A young university trained couple earlier this year unveiled a $20 million investment, one of several launched by Guyanese entrepreneurs in recent years, that seeks to add value to local fruit whilst placing what appears to be yet another high-quality product on the local market.
After Frankie and Kavita Sami graduated from the University of Guyana about eight years ago with degrees in Chemistry they opted to leave Guyana to seek their fortunes in St Lucia. There, Frankie worked for the company producing the world-famous Heineken beer, whilst Kavita was employed by Guyanese-owned company Baron Foods, whose sauces and spices are popular throughout the region and further afield. They both worked in quality control.
A year and half ago they returned to Guyana, having decided to take advantage of what they saw as an opportunity to create an enterprise in the manufacturing sector. INAVA is the name of the local company that the two now own and operate; Frankie as its General Manager and Kavita as Technical Director. The factory is located at 342 Cummings Street, North Cummingsburg.
The product is a fruit-flavoured lemonade, the liquid deriving its flavour from the various local fruits that grow in Guyana.
As of February, INAVA will widen its flavourings to include soursop and passion fruit. Additionally, the company is producing a peanut-flavoured cocktail beverage. The hope is that these will be ready for the market in time for next year’s Mashramani celebrations.
Mindful of the role that packaging and labelling play in the marketing of manufactured products INAVA has opted to use an attractive pouch.
Frankie and Kavita say that their background coupled with their work experience in St Lucia have helped them to better understand the science involved in the production process. They say that getting their lemonade formula right is, in effect, a matter of “trial and error” and a pursuit that requires patience and persistence.
Since August INAVA has been testing its product on the local market, primarily through supermarket displays. GuyExpo 2014 was its first major outing and last Saturday it mounted yet another supermarket display at the Bounty Supermarket, Water Street.
Supermarkets in Georgetown apart, INAVA has begun to supply outlets in Linden, Berbice, along the Essequibo Coast and Bartica. The Samis say that for now at least, Bartica is INAVA’s main market. Shops in the community purchase around 1,000 cases weekly.
INAVA, meanwhile, is challenging itself to secure a foothold on the regional market. The company’s General Manager says that INAVA satisfies all of the safety and health requirements required by the regional markets but that it will turn its attention fully to the regional market only after it is sure about the local impact of the product.
Part of the company’s current preoccupation is with ensuring that its overall production process meets the requirements of the United States’ Food Safety Modernization Act. Frankie says that while the INAVA factory is ready for rigorous inspection he is currently seeking to work with his fruit suppliers to ensure that they too are prepared.
INAVA’s fruit supplies, including the lemons used in the manufacture of its lemonades, are bought from farmers in Essequibo, Berbice, East Coast and the Soesdyke/Linden Highway. The seasonal nature of local fruit means that some of it must
be cold-stored. The Samis say the company’s production of its own fruit is on the cards, though it is not a front burner priority at this time.
The Samis are aware of the stiff’ competition that obtains on the local beverage market, but they believe they can compete at the levels of both price and quality. Sellers of the product benefit. They receive a 5 per cent (or two additional cases) for every 25 cases purchased. That volume of purchases attracts a wholesale price of $80. If they purchase 50 cases or more, they receive four additional cases and a wholesale price of $77. The product is currently being retailed at prices that range from $95 to $120.
INAVA employs 10 persons in the production and distribution processes. Much of the effort involves moving the product from the factory to the various distribution points. The General Manager says that his personal involvement in the distribution is part of the exercise designed to help him become familiar with the market. Visits to supermarkets are also intended to ensure that products are strategically placed, prominently displaced and that prices are marked.
The importance of effective marketing means that packaging can comprise a significant percentage of product cost. These days INAVA imports its pouches from Europe, but Frankie says he anticipates a time when appropriate containers can be obtained in the Caribbean, or even right here in Guyana.