Dairy Industries Jamaica Limited
Smile and say, “Cheese!”
Business View Caribbean interviews representatives of Dairy Industries Jamaica Limited for our focus on Best Practices in Manufacturing
Dairy Industries Jamaica Ltd. (DIJL) started its manufacturing operations in 1964, began cheese processing in February 1968, and have been satisfying cravings for their delicious and innovative products ever since. The only manufacturing entity in Jamaica and wider Caribbean that produces processed cheese in a can – ‘Tastee Cheese’ being the DIJL flagship brand – the company is also well
known today for its many name brands such as ‘Crest’, ‘Cheder’, ‘Anchor’, ‘This Is Really Great!’ and ‘Good 2 Grow’. These signature offerings invite people around the world to taste true Jamaican culture.
Dairy Industries Jamaica is governed under a joint venture agreement between GraceKennedy and Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd. (New Zealand) and has established partnerships with local and international bakeries. Fonterra supplies DIJL with dairy technology and expertise as well as dairy based ingredients. Circumventing the current supply chain issues all comes down to forward planning and having a strong relationships with key suppliers. It is to that end that the Dairy Industries management team has had to further fine tune our forward buying strategy, sometimes six months in advance, to ensure we meet customer demand.
Radcliffe Walker, General Manager of DIJL reports, “The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have certainly presented challenges for us, but it has also reinforced the importance of local manufacturing and to further convince us that we need to invest more in local manufacturing to ensure we can secure our food supplies, to present opportunities for Jamaicans to earn from the industry, and also to provide revenue into the government’s coffers.”
Over the last 12 months, Dairy Industries Jamaica have doubled their capacity for production of cultured products, to give them the capacity to offer services to other firms in the industry. For instance, if someone wants to do a private label within the cultured products category, DIJL are ready and willing to offer contract manufacturing services. They are also focused on expanding capabilities for producing additional products within the category to align with industry trends. In the cultured category, for example, they recently added sour cream and are currently working on items such as cream cheese and other cultured products.
Walker notes, “We have also consolidated a partnership with Nestlé Jamaica. We are producing dairy products for them and they are quite satisfied with our collaboration. We expect that this will expand over time. We continue to show our capabilities and willingness to invest, as well as to assist other manufacturers and distributors in providing products in the categories that we operate in. We have been very motivated and dedicated as a team, and we try to look at what the market wants – what the trends are – and then explore how can we keep pace with those trends.”
From a sales and marketing perspective, Dairy Industries Jamaica’s Marketing Manager, Brian Hanson, acknowledges, “We have had our challenges similar to other companies with the global supply chain crisis. Our team has worked assiduously to ensure that we are not out of stock of any materials for an extended period. As it relates to cheese, our main category, we defend our market share by putting forward our value proposition which we have been building for decades – that Tastee cheese products are available to Jamaicans and the Jamaican diaspora in overseas territories. So defending the market share here, we continue to communicate the signature message of family, fun, good times – everything that we want a shopper to think about when they buy and consume the Tastee Cheese.”
DIJL have been working with their distribution partners to not only have the cheese available in areas with concentrated pockets of Jamaicans and their families, but also to extend further into the geographic regions. “We’ve actually been putting some additional resources there,” Hanson says, “to make sure we can go into the Midwest, over the western and the southeastern belt of the U.S., and to ensure product availability. Our team has been working diligently on expanding into new markets and the development of our export business which aligns with the GK Foods Division target of having 50% of sales being export by 2030.”
When it comes to yogurt and cultured products, DIJL are hoping to penetrate the hotel and tourism sector, once again now that the pandemic has waned. This is one of the biggest industries in Jamaica, along with the service industry; the company was operating strongly in that sector before COVID. Apart from their yogurt sales that are rebounding strongly, and that they’re very positive about, Dairy Industries Jamaica are also working on some alternative cultured items that Hanson says they are very excited about. He explains, “Everything we are conceptualizing now wouldn’t just be in a retail format but also in a food service format, so we can have our offerings available to a wider section of end users and consumers.”
Ever the innovators, DIJL are also ramping up the brand equity with some of their lesser known brands. “We currently have powdered milk, which is our “Good2Grow” brand focused on kids,” Hanson says. “But in recent times, we’ve launched a drinkable yogurt with the same brand, so we can increase that brand equity and increase offerings to a younger consumer group. It’s definitely all about the marketing there. We’ve been working very closely with our distributors and business development team to increase brand awareness across the board for all our categories and get them into channels where we have the best opportunity to win.”
A shortage of packaging materials, among other supplies, has been a challenge but DIJL have been able to communicate internally and extend that communication to suppliers to put plans in place to mitigate the risk. Hanson states, “We’ve had to pivot but we’ve been able to navigate those obstacles well enough to ensure that there hasn’t been any risk to the business, or our bottom line, and allowing us to continue to supply products to consumers.”
Over the last year, DIJ have gone to market with three new products. According to Karis-Ann Rhoden-Gordon, Business Development Manager, “We continuously review and optimize our product offerings with an aim to position the company for long-term growth. In terms of diversifying our product portfolio, we added the first locally made drinkable yogurt. The market is accustomed to more of a spoonable yogurt but this one was a bit different for us. Although there are imported brands here, we were confident that our product could claim significant space in the market.”
For the kids’ market, the pandemic somewhat shifted with young people spending more time at home, having school online, which meant more at-home meal preparation. “We wanted to take advantage of that by making meals a little bit easier and healthier,” Rhoden- Gordon says. “So, in the yogurt smoothie, you find a product that is not just convenient because of the single serve, but also it is nutritious. It made with probiotics, contains live and active cultures as well as contains the necessary calcium and protein that is needed for that category and age group.”
Globally, the focus on health and wellbeing was intensified during the pandemic which has inspired DIJL’s product development. Rhoden-Gordon explains, “We wanted to give the consumer more than just another yogurt, so we offered one with 50 percent reduced sugar. We also reduced the calories in our sour cream; it is now a ‘light’ sour cream with 60 percent less calories than our regular full cream sour cream. Those products came to market in the fourth quarter of 2021 and are doing exceptionally well. Consumers can now choose these alternatives or enjoy our regular brands. We have something for everyone.”
Dairy Industry Jamaica has a robust product development pipeline which is part of its five-year plan. Rhoden-Gordon adds, “We want to offer different ways to consume cheese. In terms of our canned cheese, we have cheese in a block and a cheese spread. We are developing a shredded version of our signature Tastee cheese that would appeal to the younger consumers for whom convenience Is a priority. We are extending our cheese lines to include locally made cream cheese, which will be the first commercially produced cream cheese locally.”
Looking ahead, Walker shares, “I think what’s most important for us is diversifying our markets. We are now in Jamaica, the U.S., Canada and some Caribbean territories but we’d like to go beyond that. Can we get into the U.K., Central America, South America, Asia? What new products should we add to our portfolio? These are the questions that drive our strategic focus for the future.”
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AT A GLANCE
Dairy Industries Jamaica Limited
What: Dairy manufacturing company specializing in canned cheese
Where: Kingston, Jamaica