Thirty-five million dollars. That was the investment made into Creamery Novelties Ltd (Creamery) and Imanex Ltd, both divisions of the HADCO group. Creamery is a new ice cream factory while Imanex is the manufacturer of Happy Time cones.
The investment was poured into the design, construction and outfitting of the factories, covered the cost of developing ice cream formulas and hiring local advertising firms to come up with designs for Creamery's product packaging.
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, representatives of major local supermarket chains and members of the media recently toured the facilites located in the Diamond Vale Industrial Estate, Diamond Vale, Diego Martin.
Speaking with the media following the tour, co-CEO of the HADCO Group, John Hadad said Creamery is a 50-50 partnership with businessman Paul Gabriel who had an idea for distribution of local ice cream. Discussions which began three years ago resulted in both parties deciding to go into business together.
HADCO is the biggest importer and distributor of ice cream brands such as Ben and Jerry's, Breyers, Häagen-Dazs and Nestlé but Hadad said Creamery's products are for a different price point, so there isn't direct competition.
"We're proud of the fact that the ice cream cone factory runs 100 per cent on locally-sourced materials. Sixty-six per cent of our input for the ice cream factory is sourced abroad, 34 per cent locally. We think that equation will get a lot better within another year or two."
Hadad also told reporters Creamery, which began operating in early May, employs 32 people from the Diego Martin area. Imanex has expanded its line from strictly wafer cones to now sugar cones and soon, waffle cones. This had necessitated the hiring of six more people, bring its total staff to 13.
Looking ahead to plans for increased sales locally and exports regionally, Hadad said if the factories start running second shifts, "obviously we'd have to increase the number of people."
This news was welcomed by Gopee-Scoon, who praised the factory design as meeting international standards and highlighted its potential for increased foreign exchange earnings, now that Imanex is expanding its range of cones and Creamery has started producing a range of ice cream products.
While "current economic circumstances are improving," the Trade Minister praised HADCO and Gabriel for making "a huge investment" in a fairly new-to-them field. She also encouraged others to follow this example and pursue their business ideas to fruition.
"They've not been in large-scale manufacturing, they were doing the wafer cones before, which I think is a much simpler process, so this is a big jump for them. This is what we want our business people to think about. Not only large businesses like HADCO but the small and medium-sized ones. You can get into manufacturing, it is possible."
Citing Creamery and Imanex as signs of investor confidence in their ability to further develop the economy, Gopee-Scoon said "this new space represents a major development in the local food and beverage industry. It's a result of local investment by a successful business, demonstrating confidence in our economy."
Praise was also forthcoming from Hadad – for InvesTT, the ministry and the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI).
"InvesTT has clearly demonstrated an urgency and seriousness (in) helping people find answers, cut through the bureaucracy. The InvesTT team even brokered solutions for us between, for instance, the EMA (Environmental Management Authority) and Customs and Excise."
Describing the tour as a "sneak preview", Hadad said some products are still being finalised while new flavours in others are expected to start production later on.
Hadad also said with the factories have the capacity to supply the international market, so he was looking forward to exploring opportunities to increase exports within the Caribbean and Latin America, perhaps even further than that, in the future.