that is more agile and consumer-centric.

The new unit being created under managing director John de Silva, just over a year after he was hired back in March 2021 comes amid a reset of operations by Lasco Distributors from what it describes as a logistics-driven business to one that is more responsive to the needs of its distribution partners and consumers of the products it markets.

The unit is also pivotal to the new business that Lasco Distributor is going after internationally through the addition of new brands from diverse countries to its portfolio.

The new unit answers directly to de Silva due to what he describes as “the strategic importance of international expansion” plans being executed by LASD.

“We have a key market development resource based in Trinidad being supported by shared services in Jamaica. We are in the process of recruiting additional team members to support that unit,” he said.

De Silva started to make changes immediately at his recruitment, starting with the creation of a ‘home care’ segment and expanded beauty and personal care products carried by the distribution company, including the restoration of the Unilever product category that was discontinued by his predecessor.

Now, he tells the Financial Gleaner that he wants a sharper focus on consumer communication and the capabilities of the partner distributors within its network, with the aim of timely delivery of products to retailers that will serve to drive volume sales and produce better profit margins.

“Our ability to quickly bring solutions to market is critical to success, and that drives improvement in market share, revenue, profitability, and ultimately, value creation for shareholders and other stakeholders,” said de Silva, a Trinidadian who previously worked with Unilever Caribbean.

“Innovation will come from development of the Lasco-owned portfolio, including the flagship Lasco Food drink, iCool, Lasoy, Lasure, Jack and Jill diapers, and Curves; as well as from our partner brands,” he said.

The head of the unit, who is unnamed, will report directly to de Silva, due he said “to the strategic importance of international expansion”.

On Thursday, De Silva told the Financial Gleaner that in building out the special unit, LASD is working with distributors to better define product categories and brand potential by market. LASD itself also wants better insight into consumer expectations, trade structures, and media preferences to reshape how it approaches and enters market segments.

LASD handles distribution for affiliated company Lasco Manufacturing Limited, but it also handles a number of local and foreign brands through distribution arrangements.

It is the largest of three Lasco affiliated companies, the other being Lasco Financial, which all went public and listed more than 11 years ago.

For the financial year ended March 2022, LASD made a profit of $1 billion on revenue of $23. 3 billion. More than 25 per cent of the company’s revenue, or just under $6 billion, was generated from partner brands, De Silva said, including Unilever’s TRESemme, Dove, Axe, Degree, and Breeze.

Lasco Distributors’ business is divided into four product portfolios: nutrition, hygiene, healthcare, and its newest segment, homecare. But under its refreshed distribution strategy, LASD is looking to expand into other categories.

It is also looking to do business with hotels and restaurants. Currently, its distribution channels are primarily supermarkets, gas stations, retail stores, corner shops, pharmacies, and healthcare and beauty businesses.

Over the past few months, LASD has also expanded its beverages portfolio with an aloe vera beverage brand and Slimfast shakes. Now, the company is in advanced discussions with suppliers from several markets, including the United States, Colombia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, France, and Sri Lanka to add more geographically diverse products to its Jamaica distribution portfolio.

“These business development discussions cover all categories: nutrition, hygiene and of course, healthcare, including new therapeutic areas in both prescription drugs and OTC consumer health spaces,” De Silva said. OTC refers to non-prescription pharmaceutical drugs that are purchased over the counter.

LASD’s pharmaceutical portfolio includes products from AstraZeneca, Bayer, and Merck.

LASD also wants to have regional representation for some of the international partner brands it represents in Jamaica. And Colombia, Central America, and the Dominican Republic are seen as priority markets in Latin America.

As product-development initiatives accelerate, LASD will also extend its focus to Canada and the United Kingdom, de Silva added.

“These new partnerships will allow Lasco to quickly enter new, adjacent categories, but they are all aligned to our strategic focus and purpose of enhancing everyday family values through nutrition, hygiene, and healthcare,” he said.