By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Company’s founder yesterday said the company had improved its efficiency “at least 45 per cent” since it was created five years ago, envisioning its further expansion to a 175-strong workforce.
Speaking as the Freeport-based brewery celebrated its fifth anniversary, Jimmy Sands told Tribune Business that it was now at 80 per cent production capacity, and “easily had room to extend that”.
Reiterating that construction on his Nassau Street store and warehouse would be completed by year-end 2012, Mr Sands said he had never wanted to go back into the retail side of the liquor industry.
He added, though, that he had been “forced” into this by what he again termed as unfair competition from BISX-listed Commonwealth Brewery, which he accused of trying to squeeze him out of the market by signing independent retailers up to exclusive distribution deals.
The Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Company’s retail network will be seven-strong once Nassau Street (on New Providence) is completed, and Mr Sands confirmed there were plans to further expand distribution in Nassau and the Family Islands to give the company nationwide coverage.
“It’s been five years and I’m still kicking,” Mr Sands told Tribune Business, as he prepared for the fifth anniversary celebrations. “The five years has gone extremely well, better than expected.
“We’ve had some shortfalls, such as the economy and things like that, and we encountered what I believe was some unfair competition from the competitor.
“We’ve been able to increase sales, comfortably increase them year-over-year, and the awareness of Sands is becoming stronger and stronger, along with the other products we produce, although there is not more emphasis on them than Sands.”
Apart from Sands, the other beers produced by Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Company include Sands Light, Strong Back Stout, High Rock Lager, Bush Crack Beer and Triple B Malt.
“The other thing is that we’ve made the Brewery much more efficient,” Mr Sands told Tribune Business. “We’ve increased the efficiency by at least 45 per cent.
“When we first started we were pulling our hair out. It’s a highly technical industry. It’s not only making the beer, but running the machinery. It’s not like we’re bottling in the 1800s.
“We’re up to 80 per cent production capacity, but we still have room for extensions to that. The land, the foundations and the drainage are all in place. All we’ve got to do is add equipment to that, which can be easily done.”
The Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Company team were now much more confident with the technology and production system, and Mr Sands said it was also starting to import wines and spirits.
Suggesting that Nassau had to be “brought up to speed” when it came to Sands’ marketing, distribution and awareness, Mr Sands said he had never wanted to re-enter liquor retailing.
Referring to his competitor, he told Tribune Business: “I was hoping not to enter the retail sector with Sands. I was forced to do it.
“The Nassau Street building is going to be complete by the end of the year, and there are a few more distribution centres that are on the drawing board, on the table. Nassau and Family Island stores.”
The Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Company still plans to start Sands beer exports to Florida early in 2013, starting off “very small” and targeting bars and restaurants.
Emphasising that he wanted to build a business strong enough to hand over to his children, Mr Sands said the Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Company currently employed 65 persons - more than quadruple the 14 it had at the beginning.
“I envision one day that we’ll hopefully have around 175,” Mr Sands said. “I have to dream, like Martin Luther King.”