After more than 50 years, Banks Holdings Ltd. is Barbados’ largest beverage group, CEO Richard Cozier says. “We’ve certainly done a stellar job,” he states. “We command 75 to 80 percent of the beer market.”
Based in Wildey, Barbados, the firm is the holding company for B&B Distribution and three manufacturers: Banks (Barbados) Brewers Ltd., Barbados Bottling Ltd. and Barbados Dairy Industries Ltd.
The group formed out of what was originally Banks (Barbados) Breweries Limited founded in 1959 as a venture between Peter A’guiar (who had earlier started Banks Guyana) and local investors.
At that time, opening a brewery in Barbados was not an easy task. “In those early days, all beer [in Barbados] was imported,” Cozier explains. “There was a need to convince the public that Barbadians could make a beer that would be as good as the imported ones.”
In 1961, the company began selling its Banks Beer, and added its Milk Stout and Tiger Malt beverages in 1963. All were well received, and in 1971, the company won a Diploma of Excellence at the Lager Beer Competition in England.
In 1991, the company became Banks Holdings when it acquired the operations of the Barbados Bottling Co. Ltd., a 46-year-old soft drink manufacturer and holder of the Coca-Cola franchise for Barbados. This was followed by the acquisition of Barbados Dairy Industries Limited, the local dairy/juice operation, in 1997.
Today, Banks Holdings employs 650 and enjoyed sales of $184 million (BDS) in 2010. In addition to holding the Coca-Cola franchise, “We are the authorized brewer and bottler for Guinness on the island,” Cozier reports.
Cozier joined Banks Holdings in 1988. Previously, he worked at Price Waterhouse & Co. (now Price Waterhouse Coopers LLP) but says he prefers the environment of the beverage company.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen the company move from a stand-alone operation as a brewery to become Barbados’ largest beverage operation,” he says. “While this is an accomplishment in itself, we refuse to relax; we’re constantly looking to see where our next success will come from.”
We refuse to relax; we’re constantly looking to see where our next success will come from.
Banks Holdings seeks to duplicate its success away from its home island, and it recently opened locations in eastern Canada, including Ontario. “We’re looking to move from small, limited distribution into wider distribution across Canada,” Cozier says. Eastern Canada was chosen as an appropriate start point due to the reasonably strong concentration of West Indian communities there.
“Certainly, moving Banks out of Barbados and into the wider world is something we’re proud of,” he says, adding that the company is now considering introducing more products in Canada. It currently offers its award-winning Banks Beer and our non-alcoholic malt beverage, Tiger Malt. “We have products that we get a lot of kudos for from visitors to the island, [but] they’re not strong enough yet to go on the international scene.” These include Twist, a lemon/lime flavored shandy and Coconut Cooler, a non-alcoholic brewed coconut flavored beverage designed to re-hydrate and revitalize.
Banks Holdings’ success has not come without the challenge of staying competitive, Cozier admits. “We are constantly challenged to deliver an excellent product at an affordable price,” he says. To compete, Banks Holdings is building a new, state-of-the-art brewery in Newton, Barbados. “Most of the equipment is on the island and being installed by the vendors,” Cozier says. “The project will make our brewery the most modern brewery in the Region; we are using state-of-the-art equipment from Krones, one of the leading suppliers of brewing equipment in the world.” With the new, more-automated facility, Banks Holdings can avoid some of the costs it currently incurs with its current largely manual operations.
Looking to Share
Along with upgrading its facilities, Banks Holdings is open to forming partnerships, Cozier says. “We want to actively seek out co-packaging arrangements,” he says. “There are international brand owners out there looking at the Caribbean as an opportunity for growth.
“Over the years and as a consequence of our international relationships, we have amassed a wealth of knowledge,” he says. “We have used this to acquire interests in bottling operations in The Bahamas and Belize. We believe additional similar opportunities remain in the region for these types of relationships.”