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Banks fighting back with Deputy

Shawn Cumberbatch

Banks fighting back with Deputy

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Backed into a corner on its home turf by “aggressive” producers from neighbouring Trinidad, St Lucia, and St Vincent, Banks (Barbados) Breweries Limited is fighting back.
With the launch of its new Deputy beer, the manufacturer is not only out to regain the market share its long-standing Banks beer lost to the foreign entrants between 2010 and now, but has announced its intention to undertake a regional beer invasion of its own.
BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY spoke to brewery manager Akash Ragbir and Banks Holdings Limited’s category manager Charles Walcott, who admitted Banks beer had taken a beating over the last few years, during which the beer market here grew by ten per cent.
“From 2010 we started seeing the growth in the local beer market. Imports from Trinidad were a big part of that . . . and then in 2012 we saw a new entrant into the market which was imports from St Vincent,” Ragbir said.
“St Lucia has traditionally always been a player in the Barbadian beer market as well, . . . they have two main brands on the market here . . . and Trinidad became a lot more aggressive and then we had St Vincent [doing the same] in 2012.
“We actually are not afraid of competition here at Banks because competition has now brought so many more people locally into the beer market. Unfortunately, I am sure someone is suffering – maybe the rum market or the spirits market – but the beer market as a whole has grown significantly and the latest numbers for this year over last year are somewhere around eight to ten per cent.”
The official said with economic hard times continuing, price was the greatest determinant luring alcoholic drinkers towards beer, specifically cheaper imported beer. He said Deputy was introduced partly to respond to this environment, while also coming to fight on behalf of its older sibling.
In this regard, he said once Deputy was able to secure its own space in the Barbados market, the intention was to focus on exporting it into the wider Caribbean.
“Throughout the Caribbean everyone relates to the term deputy and to be honest that was part of the strategy for choosing the name as well, to give it that Caribbean name that other islands would be able to relate to,” he explained.
“We can’t just sit back and watch other breweries in the Caribbean come [on] our doorstep and we not react. Home drums beat the loudest so we will take care of our home market first and once we establish the brand and its presence and it’s well accepted here most definitely our strategy is to take it throughout the Caribbean and do the same.”
Walcott said while his organization was aware that pushing Deputy could negatively affect Banks beer if not done carefully, the company could not allow the status quo to continue.
“You have a lot of these regional competitors coming in who are sometimes selling at $10 below us in terms of a case. So seeing this trend and knowing it is going to get worse, we now need to take control of that and try to service our customers,” he added.