Sales of Barbados-branded sugar are now taking off across North America, Europe, the Caribbean and West Africa. This success comes as a result of significant investment by the West Indies Sugar & Trading Company (WISTCO), a public-private partnership based in Barbados, which has spent the past 15 years positioning Barbados sugar as a premium brand under the “Barbados Reserve” trademark.
Director Chris Docherty said that this development was in response to the collapse of EU preferential market access in 2006 which had halved the price paid to ACP sugar producers.
“Since then, WISTCO has been able to pay on average double the world price to the local industry by selling Barbados-branded sugar directly to supermarkets and manufacturers around the world,” he noted.
Docherty revealed that in the last two years alone, WISTCO had invested over $2M in developing regional and international export markets, including the USA, UK, Trinidad and Ghana. Despite the global challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this investment is now paying off in a big way for the Barbados sugar industry.
Managing Director Andrew Mackay added: “This is a clear case of ‘overnight’ success coming after years of hard work. In Barbados we all know that our sugar is the best in the world, but it’s also the most expensive. So convincing hard-nosed supermarket buyers and consumers overseas to buy is time consuming and expensive.
“At WISTCO, our management team’s experience at a global level for large blue-chip companies such as PEPSICO and Sainsburys has given us the expertise to make this a reality”
Barbados sugar is now sold across Trinidad & Tobago in Massy Stores and other major supermarkets. In Barbados itself, until WISTCO was established all brown sugar was imported. Since then, however, WISTCO has reversed this state of affairs, replacing half of all imports with Barbados sugar – saving foreign exchange and adding BBD $3M annually to industry income.
In the US, COVID-19 has meant that most supermarkets have been closed to new products. However, despite this, Barbados Reserve sugar was promoted in 500 Winn Dixie stores across five states in December 2020. The brand has now also been listed on Walmart.com and will be available nationwide from September 2021; Walmart is the world’s largest retailer with sales over $500BN in 2020.
Meanwhile since 2019, WISTCO has doubled the number of UK stores that sell Barbados- branded sugar to over 1,000 locations and now also supplies sugar to the largest premium chocolate manufacturer in the UK with listings across Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Waitrose.
As part of the development of links between Barbados and West Africa, WISTCO is finalising negotiations with the largest FMCG distributor in the country in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for distribution of the Barbados Reserve brand into major Ghana retailers.
Mackay disclosed that in order to meet future demand, WISTCO is currently looking at a $2M private sector investment in Barbados to develop an export packing facility.
“This is scheduled to come on-line in 2022, creating jobs as well as generating foreign exchange, and will be part of a wider branding thrust to promote both Barbados sugar and Barbados as a destination,” Mackay added.