– IAST Head encourages more use of local products by State entities
By Kiana Wilburg
After being in commercial operation for nearly two years, the locally produced Morning Glory cereal was recently awarded the Guyana National Bureau of Standard’s (GNBS) National Quality Award and Green Initiative Award for Agro-processing.
Head of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), Professor Suresh Narine, said that the award represents a significant milestone for the entity which has introduced several product lines to the market.
These include the Pakaraima Flavours Sundried Tomato products, the Rupununi Essence products and the soon to be released Kaieteur Nutraceuticals products.
The Professor said that IAST was created to exist at the interface between research in science and technology and commercialisation. On this note, he stressed that the award demonstrates that the institute’s efforts in adding value to local commodities in a sustainable manner, without compromise to quality, is not only successful, but is being recognised by important organisations such as the Guyana National Bureau of Standards.
Professor Narine also shared that the IAST has a state of the art laboratory for research, which allows it to conduct quality control tests which are a quantum leap from the norm. He said that the award therefore underscores the important role of appropriate quality control measures and metrics to producing quality products.
Further, the renowned scientist stated that the award being secured only after one year of commercial operation also speaks very highly of its 100% use of local employees and of the systems that they have been able to manage and deliver on.
“I truly believe that with the right training and expectations, our Guyanese workforce is second to none…which means our local products can also be second to none,” said the Physicist.
With respect to the performance of the Morning Glory, Professor Narine said that in 2018, the product recorded $46,346,556 in sales.
At the end of the third quarter, sales have already exceeded 2018 numbers. Sales stand at $49,288,334.
Professor Narine noted that the company is therefore on track to exceed the $60 million target for sales in 2019 which would represent a growth of more than 30% over 2018 levels. For a new product in a sector dominated by large multinational brands, Professor Narine deems this to be very hopeful.
He said, “It is important to also think about what this level of growth indicates – that a stable supply chain has been built, that a stable and effective workforce has been trained and maintained, that a distribution network has been created, that the product has been delivered to the marketplace in consistent supply and quality.”
Professor Narine added, “And to think that this is all being accomplished by a research and development organisation, demonstrates that entrepreneurs who are solely focused on enterprise can do so much better in this space.”
Narine, who has worked in Research and Development and Commercialisation for M&M Mars and as a consultant for the ‘Who’s who’ in the Food Industry in North American and Europe, firmly believes that the food sector in Guyana has immense opportunity for local entrepreneurs and no brand or segment is too mature or too difficult to penetrate.
On the backdrop of this principle, Professor Narine hinted that in December, IAST will be launching new packaging for the Morning Glory product and also a new cereal.
“So the enterprise will continue to grow,” the Professor added.
The IAST Head also noted the potential for Morning Glory to be a success outside of these shores. He however indicated that the Morning Glory team deliberately constrained efforts to move into the regional marketplace beyond sales this year in Barbados and Jamaica.
He said that the decision was taken on the grounds that there is still more market share to acquire in the local marketplace.
Professor Narine said, “We also wanted to change our packaging to be even more environmentally friendly and to offer economy sizes so that we can compete head to head with the offerings from our competitors.
“In December, we will be launching our new economy packs and also an entirely new SKU (Stock Keeping Unit). This means that our year for regional penetration will be 2020 and onwards.”
In terms of competitiveness, Professor Narine said that IAST products outstrip all of its competitors in supply chain logistics since all of the raw materials are reliably and safely produced in Guyana, with the exception of imported salt and vitamins.
Given the high quality of the product, its class-leading nutritional appeal and its superior packaging, Professor Narine is confident that the national and regional markets will increasingly choose Morning Glory over the imported competition and over other producers using imported sub-standard corn products.
IN THE PIPELINE
With respect to other products in the pipeline, Professor Narine shared that IAST is currently building a brand new solar dryer in Paramakatoi and a solar dryer and processing centre at Bina Hill in Annai.
He said that these facilities are to accommodate the supply chain end of its new nutraceutical drink – SAK, to be sold under the umbrella Kaieteur Nutraceuticals brand.
He said, “We recently procured the approval of the Food and Drug Department to label the product with its functional food health benefits, and we will be launching this product early next year.
“Without giving too much away, I believe this would be the first ever nutraceutical product with approved health claims produced in Guyana.”
The IAST Head added, “We are definitely very excited to be moving up the value chain again, this time, with a product that utilises ancient indigenous knowledge and modern science in a satisfyingly delicious offering.”
MORE UTILISATION OF LOCAL PRODUCTS
Going forward, Professor Narine said that a continued and expanded focus on the utilisation of local products in state entities or state funded projects is vital.
He said, “I am rather upset that despite our best efforts, we have not been able to supply the Guyana Defence Force with cereal, or the Guyana Prison Service, or the Georgetown Public Hospital.
“For sure, we will be redoubling our efforts to do so. But it would help if state agencies and organisations, which benefit from state subventions, are mandated to utilise local products.”
Professor Narine continued, “Now, obviously, those local products should meet the nutritional, safety and relevant standards and protocols and must be price competitive.
“But I cannot understand how in this day and age we can condone the use of, for example, wheat flour based products which in many cases are nutritionally poor compared to products such as Morning Glory cereal in state agencies.”
“If we are so foreign-minded that we cannot consume our own products, we only have to look to our Caribbean neighbours to understand our fate: the English speaking Caribbean imports more than US$4.5 billion annually in food.”
The IAST Head said he is making just one, recommendation: “Start at home, start not only consuming local products, but start to demand that those products are competitive in quality, nutrition, packaging and cost. And all boats shall rise.”
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