In??an effort to regain Barbados’ share of the Canadian market, the Barbados Investment & Development Corporation (BIDC) is launching a major promotional campaign to expand the placement of Barbadian foods in specialty stores and major retail chains there.

This was announced by BIDC’s Director of Export Development and Promotion, Sonja Trotman, on her return from a one-week visit to Toronto, Canada, where discussions were held with Invest Barbados, the Trade Facilitation Office Canada and other parties interested in promoting Barbadian products.

??"Coming out of those talks, we propose to expand our efforts with the view of implementing a programme designed to launch Barbadian products in specialty stores, as well as in major Canadian food chains. This is also being done in support of our findings, which suggest that while Barbadian food products are very well known and appreciated by West Indians and Canadians alike, there is now a need to regain consumers’ interest in these products through the introduction of a promotional campaign designed to revive interest," Ms. Trotman explained.

The BIDC official added: "The meetings with Regent Distribution, the major importer/distributor of several Barbadian products catering largely to the West Indian community, and visits to retail outlets carrying West Indian products revealed that more promotion and marketing is necessary to enhance the awareness of the Barbadian products to this segment of the market.?? Most store owners confirmed that the Barbadian products were very good sellers, especially condiments and beverages, prior to the fall-off."

Barbadian exports to Canada declined from BDS $19.3 million in 2009 to BDS $15.2 million at the end of 2010. The BIDC’s visit was, therefore, intended to deepen relationships with the trade facilitation advisers and importers in the market in an effort to improve and expand the distribution of Barbadian products.

Efforts were also made to ascertain the extent of the distribution of Barbadian products there, and to further influence the BIDC’s decisions in determining what type and level of assistance may be required to improve the awareness of these products within the Caribbean Diaspora.

The BIDC also participated in the Good Food Festival trade show, which sought to enhance Canadian consumers’ awareness and knowledge of the local products, so as to build on sales and ultimately increase exports.

But while taking steps to expand distribution, Ms. Trotman said the full support of suppliers would be necessary to ensure that a consistent supply of products was always available. "Consistent availability was expressed by operators of the retail outlets as being one of the major concerns. While commending consumers for their loyalty, they expressed the view that they are often disappointed as the products are not always available," she suggested.

According to her, "increased promotional efforts will see the placement of advertisements in relevant publications in Toronto, food sampling exercises, as well as the use of shelf talkers and posters at major locations. These initiatives have already been discussed with some store owners and will be executed in consultation with the importers/distributors".

Exhibiting at the Good Food Festival was the kick-off for the campaign. Coordinated by BIDC Business Development Officer, Leslie Austin, sampling was done for a number of products including rum cakes, biscuits, cookies, condiments, sauces, and beverages, both aerated and those made from syrups.

For this show, the BIDC engaged the services of a Barbadian Chef, resident in Toronto, to prepare flying fish and other food items using local marinates, chutneys, sauces and condiments at the Barbados booth.

This served to educate the public about the uses of the products, with a focus on their versatility.?? According to Ms. Trotman, "the response from the public was overwhelming, especially to the chutneys, pepper sauces, flying fish, red and strawberry kiwi Frutee, Coconut Coolers, rum cakes, and Shirley and Chocolate Teatime cookies.

"We will certainly recommend the participation of more Barbadian producers in this show for the future to seriously target the Canadian consumer at all levels. It also presents an ideal opportunity for producers to promote their products in various forms, as well as provides a great opportunity to sell directly to the public."

With the renewed marketing focus, it is expected that by the end of March 2012, the BIDC would have fully re-established a strong presence in Toronto for Barbadian products, and would have successfully engaged the services of importers in at least two other Canadian cities.

Some of the outlets where Barbadian and competing products were observed during the market visit included branches of Nicey’s Food Mart, Charlie’s West Indian Food Mart, FH Multi Food and Al’s West Indian Food Mart.?? Longos and Sobeys, catering to the specialty food and mainstream segments, were also visited.


Author: Jane Broome/Andre Skeete

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