Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 27th 2016 Contents Negotiations are underway to
take Rituals coffee to Cuba,
according to Mario Sabga-
Aboud chairman of the
group of companies, who
confirmed that he is in talks
with a Cuban investor who wants to start a
chain of Rituals stores in that country.
The talks are expected to continue when he
attends the Havana International Fair, 2016
later this month. His company is one of more
than 23 local companies accompanying Trade
Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon to the fair.
According to the fair s website, "Fihav (The
Havana International Fair) is a seven-day event
being held between 31, October and 4, Novem-
ber 2016 in Cuba. This event showcases prod-
ucts like goods, machinery, equipment, tech-
nology, raw materials and services in the
Business Services industry."
Interest in the Cuban market grew following
US President Barack Obama s December 17,
2014 announcement that he was rejecting the
failed, Cold War-era policy and charting a
new course on Cuba.
Cuba has a population of 11.2 million people
and T&T businesses including members of
the energy sector are ready to capitalise on
the opportunities available there. Business
Guardian spoke to a few companies to find
out what is that market of interest to them.
On a mission to explore the Cuban market,
Sabga-Aboud said he wants to open Rituals
in Cuba. The trip, he said, is for two reasons:
one is to meet with an investor who wants to
start a chain of stores in Cuba and the other
is to finalise talks on introducing a Cuban line
of coffee to Rituals in T&T.
"We are meeting with a group that wants
to open Rituals in Cuba and (the investor)
wants to open a lot of them. Cuba is a huge
market; I have never been, so the timing is
perfect (to be part of the delegation and to
meet with his investor.)"
Referring to the new line of Cuban coffee
he wants to introduce to the already brews
offered to Rituals customers, he said a contact
with a Cuban coffee roaster had been made
and he would be ready to introduce it here
soon. He however did not say when he would
introduce the Cuban coffee or who the Cuban
coffee roaster was.
"We got samples from him already, we tried
it and the product is fantastic. At Rituals we
are trying to add extra items to the menu. We
are trying to create a different selection of
coffee, giving our customers a little wider
"If all goes well, we are supposed to sign
an agreement when I am there that we are
going to buy this coffee from them and sell
in it in Rituals and it is going to be called
Rituals Cubano. We have our regular coffee
(too). We are trying to add a couple more
In high praise of the Trade Ministry s effort
to assist business people to find new markets,
he said the trade mission came at the right
time. Apart from looking for new business,
he said his love for Cuban cigars is another
reason to go to Cuba.
"I am very excited about the trip it is a lot
of people going there, Cuba is a very big market
and I think there can be a lot of potential for
trade between us and Cuba."
He also supports the minister going on the
delegation because she "would be able to open
a lot of doors for us as a business group. I
think the minister is on the right track and
it would be a plus for everybody."
He said attending the fair comes at a right
time, especially as the T&T economy has start-
ed to slow down. Asked whether this business
opportunity would result in attracting US cur-
rency he said "it might." Adding that, Canadian
dollars and Euro are accepted in Cuba right
now, and not US currency as yet.
Group co-chief executive, John Hadad said
there are opportunities in Cuba for his 100
per cent owned company and he is looking
for companies inside T&T and outside as well
as "opportunities for earning foreign exchange
obviously because we are a distribution com-
pany and do some manufacturing."
Stating that he is going to Cuba on a fact-
finding mission, Hadad said he wants to see
what s available, what are the opportunities
there, whether he can export some of his prod-
ucts there or if he can invest in Cuba in a
partnership with a member of the business
community there or "with the Cuban gov-
ernment to eventually lead to some kind of
diversification of our group, as well as for for-
eign exchange earnings."
Hadco is a distributor in three categories
beverages within wine and spirits, electrical
"We are expanding now into a business that
involves some form of recycling. That recycling
business does earn foreign exchange. We are
expanding into another manufacturing plant.
We are also expanding an existing manufac-
turing facility we have that manufactures ice-
cream cones. We are 100 per cent owner of
a woodworking factory and we are looking at
opportunities there too to see what we can
manufacture for export from that facility."
Competition is not unusual, he said, and
sitting worrying about where it is to going to
come from does not make sense.
"It would be foolish not to go in there and
not be a first mover. Essentially, at Hadco we
are looking to see whether we can be a first
mover into Cuba by way of exporting some
of our products there, or even getting involved
in an investment there."
Adding that his Cuban partner located in
Miami is also looking for opportunities for
Hadco, Hadad said the fair is supposed to be
"significant" and the main reason he is attend-
ing the fair is to be part of the trade mission.
Newly appointed chief executive, Christopher
Alcazar said Cuba is lucrative for his company
because of its close proximity to the Caribbean.
He said the Cuban market is one which con-
sumes a fair amount of the products that
Vemco manufacturers in T&T.
The difference in language is not an obstacle
he said, because, "We have been working on
accessing Latin American markets for about
18 months now, and with the additional
resources, organisational changes and packaging
changes the language barrier is not deterring
us."On the issue of the Fair, he said it is impor-
tant because it is a large one that is visited by
thousands of buyers worldwide, and "gives
us access to not only the Cuban market but
to other potential countries we are not currently
Weighing in on the company s brand
strength, he said its brands comprising of
condiments and pasta as well as other products
can withstand competitive rivalry.
"Some of our product we will have to fight
on price, while others have a competitive edge
which allows them to differentiate from local
He noted that having first mover advantages
is a must.
"If we act quickly, we can get a foot hold
and a piece of the market before the US brands.
We compete in all of our markets with the US
brands and in many cases are leaders against
them, regardless of our price advantage. Many
of our products have a flavour profile which
differentiates them and has made them leaders
in their categories."
Overall, Alcazar said T&T manufacturers
must look beyond Caricom markets for growth
and "this must come with some appetite for
risk which can be supported by a more enabling
environment for manufacturers locally."
Sascha Cosmetics Ltd
Kama Maharaj, founder said Cuba has a
duty free agreement with Venezuela, Bolivia
and Caricom and no one else so "you have a
big advantage," because Venezuela and Bolivia
don t really export while Caricom member
States do, but not to the extent of T&T
exporters so it means Cuba is a "strategic
"Under the Cuba/ Caricom agreement
which is about 11 or 12 years old the only com-
pany from Caricom that has penetrated the
Cuban market is Sacha Cosmetics. We have
been in the market for a number of years, well
"The Americans have posed no threat to us
because it s a duty situation that they are going
to face. The Cubans show a strong preference
for brands already in the market. It makes it
very difficult for the Americans to penetrate
into the market; it would be a long frustrating
The fair would provide brand exposure, "we
take three make-up artistes and out of the
thousand plus booths at the fair Sacha was
the most popular."
He has been attending the fair for the last
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt October 27 • 2016
Cuba here we come...
23 T&T companies in Havana
International Fair 2016
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