The struggling Barbados economy is taking a bite out of the profits of local ice cream manufacturer, BICO Limited, with Executive Chairman Edwin Thirlwell predicting a dim outlook.
The company has recorded a moderate increase in overall sales for the financial year ending September 30, 2016.
However, Thirlwell explained that BICO’s performance continued to be negatively impacted by the country’s economic realities.
“I am sure you all know from personal experience disposable income is not slushing around as it usually is. It is a little tight. It is not a disaster. All it means is that we have a challenge for the rest of this year that is remaining, which is just over half. We have to do something spectacular to try and generate revenue sales and to keep things moving forward,” Thirlwell told a news conference at the company’s Harbour View, St Michael location this morning.
“The future is uncertain. There are so many uncertainties out there that is bound to affect the confidence of people who spend money [and] it affects the confidence of people who import goods for the hospitality sector, which of course, we rely on for the Habour cold storage [facility],” he added.
The ice cream and cold storage company recorded a seven per cent increase in overall sales for the period under review, which Thirlwell said was led by buoyant sales in the food service division and modest sales in the mobile fleet operations.
However, the cold storage operation was flat, with Thirlwell explaining that the lower than expected performance was a reflection of the level of confidence in the economy among businesses that usually use the facility.
In this regard, the BICO boss said he was not prepared to roll over and play dead, pointing out that the company, which now imports coconut water, was prepared to expand into other areas in an effort to ensure its survival.
“We can’t survive into the future as only an ice-cream company. That is what we are famous for, but don’t forget we started as an ice company . . . so we have to watch the markets and innovate. We have to be prepared to improvise and provide what the market needs if we are to not only survive but to prosper, and that of course is what we are trying to do,” Thirlwell stressed.
“We have a long history, but we expect we will look forward to a prosperous future, but sitting still or sitting on our hands is not the answer; we have to move.”
Just last month Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul raised an alarm over the importation of coconut water from Guyana, while calling for Barbadians to boycott the imported drink.
However, in a subsequent interview with Barbados TODAY, Thirlwell defended the company’s decision to import the popular thirst quencher, saying not only was there a shortage of high quality coconut water on the island, but that not everyone was satisfied with the hygiene practices of the local roadside coconut vendors.
Thirlwell today again defended the company’s position on quality, a need for options and international standards and certification, insisting that BICO would continue to search far and wide for any other business to satisfy the local market.
Over the years the company had also got involved in the sale of frozen pastries. He said that aspect of the business was “buoyant at the moment” given the growing demand for these products.