Island Flavors, a member of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector, aims to reduce dependence on food imports and introduce healthier innovations for consumers.
Reducing the food import bill by 25% by 2025 in the Caricom region has been at the center of discussions by governments this year, particularly in light of rising food prices.
Giving an overview of the operations of the company, located at FZ2 Building, Frederick Settlement Industrial Estate, Caroni, last Friday, Managing Director Stephen Ali told the Express Business that the company is the distributor for Kitchmixx, Bee’s, Jacques Garlic Bread and Rumberry liquor.
He pointed out that Island Flavors’ turnover in less than a year, under new ownership, is 315%.
“It’s great for a small business, especially coming out of a pandemic and the big thing we also did was repackage our products, especially the seasoning and spice packs, to have that look more attractive on the shelves. Our different brands are at Massy Stores, Khans Poultry, Price Club, S and S Persad, MS Food City. We also work with them to do promotions on our products from time to time,” he said.
Also in Tobago, said the managing director, Legacy Management is the authorized distributor.
Ali, who joined the company in January, with 15 years of senior management experience, said all products are produced locally and 60% of raw materials come from local suppliers and farmers.
“The products Island Flavors manufactures are dry seasonings, dry seasonings, pickles, green seasonings, peppercorn sauce, crushed ginger and we have created our own line of jerk condiment dip and barbecue sauce. We have also added to the Mauby product range with flaxseed, local concentrated sorrel and concentrated, dry semolina.
“Besides the regular national channels, the company also offers sizes for catering, ship chandlers and any other type of customer who would need larger size products,” he pointed out.
Ali stressed that the company’s goal is to be able to create affordable, high-quality local food, and create less dependence on foreign brands.
“Island Flavors will soon launch its new lines of amchar masala, ground geera, mild curry, Himalayan pink salt, turmeric powder and all purpose seasoning. We’ll be the first to add chiles to all-purpose seasoning, all formulated with the local palate in mind.
He said the 26-year-old business was bought last November by Ravi Sankar from Roger Fernandez.
Ali noted that since the acquisition, the business has grown from 30 customers to 435, while he was able to grow from four employees to 12 during that time.
“We have been very strong, innovative and strategic in our marketing and it has paid off so far. The company pays close attention to customer trends and market availability. Our motto is “Teamwork is dream work”. I always tell the team that we have to give 110% every day and go the extra mile because that works well in the business. Consumers and customers always come first for Island Flavors and we also believe in partnerships,” he remarked.
“The company was established as a support center providing back-office services for the group of companies operating at the resort and asset and facility management services for the resort and off-site properties. has since expanded to include business management services for several companies and business owners both local and international and operating on the island.We are also agents for various manufacturers and importers including Alstons Marketing & Co Ltd and Island Flavors Ltd,” he said.
In terms of manufacturing their products, RHS marketing, located at Frederick Settlement, Industrial Park, Caroni is responsible for packaging and branding.
He noted that Island Flavors had managed to win distribution in February, for the Rumberry range which is a ready-to-drink alcoholic beverage, all made with natural ingredients and no artificial flavors, and which has its own distinctiveness in the market.
“It’s a very fun and refreshing drink that sells extremely well in bars, supermarkets and QuickShops. Island Flavors, who also participated in the recently concluded Trade and Investment (TIC) convention, organized by the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA), was able to get brand visibility not only in the domestic market, but we were also able to get requests from other Caricom countries, who attended at the exhibition, which can materialize through export,” Ali said.
The managing director explained that the plan for fiscal 2023 is to continue to expand its portfolio, reach more customers and continue to be innovative and exciting, while expanding its warehouses.
When asked if Island Flavors had any problems receiving support from commercial banks, as many SMEs have complained about, Ali said happily that was not the case with them.
“Since dealing with our banker, we have met all the requirements necessary to conduct business.”
Regarding the grant funds that the Ministry of Trade and Industry offers to SMEs, he said the company will look into the matter, as this funding will help to further develop the company.
At the Macoya Center of Excellence ICT last month, Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon called on local manufacturers to come up with new items to help break into new markets.
“We will work with exportTT and the TTMA to provide the financial aid from the ministry that is available, in particular to help young people to succeed in their business creation.
“The ministry is excited to see brand new innovative products in the market, which have been exhibited at the Agriculture Expo Forum and now at ICT,” she said.