In order for a country to sustain itself, businesses that both employ and feed its citizens are essential, and CEO of Continental Baking Company, Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson, believes his company has done just that throughout the 70 years it has been in operation.
During an exclusive interview with OBSERVER ONLINE in celebration of Jamaica’s 60th independence anniversary, Hendrickson spoke about the impact of Continental Baking Company - more popularly known as National Baking Company - on Jamaicans both home and abroad.
“I know they have impacted us in a very positive way and we will be forever grateful for that,” he said, noting that Jamaicans in the diaspora are able to “keep in touch with home” through National products.
“You can keep a little bit of home in your kitchen, whether it’s New York, Toronto, Miami or London. It’s just this ‘Jamaicaness’. Us Jamaicans when we travel, we want a little bit of home, and we provide that in our products,” Hendrickson said.
Having such a storied history that has been ingrained in Jamaica’s culture with its bread, spice bun, water crackers and host of snacks, Hendrickson emphasised the mutual love he shares with his millions of customers in Jamaica and the diaspora, while highlighting how the company has grown.
“Actually it didn’t start here in Kingston. It went from St Elizabeth to Mandeville and the company was moved to Kingston in 1952. When it came to Kingston, my father had the opportunity to be exposed to a new kind of baking, which was more automated. We were the first to slice bread and the first to wrap bread. There were big changes in industrial bread making in Jamaica.
“We are now putting up a new plant in Montego Bay and we are putting up new warehouses in Mandeville. So, we are in an expansion mode, we are investing in our country,” Hendrickson, who took over the reins from his father Karl in 1994, added.
Believing it is the company’s duty as a corporate citizen to help the less fortunate as much as possible, Hendrickson noted that Continental Baking Company has donated millions to a number of non-profit organisations since its establishment; most notably Food for the Poor, Mustard Seed Communities and St Patrick Foundation.
“We are doing what is a responsible action. I think we are being responsible corporate entities and we do what we can and we have to do it because there is a lot of need in the country,” Hendrickson said.
But, although he acknowledged that Jamaica may have issues with attracting investors, he believes that can change in the future.
“First of all, is the climate right for investors to come in? The answer is no, not really. But, it’s where we want to be, it’s where we want to live, this is where we want to put our money and employ our staff, that’s pretty unapologetic. If you ask these companies how they feel about Jamaica, they’ll be upset about certain things [and] which Jamaican isn’t. But, it’s still yaad, this is home. This is our country, I want to see my staff do well, I want to see their kids do even better,” Hendrickson stated.
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