A promotional campaign launched eight years ago to raise the profile of the regional rum industry is said to be reaping significant benefits, with Caribbean brands gaining greater recognition in various markets across the globe.
According to the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA), the Authentic Caribbean Rum campaign has also been instrumental in setting Caribbean rum apart from other spirits.
“Rum is not just a liquid in a bottle; it’s about people, and it’s about communities, and it’s about culture,” WIRSPA’s outgoing Global Rum Ambassador Neil Morris told a reception at Accra Beach Hotel earlier this week.
“And I’ve tried to bring this together in the Authentic Caribbean Rum campaign, and take that message to people to demonstrate the diversity that we have, the individuality that we have under this mark of Authentic Caribbean Rum.
“And what I do know is that there are more people now who know more about this region and our culture and our people than there were before. And there’s an awful lot of people out there who have drunk across the range of authentic Caribbean rums,” he added.
WIRSPA has made significant inroads in the European and US markets, with the industry recording foreign earnings of approximately US$550 million annually.
Minister of International Business Donville Inniss also lauded the campaign as “an exemplary indication of regional integration at work through committed private sector cooperation”.
“As a consequence of this international market penetration, the Caribbean rum producers have not only been able to expand their market base but have also been able to assist in the growth and development of the regional market through their foreign exchange earning capacity and contribution towards employment.
“Concomitantly, the Authentic Caribbean Rum marque, which serves as a symbol of authenticity, quality and provenance, distinguishes and differentiates our Caribbean family of rums from others,” Inniss said.
He also recognized the sector’s position as the fourth largest non-service foreign exchange earner in the region, providing direct employment for an estimated 15,000 individuals, with a further 60,000 having jobs indirectly related to the sector.
Industry representatives also paid tribute to the immediate past chairman of WIRSPA, Dr Frank Ward, who has stepped down after eight years at the helm.
He did not seek re-election at this week’s annual general meeting, and has since been succeeded by Komal Samaroo, chairman of Demerara Distillers Limited.
“I think it will go down in history that under his chairmanship, this industry has done the major transformation from being primarily a bulk rum supplier to a more branded supplier.
“Frank came into this job at a very difficult time. He pulled the group together, he focused on taking this industry to the higher level, and I think he succeeded marvelously well,” Samaroo said ahead of the elections.
Reflecting on his chairmanship, Ward told Barbados TODAY that while he was reluctant to take up the post due to the many challenges WIRSPA faced at the time, he eventually appreciated the need to get involved.
He said one of the highlights of his tenure was WIRSPA’s success in gaining greater visibility for indigenous rums at the high-end bars across the region and the international community.
“In global terms, the Caribbean rum industry is quite small and we are competing in overseas markets where there are global players, not just in the rum category but in the whiskeys, the vodkas, the brandys, the gins. So the consumer has a wide choice of spirits, and what we have been able to do is to steer them to our particular offering and I think that that is where we have to continue to focus our efforts,” Dr Ward said.