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Roy D'Cambre enters the beer business

Acquires Big City Brewery’s assets

By Al Edwards

Friday, March 30, 2012



LOCAL businessman and former lead principal of National Fuels Roy D'Cambre has now entered the beer business, audaciously vowing to take on Diageo's mighty Red Stripe beer.


D'Cambre told Caribbean Business Report that he had acquired the assets of Big City Brewery which once produced Real Rock beer. Past president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Beverley Lopez and former CEO of Digicel Seamus Lynch were formerly partners in Big City Brewery.


D'Cambre has formed an alliance with the largest brewer in the world, AB InBev, which has Budweiser, Stella Artois, Labatts, Becks, and Corona in its portfolio of beers. The company's net profit for 2011 was US$1.85 billion compared with US$968 million a year earlier. Meanwhile, revenues rose by 5.7 per cent to US$9.87 billion.


D'Cambre has formed an alliance with the largest brewer in the world, AB InBev, which has Budweiser, Stella Artois, Labatts, Becks, and Corona in its portfolio of beers. The company's net profit for 2011 was US$1.85 billion compared with US$968 million a year earlier. Meanwhile, revenues rose by 5.7 per cent to US$9.87 billion.


AB InBev performed well in 2011 with global volumes up by 3.1 per cent. Stella Artois' volumes increased by 5.9 per cent, led by a 24 per cent surge in sales in the United States, 13 per cent in Argentina and a massive 200 per cent in Brazil. Overall, the company's three global brands -- Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck's — grew by 3.3 per cent. InBev recently signed a new sponsorship deal with the NFL and Budweiser has extended its sponsorship of the football World Cup Finals through to 2018 in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar.


D'Cambre is now working with his international partner to bring the Big City Brewery facility to spec. Last year he began distributing the popular Cuban beer Crystal, with the intention of creating a niche in the Jamaican market.


"The Master Brewer arrives on the 3rd of April and we are looking to start producing beer in time for summer," said D'Cambre. "We now have orders for private branding like alcoholic ginger beer and shandy, which is now in production. Right now the existing brewery on Pechon Street is undergoing upgrading.


"As you know, it was the subject of receivership involving Big City Brewery Company and I stepped in and acquired the assets earlier this year. In February of this year a technical director came to Jamaica in order to conduct an inspection of the brewery and he was pleased with it. He found the brewery and its equipment to be in good condition, but he did recommend a degree of upgrading," added D'Cambre, who will be using a vehicle called Cubana Distributors Trading Limited for this latest venture. He plans to list on the Jamaica Junior Stock Exchange in about 18 months.


Last year, D'Cambre test-marketed two containers of Crystal and Bucanero Cerveza. Both are products of a joint venture between the Cuban Government and InBev.


So why did D'Cambre — who is considered one of Jamaica's most maverick entrepreneurs who has had forays into the petroleum business (National Fuels), fast-food retailing (Churches Chicken) and construction (commercial properties) — enter the beer business?


"My total focus is on the export market, not so much on the local scene," he explained. "We already have orders, particularly from Canada. I have stopped importing beer products and instead will be making all beers locally. I will be brewing four beers,, including a stout. The beers that I will be brewing will not be the usual beer your grandmother drank. I do believe that the beers that are currently locally brewed are for grandmothers. We need a beer that will reflect the taste of the modern consumer. My brief to the master brewer is to produce a beer that is clean- tasting like Crystal with no aftertaste."


The mercurial entrepreneur will, in effect, be going up against the dominant market player Red Stripe, which has spoken of its high operating costs in Jamaica.


Does the prospect seem daunting to him?


"Red Stripe has already received a huge tax break and its over-capacity is a result of it exporting its production to Pennsylvania," he said. "This means that the plant is only about 50 per cent utilised. It is not a case that the market created the over capacity, Red Stripe exported the capacity to Pennsylvania!"


It is said that beer sales the world over are down and that spirits are now in the ascendancy. That is very much the case in Jamaica where over recent years there has been a proliferation of rum-producing companies. What does D'Cambre make of this?


"That is just the economics of the modern world, people want to get high cheaper," he said. "The problem with beer is not the manufacturer but the retailer and the high mark up imposed. When you go to a bar in Jamaica and a man sells you a beer for $350, you know you can buy a 'Q' of rum for the same amount of money. So you see, cost is always going to be an important factor. Beer has always been drank in the tropics and I think this is an appropriate time to launch our product. People will find our prices extremely competitive."