Reaping fruits of his labour
BUSINESSMAN BRIAN BRANCH might only have been operating his company full time from this year but he has plans of branching out on a bigger scale by next year.
Speaking to BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY at BMEX 2016, held recently at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, the manager of Branch Foods, which promises “great food, great taste”, said that he intended to add more products to his frozen line of breadfruit and cassava wedges which offer convenience and taste to consumers, some of whom purchased the one kilogramme bag after sampling.
“It was started in 2014, but I started full time this year. I was working with a consulting firm doing water and waste water management and then, when that was finished I focused full-time on the business,” he explained.
“I got the idea for Branch Foods from attending Agrofest one year. I thought we should do more locally processed products instead of the same old produce and plants at Agrofest.
“I always thought of using breadfruit and I thought by now there should be a product like this on the market and I decided to bring breadfruit wedges or breadfruit fries to the market,” Branch added.
“It really was just a case of me wanting to use locally grown products to produce something new and fresh to the market instead of the same old products you’re accustomed seeing like sugar cakes and nut cakes.”
With no background in culinary skills or food processing, the entrepreneur headed to Barbados Community College hospitality training facility PomMarine to hone his skills in that area, he also participated in the National Initiative for Service Excellence’s challenge of starting a business in 100 days and the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme’s (YES) developmental programme.
His decision to go full-time saw him teaming up with his partner Justin Mathias who he met in the YES programme and together they will add sweet potatoes and a mixed bag to the line.
Branch noted that because “no one really cultivates breadfruit in an orchard” he “crowd sources” the major input from various people around the island and to keep up with the demand they need a constant supply.
“The biggest challenge is getting the breadfruit because it’s not really grown on a large scale in Barbados because the trees are grown in a person’s backyard. It is crowd sourcing and we’re looking at importing breadfruits as a last option. We haven’t done this yet but we’re looking at it when we scale up,” the businessman said.
He explained the process of creating the wedges involves them being parboiled before freezing and noted that consumers just have to fry or bake them when they are ready.
Describing the move from being employed to self-employed as “very challenging”, Branch noted that “initially when you start the business you don’t have that source of income coming and you now have to develop a source of income”.
“What I did was develop a runway so I worked for a little while, save some money until I can get the business off the ground and support myself. The money I saved would’ve support me in that time,” he said.
The company operates from Branch’s St Joseph home and he said they were looking at acquiring equipment to “scale up and get into the supermarkets”.
“Next year, I would like to be in supermarkets with about four products, I hope, and to be exporting the products as well. Right now, you have to get the products directly from us by contacting us through Facebook, Instagram, branchfoods.com, our website. We want to be able to supply persons on a consistent basis because right now the demand outstrips the supply.
“We’re looking at getting some processing equipment to start a small line so we can get into the supermarkets, supply some restaurants and vendors because there’s a high demand for the product, people like it. The only people I’ve come across who don’t like it are people who don’t like breadfruit and I can’t convince these persons to try it, it’s been very difficult, but those who try it, like it,” he said.
“When we scale up, we will also be working on our branding as well as the breadfruit wedges, the cassava wedges, sweet potato and mixed wedges. We’ll be rebranding all of them. We’ll be easy to find. We’ll get them in the supermarket. As I said, people have been asking for them and unfortunately we can’t handle that demand at this stage but we’ll be looking at getting financing to expand later this year and adding the new products in the new year.” (GBM)