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‘Levi Roots is boosting our business’

GOOD FOR BUSINESS: Ranglin says Levi Roots’ success has boosted Caribbean business

REGGAE REGGAE sauce entrepreneur Levi Roots is providing a major boost for Caribbean business according to the UK head of one of the region’s biggest companies.

Michael Ranglin outgoing head of Grace Foods UK, the UK arm of Caribbean food giant GraceKennedy Ltd, told The Voice that businesses that sell Caribbean products can only benefit from the interest caused by Jamaican-born Roots.

The south London based businessman strummed his way to success and the nation’s taste buds on the BBC business reality show Dragon’s Den.

Since his appearance on the show, Roots has seen his sauce stocked in all of the UK’s major supermarkets and food stores, has written his own cookbooks and hosted a Caribbean cookery show on the BBC.

EXCITEMENT

“We enjoy what Levi Roots is doing in terms of bringing awareness to the category. He brings excitement. We have seen heightened interest in Caribbean foods and I think it’s good for the industry,” Ranglin said.

“We are also seeing other brands emerging. We have other people approaching us and there is a lot of interest in making these kinds of products, particularly sauces for the Caribbean and other consumers. I think Levi has just started something and long may it continue. I think the category is doing better as a result of the interest he has brought,” added Ranglin, who is leaving the UK at the end of August to take up a more senior post at GraceKennedy’s headquarters in Jamaica.

From September 1, Ranglin will take up his new role as CEO of GraceKennedy’s international food division, GK Foods. The role will involve overseeing operations in the UK as well as at GraceKennedy offices in Canada, the USA and Belize.

And although he is looking forward to the new challenge, he admits he has mixed feelings about leaving the UK.
“I am looking forward to working with the team in Jamaica and getting closer to the teams in other countries” he told The Voice “I will be closer to my family and that’s good but I will miss the work and the colleagues with whom I have developed a really good relationship here over the last three years,”

Although he was promoted in March, Ranglin will stay in the UK until the end of August “to allow for a smooth transition. From September 1, I will be based in Jamaica but I will be in this market for trade visits and meetings with customers.”

Ranglin will be replaced as chief executive of the UK office, which is based in Welwyn Garden City, by his colleague Ryan Mack. Mack’s appointment became effective on June 1.

Grace Foods UK owns eight brands including Grace, Enco, Nurishment and Dunns River and represents a further 16, including Asian brands of products such as noodles and Latin American brands such as Fontinella olives and Del Sol.

MAINSTREAM

The company distributes these brand products through three enterprises - its Asian brand business Chadha, Caribbean and mainstream brand company ENCO, and Funny Bones, its food services company that caters to businesses such as restaurants and pubs.

During his time in the UK, Ranglin has overseen the country’s growing interest in the Grace brand of products and has helped ensure that they continue to sell in their thousands. These products range from ketchup and ginger beer to Grace porridge, rice and peas and Tropical Rhythm packs.

His three year tenure in the role has seen continued success for the company including 10 per cent sales growth for 2011 so far. Similar figures are projected for 2012, especially with the growing popularity of Caribbean cuisine and the exposure it’s likely to receive from next year’s Olympics in London.

“We achieved just over eight per cent last year so we were short on what I had expected but this year has started very well. The Grace branded product sales are on target. Last year, we had some issues with supplies but we have resolved that so I anticipate that we will be able to hit our targets for this year,” Ranglin said.

Ranglin said the company was seeking to capitalise on the growing demand for Caribbean food products in the UK by distributing new products, gaining new markets and better servicing existing markets.

The combination of these strategies and reducing operational costs helped the company to recover most of the 10 per cent fall in sales it suffered at the height of the recession.

CHALLENGE

“We have recovered about seven per cent of it, not necessarily in the restaurant business (affected by pub and restaurant recession closures). We have picked it up in the other businesses” he said “Food services is still a challenge and we are still working to get it back to a higher level.”

He added: “We are looking to grow the businesses that we are in. We are offering distribution services to other brand owners particularly in the Caribbean food sector, the Asian food sector and in the Mexican food categories. We sell on behalf of other people because we have the infrastructure in the market and we have our own brands.”

Ranglin also said the company was working to expand a recently launched project which delivers Grace food products directly to more than 200 Caribbean restaurants and takeaways located along the M25, one of London’s busiest motorways.

Grace’s aim is to eventually expand along the M62 corridor in Liverpool, Manchester and across to Leeds and Sheffield and then into the Midlands in towns and cities such as Birmingham, Nottingham and North Hampton.
Ranglin also revealed that Grace Foods UK, which serves products to more than 30 countries, has as one of it’s big future goals building on its presence in the wider European Union (EU) and Middle East markets and winning more customers in these regions where Caribbean food is starting to become popular.

“This is something that we are committed to,” said Ranglin, who lists growing international business “at a faster rate” among his top four priorities. “It’s a unique challenge but also a very good opportunity to grow Caribbean products among Caribbean people and amongst the mainstream,” he said.

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