Wed | Apr 25, 2018

Salada eyes exports rebound with SQF certification

Published:Friday | January 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dianna Blake-Bennett, general manager of Salada Foods Jamaica Limited.

Salada eyes export rebound

with SQF certification

Armed with yet another food safety certification, coffee company Salada Foods Jamaica is now ready to reclaim lost ground in the export market.

The company spent $15 million to land the Safe Quality Food Level 2 Certification, and is now just one of six operations across the Caribbean to hold the designation.

Salada's export sales dipped seven per cent last year, and General Manager Dianna Blake-Bennett says she knows where the drop occurred.

"We have had some challenges specifically in the northeast United States. Export sales fell by seven per cent in comparison to prior year," she told the Financial Gleaner. The focus of the new certification is to position Salada to enter new markets, especially some of the larger supermarket chains in the United States and Canada, Blake-Bennett said.

SQF certification is administered by the Food Marketing Institute, an American organisation, whose US members are reported to operate nearly 40,000 retail food stores and 25,000 pharmacies representing combined annual sales volume of almost US$770 billion.

Blake-Bennett said the prospective distribution channels motivated Salada to seek the SQF imprimatur, despite having other forms of certification.

"It was necessary from a strategic standpoint, as over the next five years our focus is to grow exports. This certification opens doors across the world, as it says we not only look at the quality of what we produce, but we ensure that our systems are robust as it relates to food safety as well," she said.

It took nine months to ready the plant and implement the standard.

"We had to modify infrastructure, including the redoing of our plant floors, and the upgrading of our equipment because the SQF is a very detailed certification system, and documentation is a critical component, so that was challenging," Blake-Bennett added.

Last year, amid the project, Salada grew its sales by 14 per cent, but the company still fell short of its goal of a billion dollars.

This year, the company aims to grow exports to 15 per cent of total sales, and "so far we are on track to meeting this target," Blake-Bennett said.

If Salada is to hit the billion-dollar mark for total sales this year, domestic and foreign, it would also need to grow overall revenues by 15 per cent.

Last year, the company's turnover was just shy of $872 million.

Salada's products, including flagship brand Jamaica Mountain Peak, are currently exported to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and China. The certification and resulting export push will see the company deepening its penetration of US and European markets.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com