GraceKennedy engages innovative manufacturing to navigate COVID-19 impacts

GraceKennedy engages innovative manufacturing to navigate COVID-19 impacts

Sector records growth over prior year despite pandemic

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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Food and financial services conglomerate GraceKennedy Limited stated that it will be strengthening the use of technology in its manufacturing operations as it seeks to navigate the disruptive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company said the move forms part of its renewed commitment to further develop the local manufacturing sector.

GraceKennedy (GK) said that by strategically investing and reorganising this segment of the business through innovation and technology— they will be able to maintain performance, build out and grow the segment.

“COVID-19 has presented its challenges, but we have remained focused, working extremely hard and efficiently towards achieving our objectives for manufacturing. As a result of the efforts of our dedicated and proactive GK team, manufacturing has grown domestically and internationally, having increased exports to 30 per cent of total production as at September 2020, up from 25 per cent in 2019.

“This is significant progress towards our ultimate goal of getting that number to 50 per cent by 2025,” said Don Wehby, chief executive officer (CEO) of the GraceKennedy Group, in a news release yesterday.

The food services company currently operates six manufacturing facilities locally. These include: Grace Food Processors Canning and Meats plants, Dairy Industries Jamaica and National Processors plants, and its Grace Agro-Processors facilities in Hounslow and Denbigh.

“The objective of GK's manufacturing transformation strategic plan is to drive its significant competitive advantage, in a bid to firmly establish the company as a regional powerhouse in food and beverage manufacturing,” the news release informed.

In highlighting the strong performance of this segment of the business, GK said that there has been heightened demand for its products such as the popular vienna sausages, ketchup, porridges and soups during the pandemic, all of which are produced locally. Other locally made items such as the tropical rhythms juices have also seen increased growth both locally and internationally.

Buoyed by this positive growth, the company said that it will also continue to pursue other strategies in furtherance of its ultimate goal. This has included ramping up its co-packing offerings for third party and private label brands.

“In the current economic climate, innovation in manufacturing is a matter of survival. GK has long believed this, and as such we were able to respond to market changes when COVID-19 hit. We continue to explore opportunities for innovation. We have the capability and the capacity to manufacture for other brands, and one such arrangement is our new partnership with Nestle Jamaica to package its milk powder at our Dairy Industries Jamaica facility,” Wehby further said indicating that other similar partnerships were in the pipeline and are to come on stream in the near future.

“We see opportunities to grow our manufacturing segment and we are seizing them. They include insourcing, where we can, and increasing our export ratio, bolstered by the growth we have seen in products like Tropical Rhythms. Our newly established Denbigh plant is also a key component of our export strategy, and I am very proud to say that currently, 100 per cent of the products manufactured there, including jerk seasoning, canned ackee and callaloo, are exported,” he added.

Wehby in calling on the country to become more sufficient, as like many other proponents advocated for agro-processing and manufacturing to be properly developed as he believes they will be the key drivers in achieving this.

“GK is fully committed to playing our part and making the necessary capital investment to increase production at our Jamaican manufacturing facilities. This is critical not only for GK's sustained growth but also for national development. It also enables us to better meet the needs of our customers all around the world. The selfless service of our manufacturing team has ensured that we continue to serve our customers at the highest standard, without disruption, at a time when there is heightened need,” he said.

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