Better labeling, more market share for local producers
Most Bahamian light manufacturers still have not secured a significant share of the domestic market despite tariffs in their favor and the advantages of the Industrial Encouragement Act.
The proper labeling of food products is one thing Bahamian manufacturers can do to increase their market share, and they should see the business advantage of doing so without being required to, Raymond Winder, The Bahamas’chief negotiator to the World Trade Organization(WTO)toldGuardian Business.
“The wiser Bahamian consumers become and the more discerning they become around products, if we are going to be able to sell even more in our own domestic market we’re going to have to demonstrate that the
products that we are making in The Bahamas are the same quality as the products we are bringing into the country,”Winder said.”The only way you would be able to make an adequate comparison is being able to compare what’s on the label.”
One Bahamian manufacturer who agrees with the argument is Bahamas Food Packaging Ltd., who recently told Guardian Business that all of their food products have complete labelling including nutritional information, contents and expiration date. Glen Rogers, that company’s president, called it a necessity in the food service business, among other things to ensure customers did not get sick from consuming expired products.
“It’s really not because it’s a requirement but internally we[do it]for quality control,”he said. Bahamas Food Products produces food products under the”Conchy Joe’s”label, including conch chowder, conch fritter batter, pepper sauces and potato chips.
Another Bahamian manufacturer, Sawyer’s, said there is no national food label standard that his business has to meet for its food production.
“If we join the WTO [that]will have to change because we’ll have to meet the world standards,”Sawyer said. He said that he did not believe labels would make Sawyer’s products more competitive locally, but that his company wanted to get a head start on the anticipated requirements.
“We’ve already started doing some of our labels with all the ingredients, nutrition and everything else on it,”the Sawyer’s manager said.”It’s not on the peas yet, but its on the guava jams and conch chowder.”
Both local manufacturers said the process for getting the information for the labels is not difficult. Sawyer said a sample product is sent to a lab which returns all the information needed for inclusion on the label. The most expensive part of the process is the actual creation of the labels.
“The up-front cost is expensive, but it’s written off over a number of years,”according to Rogers. He said that in the beginning artwork, plates and dye may run$1,000, and the labels are usually purchased in amounts from 10,000 to 25,000, with economies of scale allowing cheaper unit prices at the higher order quantities.
Both producers said that many of their labels are made locally.