Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 12th 2013 Contents This week, the T&T Chamber of Industry and Com-
merce is pleased to reproduce the third of a three-part
series of articles which profile the Inductees to the Annual
Business Hall of Fame 2013 at a gala event held on
November 16 at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad hotel, Port-
of-Spain.At 81, the undaunted spirit of the pioneer that
brought his French forebears across the
Atlantic and into a future of the unknown
Caribbean 140 years ago, shines brightly
through the eyes of Victor E Mouttet.
Like so many others, Victor s great-grandfather, Paul Emile
Mouttet, had arrived in Trinidad via Martinique in the 1870s
in search of refuge with the possibility of a new beginning.
But soon, the elusive El Dorado beckoned and off he went
leaving behind a wife and baby son, Emmanuel, the first
Mouttet to be born in Trinidad. Emmanuel was unique, a baby
born with an undeveloped leg who grew up to be a man with
a heart of gold.
Emmanuel Mouttet was an inspiration to the grandson
who so adored him, rising above his disability to graduate
from St Mary s College and become a solicitor. The Mouttets
French lineage intertwined with the Spanish when Emmanuel s
eldest son, Emmeran, married Carmen Pazos, a Venezuelan
girl whose family had settled in Trinidad.
Victor Emmanuel Mouttet was born in Belmont on Sep-
tember 1, 1931, shortly before the family moved to Picton
Street, Port-of-Spain, where they lived for seven years before
moving to Brieves Road, off Long Circular Road. School was
at Miss Boucaud s in a converted stable, which ran from
Cipriani Boulevard to Stanmore Avenue.
From there, Victor followed his grandfather and father to
St Mary s where he completed a three-year programme before
heading to Loyola High School in Canada, bound for a life in
medicine. But it was obvious to his teachers, both at Loyola
College, where he spent a year, and later in Ireland, that his
destiny lay elsewhere.
In 1950, he surrendered medicine and joined his father s
wholesale provisions business, Mouttet, Horne and Company
on Lower Henry Street. It didn t take him long to realise that
his destiny was elsewhere still.
Within two years, at age 21, he had accepted Sonny Fraser s
job offer in the food distribution side of young Anthony Sabga s
new company, Standard Distributors. It was a momentous
decision that set the course for his personal and professional
life. It was there that Victor E Mouttet set his foot firmly in
the food distribution business and also met Sally Janoura, the
woman who would become his partner in love, life and business.
"We were a good team, we were unbeatable," he declares
with relish. In 1958, with $1,500 between them, Victor and
Sally took the bold step of establishing a business of their
own, adding the name Vemco to the business landscape of
Port-of-Spain from a tiny room in the Fernandes Building on
Henry Street. As if to mirror their parlous circumstances, their
first main product was peanuts imported from the African
country of Nyasaland, known today as Malawi.
Right from the start, Victor E Mouttet saw himself working
as an independent company in the distribution business,
trading internationally branded products. And then, by a com-
bination of accident and circumstance, he landed in the man-
The times were propitious. Tight foreign exchange conditions
had led to the introduction of the Negative List in the mid-
1960s, making imported products scarce and expensive. With
the Eric Williams administration pushing for import substi-
tution, Victor E Mouttet bit the bullet, bought some equipment,
established Multifoods Corporation Ltd in 1976, and took the
leap into manufacturing.
First off the line was peanut butter followed by mayonnaise
and mustard initially under the Buffet, Sunrich and French s
brands. Later, Swiss, the company s flagship brand, would be
developed into a prolific range, producing ketchup, jams, pasta
and mauby, among other things.
Victor E Mouttet s inventiveness under challenge would
later emerge again when, faced with the rising cost of imported
powdered milk, his Multifoods Corporation developed a pack-
aging innovation with American National Can Company to
reduce the cost of bulk transportation and storage.
In 1978, powdered milk in a pouch made its world debut
under the Kerrygold label. Given consumer habits associated
with tinned powdered milk, it was a big gamble, but it paid
off handsomely and changed the history of milk packaging.
With Sally standing shoulder to shoulder with him, and Mul-
tifoods Corporation dominating the local food manufacturing
sector, Victor E Mouttet diversified into pharmaceuticals,
restaurants and real estate.
Today, the business that began with an investment of $1,500
has grown to almost $3 billion with a business family of more
than 4,600 employees.
Key acquisitions along the way have included a controlling
interest in Agostini Holdings Ltd, with the purchase of major
pharmaceutical distributor Smith Robertson & Company Ltd
and Superpharm Ltd, a major retail pharmacy chain, in exchange
for 30 million new shares in Agostini s Ltd. The purchase has
brought consumer products distributor Hand Arnold Ltd into
the Victor E Mouttet Ltd fold and boosted its market share,
making it one of the largest suppliers of food and grocery
products in T&T, with a large distributor presence throughout
Victor E Mouttet s footprint in the region s restaurant land-
scape is gigantic through its publicly traded restaurant man-
agement subsidiary, Prestige Holdings Ltd Incorporated in
1972, Prestige today operates a chain of more than 100 restau-
rants in T&T, Jamaica, and Barbados under franchise agreements
for the KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway, and TGI Friday s brands. The
company was also an initial investor in retailers PriceSmart,
Payless Shoe Source and the Courtyard by Marriott.
Along the way, Victor E Mouttet always made time for
civic activity. He is a founding member of the Lion s Club of
T&T (1962), serving as its president from 1964-1965. From
1974 to 1976 he served concurrently on the board of the T&T
Manufacturers Association (1974-1976) and as president of
the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce (1975-1976).
He followed this with a term as an Independent Senator (1976-
1981). He supports the Catholic Church through the Servol
Life Centre, FEEL and Hannah s Christmas Bazaar, among
others. He has a soft spot for youth and sport and contributes
to the St Mary s Children s Home, St Michael s School for
Boys and several sporting clubs.
Today, the teenager who was planning for a career in med-
icine presides over a family business empire, confident in his
children s ability to carry it safely into the future. Every day,
Victor E Mouttet responds to the call of business at Vemco s
office in the Diamond Vale Industrial Estate, enjoying the thrill
of a business engine in full throttle while finding time for the
other loves of his life, reading, travelling and, above all, Sally.
In 2012, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary
in Australia during a memorable trip in which Victor led Sally
to the iconic Ayres Rock. For him, it was the satisfaction of
an old curiosity inspired by Neville Shute s 1950 novel, A Town
Like Alice. For Sally, it was another element of the intriguing
personality of a man like Victor.
The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce is pleased
to induct Victor E Mouttet into the Business Hall of Fame.
BG20 | COMMENTARY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt DECEMBER 2013 • WEEK TWO
T&T Chamber of
Industry and Commerce
A living legacy
Victor Emmanuel Mouttet ( 1931...
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