Business

The Bigga Apple - Wisynco aims beyond the Diaspora

BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant Business Co-ordinator richardsonj@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2012    

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NEW YORK, USA — Bigga soft drinks maker Wisynco aims to drive the product into the US carbonated beverages market through a distribution deal with Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill — the largest Jamaican franchise chain in North America.

The White Marl, St Catherine, company said it is using a "forced consumption strategy", including the packaging of 20 oz bottles of Bigga in value meals to expose the product to the two million customers estimated to patronise the restaurant network weekly. Golden Krust has over 120 branches across nine US states.

"Bigga has developed into a brand that Jamaicans love and want, so we decided to take it to the world," said Wisynco's Export Manager Stephen Dawkins at a spirited launch ceremony for the new partnership agreement in New York on Saturday.

The bright red, green and gold colours of Bigga, the smell of Golden Krust's curried goat, dancehall music and dancers, wearing 'cut-off-foot' pants, gave an authentic island vibe on the hot summer afternoon.

"Golden Krust has a strong Jamaican brand and heritage," Dawkins told the Jamaica Observer, his voice competing with sounds from the speakers of Irie Jam 93.5 FM, which did an outside broadcast at the site of the launch, a Golden Krust restaurant inside the Spring Creek Mall in Brooklyn.

"They give us effective distribution for our brand and immediate consumption within their stores," the export manager noted.

Bigga is presently distributed in 20 markets, with the UK accounting for the bulk of exports. However, Dawkins said the company believes that the brand has its greatest potential in the US.

Wisynco specifically has its eye on the fruit-flavoured soda segment of the lucrative US carbonated soft drinks market — which attracted total revenues of more than US$60 billion in 2011 — and is standing clear of the cola division dominated by multinational giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

"We don't play in the cola market. The flavoured soda market (segment) is smaller than cola, but to get a share of it would be great," Dawkins said.

The company has started off with shipments of 3,000 cases a week to the US — half of them for distribution through Golden Krust outlets, the other half through supermarkets — and expects to double volumes by the end of summer, progressing as the brand gains recognition. Plans are also underway to partner with an American co-packer to help ensure freshness of the product in the marketplace, added Dawkins.

Golden Krust diners can choose from six introductory Bigga flavours — Jamaica Kola, Pineapple, Fruit Punch, Apple, Grape and Ginger Beer — to complement the restaurant's vast cuisine, including patties, jerked chicken, curried goat, oxtail and other authentic Caribbean dishes. What's more is that customers can get a signature Golden Krust beef patty and a Bigga through a limited time offer for US$2.99; the "Bigga Golden Deal" that runs until July 31.

Bigga claims control of 70 per cent of the flavoured soda market in Jamaica and replaces rival brand D&G as the local soft drink on Golden Krust menus. Stephen Ament, Golden Krust vice-president of franchise operations, said the addition of Bigga enhances the restaurant's value proposition.

"Compared to our regular drink at 12 ounces, we can sell 20 oz Bigga at a better cost for our franchisees, which leads to better profitability for them and better value for our customers," said Ament. "So it fits well for Golden Krust and should be a win-win for both of us."

The value proposition might be a bonus for both entities in a market where sentimental attachment alone appears to lure many customers to Jamaican products. Among those consumers is Leila Blair, a Jamaican living in New York for three decades, who said she was excited about the fusion of two Jamaican-owned brands.

"I am happy to see products that represent Jamaica. I support everything from home and encourage other persons to do so as well," said Blair, who declared that she is a "long-time" Golden Krust customer.

Blair was one of the scores of customers at the flashy launch ceremony sampling Bigga as well as some of the restaurant's menu offerings.

But while the Caribbean Diaspora, with some six million self-identified members living in America up to 2009, remains an attractive market for Wisynco, the company is looking to establish itself beyond that demographic in the US, said Dawkins.

"The US has 310 million people; the Diaspora is about 6 million. We are immediately going after the Diaspora, but hope to branch out into the wider cross section," he noted.

Golden Krust, with 40 per cent of its customer base identified as non-Caribbean persons, could provide that gateway for the Jamaican manufacturer and distributor. In fact, customer diversification is a key part of the restaurant chain's aggressive growth strategy that sees the company aiming to have at least 500 outlets in 10 years.

"Our plans continue to bring the taste of the Caribbean to the world. We are looking to bring the concept even more mainstream within the US population," said Ament.

Golden Krust CEO Lowell Hawthorne last year won the Jamaica Observer Business Leader Award for leading his family-run enterprise into what is widely recognised as the world's largest 'patty franchise'. His oldest son Haywood, Golden Krust's vice-president of manufacturing, said at the launch that the shared synergies between the two companies were critical to making the deal a reality.

"Golden Krust and Wisynco share a lot in business philosophy and I cannot think of a better combination than our food and their Bigga soda," said Haywood Hawthorne.

Founded in 1965, Wisynco is one of Jamaica's oldest family businesses and is among the country's largest distributors of consumer brands. The export thrust for Bigga is part of a wider strategy by Wisynco to build its own brands, which also includes Wata, Cran Wata and Boom.

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