National ups competition in cheese snacks market

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor publications

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

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IT took a bit of convincing, but Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson finally yielded to repeated pleas from friends, retailers and suppliers for his National Baking Company to produce a premium brand of one of Jamaica's most loved snacks — Cheese Trix.

But given Hendrickson's penchant for placing quality products on the market he widened the base, producing a further four varieties of the snack — Monster Curls, Mini Curls, Cheese Balls and Crunchy Stix — all under his newly created Cheezy Voltz brand, and upped the ante on his competitors by using real cheese.

"It's basically the same type of product at a much, much higher level," Hendrickson told the Business Observer.

Although National — which originally produced Cheese Trix — was already equipped to make the products, Hendrickson said they upgraded the plant and put in some new machinery.

"It's not the procedure, it's how you treat the product after, how much more cheese you put in it, etc," he explained.

"We've always made Cheese Trix, but we've never competed in the premium market," he said. "It was at the urging and insistence of some of our friends in the retail industry that we get something done that we took on the challenge.

"We're not trying to compete on a low level here," he added as his Marketing Manager Ann Marie Walter-Allen pointed to the packaging that boastfully states, "Made with real cheese".

"The package designs were done locally," she said.

"Right here, in-house," added Hendrickson, his pride obvious.

The new line of snacks, Walter-Allen emphasised, have been introduced at an affordable price point.

They bring to 78 the number of National products now on the market, and the company has set its eyes firmly on expanding its export markets.

"We have a lot of plans. We are fully committed to the distribution system that we have in London," Hendrickson, the company's chairman and managing director said, adding that they are expanding in that market and that they recently signed a five-year lease on warehousing space in New York in order to facilitate product distribution.

"We're going to do a fair amount of expansion this year, and if certain things come off the plate we're going to spend or commit this year $500 million to $600 million. We're committed to it," he said.

"We just bought another premises over at Balmoral Avenue which we'll use for storage; we're trying to free up some space here," he added in reference to National's headquarters on Half-Way-Tree Road in Kingston.

That is good news for the company's 800 employees whom Hendrickson spares no effort in praising for their dedication and commitment to excellent customer service.

"Essentially what we're going to continue doing here is use the skills that the company has and draw from our best practices, and we're going to try and do our very best to be the number one choice on the market in anything we do," said Hendrickson who next month will be conferred with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander for his contribution to the private sector, in particular the baking industry, and philanthropy.




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