Angostura is considering partnering with an ice cream manufacturer to launch a new “bitters ice cream,” Vidia Persad-Doodnath, executive director, technical operations at the Angostura Group of Companies said on Tuesday.
She was responding to a question at the University of the West Indies’ Caribbean Centre for Competitiveness’ (CCfC) 1st Caribbean Competitiveness Forum. The forum took place this week at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain. After describing it as “a little secret,” Persad-Doodnath offered no further details.
Turning to regulatory challenges the company faces, she said that “from January 2013, the price of bitters in the United Kingdom is going to go up,” because the tax regime the flavour enhancer enjoys will change from that date. “We do face regulatory issues. We appreciate any help we can get from the government in that respect,” she said. She said Angostura is lobbying to have bitters treated as a flavour enhancer and not an alcoholic beverage.
The CCfC’s guest entrepreneur Alex Pratt said it is normal that governments “get in the way” because they are the referee. The British founder of a United Kingdom company that manufactures reading lights acknowledged that government is “full of red tape.”
CCfC Executive Director Indera Sagewan-Alli said companies determined to succeed will do so whether governments are providing an enabling environment or not.
Asked by a forum participant why Angostura does not simply remove the alcohol from the bitters so it could pass as a flavour enhancer, Persad-Doodnath said alcohol is required to make bitters.
Asked by another participant why Angostura is not all over the world like rums produced by Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), Persad-Doodnath said DDL “got it right the first time” and that she believes Angostura has “got it right this time” and will be more successful going forward.
She said Angostura had to go outside of the region to get help with its marketing and distribution expertise. She said this influenced the new look the company’s line of rums took on. She said the company found “a European co-packer and warehouse facility all in one company.”
Persad-Doodnath told the forum, “Angostura Bitters sells in 160 countries all over the world.” She said the company’s largest markets are the United States and Australia.
She said the European co-packer helped the company to enter 27 new markets in Europe and that Angostura now trades with 23 of the 27 European Union members. She said the EU company also helped Angostura enter eight new markets in the Middle East, two in Africa and 13 in Asia. Persad-Doodnath said Latin America is a very difficult market to get into but the company is working on it. She said, however, that some of the Latin American buyers of bulk rum from Angostura have won awards for their blends.
Asked what company she most admired outside of Angostura, Persad-Doodnath said DDL because “they work hard at what they do.” She said she visited the operations in Guyana and was impressed.
Looking to the diaspora
Persad-Doodnath shared the stage with Jamaica’s Salada Foods Company’s marketing and sales director Bernadette Wong. UWI Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business Executive Director Miguel Carrillo chaired the panel on the internationalisation of small and medium enterprises while Pratt spoke on technology and innovation.
Both Persad-Doodnath and Wong said the regional diaspora markets work well for them. Persad-Doodnath said in the US the T&T diaspora is Angostura’s largest market and that is why Angostura’s local rum brands can be found on supermarket shelves along the east coast of the US.
Wong offered advice to forum participants including that they should be more strategic. She also advised that companies, “Spend the money. Invest in training.”
Wong said exports account for approximately 15 per cent of Salada’s revenues at present. She said the company is nearing the US$1 million mark in exports.
Wong said Salada has acquired several Jamaican companies and is now looking at two companies, outside of the Caribbean, to acquire. “We are definitely interested in acquisitions, both in and out of the Caribbean,” she said.
In response to a question from the audience, Wong said Caribbean companies should not be daunted by price competition from countries that can compete on volume like China and India. UWI Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business Executive Director Miguel Carrillo paraphrased her response saying, “The challenge is to create premium brands and not to compete on price.”