Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 20th 2015 Contents BG6 NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt AUGUST 20 • 2015
Carib Brewery s export director
Sheldon G Wood is optimistic
about its Carib and Shandy
beer brands entering the
Cuban market in the future.
Carib Brewery Ltd was just one of 16 com-
panies that accompanied the T&T Chamber
of Commerce on its fact-finding trip to Cuba
in June of this year.
"It was a very well organised and structured
trip from the Chamber. Together with the
trade facilitation office in Cuba, they organised
meetings with Cuban buyers and other decision
makers of Cuban companies. We were also
provided with very professional translation
services," he told the Business Guardian by
phone on Tuesday.
He said Carib Brewery met with the Spanish
distributor Freixenet, which helped them to
understand the Cuban market.
"They helped us to understand the route-
to-market in Cuba, that is how our products
would reach the Cuban consumer coming
from Carib Brewery. The state has an important
hand in the Cuban economy and in the import
companies. Anyone wishing to enter the Cuban
market has to understand the role of the Cuban
state. I was quickly able to determine the pros
and cons of the route-to-market options and
I started exploring very aggressively business
opportunities with Freixenet."
So successful was the trip that Wood and
his team returned to Cuba three weeks after.
"This was to advance discussions with Freix-
enet and to start to discuss with them pricing,
preliminary launch plans and timelines. We
have actually reached an advanced stage of
the discussions with them. We have concep-
tually agreed on pricing. They now need to
go to the distributors with our product portfolio
and pricing and they will get back to us with
their feedback," he said.
Although Wood is optimistic about the
entering the Cuban market he remains "guard-
He said Joe Pires, managing director of
Caribbean Chemicals and Agencies Ltd (CCA),
spoke to the T&T trade delegation about his
experience in Cuba with his company in
Jamaica. His message: getting into Cuba takes
a lot of time and patience.
Pires told Wood that it took between nine
to 12 months of initial meetings to get things
signed off because the distributors---while they
can approve products for importation---they
still need the government to sign off.
Wood said the Cuban Government plays an
influential part in the local economy.
"I am cautiously optimistic. I am aware of
the fact that there still is still a lot of bureau-
cracy to sift through before the Cuban author-
ities give the go ahead to import Carib and
Shandy Carib. We have been able to take pos-
itive steps because of the fact finding mission
from the Chamber of Commerce and the assis-
tance of the trade facilitation office in Cuba,"
Although Cuba is a Spanish-speaking island
and has some cultural differences from other
Caricom islands, he still expects success.
"The advantage for Carib is that the taste
profile of the local beers in Cuba is not similar
to Carib which is good as we are going to offer
taste differentiation. The Shandy Carib has
the bigger opportunity between the two brands
because there is no category that exists in
Cuba as Shandy. A low alcohol, refreshment
type of beverage does not exist in the Cuban
landscape and that excited a lot of the local
buyers. We actually carried samples to Cuba
and they all really liked the uniqueness of
Shandy Carib. I am confident we would get
acceptance from the Cuban consumer, and
sampling is going to critical for success. Just
the sheer size of Cuban beer market presents
us with tremendous opportunities," he said.
Wood is not thrown off by Cuba s new
diplomatic relations with the United States
and what it means for competition from Amer-
ican companies there in the future.
"We are very aware of what it means in the
medium to long term in Cuba. American com-
panies are not going to flood Cuba overnight
but, eventually, as the borders open up more
and more, consumers will be exposed to a lot
of the American products.
"American breweries benefit from the
economies of scale and they can produce a
unit of beer at a lot cheaper price because of
the volumes they produce in the United States.
So that would put Carib, from a pricing stand-
point, at a disadvantage. That is why I want
us to enter the Cuban market as quickly as
possible. I want to establish the brand and
carve out a space in the Cuban beer landscape
so when the American brands come in we
would have already established a large core
consumer base for Carib Brewery products,"
They also met the Cuban Export-Import
Corporation (CIMEX) and another distributor
Wood said Republic Bank, which has been
in Cuba for many years, was also able to advise
them on payments and how banking works
in the Cuban economic system.
"Republic Bank explained to us how remit-
tances would work as payment in US dollars
by Cuban companies is problematic and this
presented a commercial risk. They now have
diplomatic relations with the United States
but it would take a while for Cuba to adapt.
Freixenet also has a company outside Cuba
which mitigates the risk with payments," he
After fact-finding trip to Cuba...
Local firms keen but
cautious about trade
Caribbean Chemicals and Agencies Ltd
Continued on Page 7
Fen's of Marabella
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