WORDS By: Natalie Dookie
PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy: HADCO ltd
Published in CONTACT Magazine
The HADCO Group is the largest importer and distributor of ice cream products in Trinidad and Tobago, representing premium brands such as Häagen-Dazs, Breyers, Nestlé, and Ben and Jerry’s. So it comes as no surprise that the Group is adding ice cream manufacturing to its list of achievements, with the development of a $35 million ice cream production plant.
Started in 1992 by three brothers, Robert, Joseph and John Hadad, the Group Co-Chief Executive Officers, the HADCO Group now consists of five divisions and 12 subsidiaries, representing 154 different brands. Employing more than 800 people, the Group has a wide reach, exporting across 12 Caribbean markets from its base in Trinidad.
No stranger to manufacturing and innovation, HADCO recently bought and expanded a local recycling plant which converts used cooking oil into a feeder for biofuel; and its subsidiary, Imanex Limited, is already the largest manufacturer of ice cream cones in the Caribbean. Having successfully produced the Happy Time wafer cone for the past 20 years, HADCO is adding new machines to produce sugar and waffle cones. It hopes to secure 50 per cent of the regional ice cream cone market with the introduction of these new products.
Foreign exchange needed for survival
“About five years ago we did a gap analysis,” John Hadad explains, “as we had built our business around distribution, and it was heavily reliant on foreign exchange. As a result of this, we decided to get involved in manufacturing, because we needed foreign exchange earnings within the Group for the survival of the structure of the business. We needed to generate our own foreign exchange as well as take the foreign exchange we have and create a value-added multiplier effect.”
So the Group began looking for manufacturing opportunities in any part of the business where it was strong, “around our core competencies and what we already know, which is distribution.”
Hadad also notes that getting involved in the manufacturing of ice cream was a huge benefit to the Group, as it already sells 80 per cent of all imported ice cream in Trinidad and Tobago. “Having an understanding of the distribution side means that we can go to market with ice cream products a lot faster, because we have the infrastructure of cold storage, trucks, and a knowledge base of frozen products.”
Creamery Novelties is established
A few years ago, businessman Paul Gabriel approached the HADCO Group about distributing a local ice cream he wanted to produce. He had already completed a lot of research and development on the manufacturing process for a new brand. After much discussion, a 50 per cent partnership was born, Creamery Novelties.
Located on the e TecK Diamond Vale Industrial Estate, the new plant consists of two buildings, of 10,000 square feet each. One will house the ice cream, and the other the ice cream cones. Production starts in May, creating 25 new jobs at start-up.
The plant machinery was sourced from China, while the manufacturing process is uniquely designed to have very few touch points, from mixing to freezing, in keeping with a well-controlled sanitary environment. “A lot of work has gone into researching the equipment, and we have started creating recipes for the various flavours,” Hadad says.
Taste testing and research and development were done locally, working with the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute, CARIRI. Product development, including packaging and design, was also sourced locally. “In addition, we will be collaborating with Caribbean CGA with respect to ingredient sourcing,” Hadad explains.
The ice cream is initially in the basic flavours of chocolate, vanilla and coconut, with more endemic local flavours to be added as the product is rolled out. The firm will focus on bringing novelty products to the market such as an ice cream lolly called Creamee, as well as an old favourite, Choc Ice. Another innovative item will be a “Dairy Dainty”, which is five cubes of chocolate-coated ice cream in a box. This distinctive product was originally manufactured in Trinidad and Tobago by Paul Gabriel’s family more than 30 years ago.
The future of HADCO
In the short term, HADCO is keen to see how the product performs in the Trinidad and Tobago market, and to understand consumer behaviour. “We want to start exporting as soon as possible, and will engage our distributor network across our 12 export markets,” John Hadad says. “We feel positive that the product will sell very well throughout Caricom, and also in a few Central American markets.
“Creamery Novelties targets the general consumer and affordability – we want to produce a good quality product at the right price. With our focus around novelties and flavours, the Group can become a dominant ice cream manufacturing force in the region within five years.
“HADCO is owned by a Trinbagonian family, with Trinbagonian employees, and we want to continue to exist here, to grow our employee base and to grow our business. And we believe that the only way to do this would be to further diversify into manufacturing, in order to become self-sufficient with respect to foreign exchange earnings.”
This was the cover story as published in the first issue of the rebranded CONTACT Magazine, produced by MEP for the Trinidad & Tobago Chamber of Industry & Commerce. Read the full issue here, which was unveiled at the Chamber’s April 2018 AGM