Defending The Bajan Brand – II

Submitted by Kim Young as a comment to the BU blog Defending The Bajan Brand

star_mauby_syrupYou know David, I share the views of some of your commentators. First, I think I understand what you mean by “reputational management”. I suspect that you are alluding to the good reputation Barbados has on the international scene as a Country with Standard and Poors, WHO, PAHO, major UN bodies etc. We have good governance GENERALLY, a country with good infrastructure, a decent longevity rate, medical and other social, environmental and cultural infrastructures that support the people of the country and its guests.

On some points I have to disagree. I do  not agree that Barbados is properly branded. I never did. Indeed, when I lived in New York I have never seen a Bajan product at all. If you are referring to Barbados as a tourist destination, it is “branded” to some extent in England in particular (where I now live) as a tourist destination particularly since we were once a colony BUT, and this is a big but, the budget or the mismanagement or whatever is responsible makes Barbados as a brand , in terms of its marketing, rather inferior. I have never seen a poster in the major train stations ( my station is perfect – Gloucester Road Tube) but I see Jamaica, Majorca, Egypt, St Lucia, Greece, Spain. Barbados products – I shop at Waitrose, just around the corner here in Kensington. I have seen every possible brand of product and never a Bajan except Mount Gay Rum at £17 a bottle and a badly presented box of sugar @ £2 per box. Had Plantation Sugar packaged it like they do in SuperCentre, Holetown, and sell it for Barbados $17, they could sell it in London for £5 at least. That silver boxes sugar is used in the Queen’s box at Ascot yet they put a crappy box in a supermarket. The Brits would gobble up the pewter tin of sugar to just show it off if nothing else. That is good branding.

I see every product by Grace, Trinidadian products galore and nothing from Barbados. Kensington is a wealthy area in London, I cannot speak for other areas but if the products are marketed in London, why always in West Indian communities. That is not branding, that is selling a known product to your own people who know the brand already. I see no Banks beer alongside international beers from as far away as Nigeria in Waitrose? Why no pepper sauce and I have to be Jamaican pepper sauce? Jamaican seasoning, Jamaican Ginger Beer.

I could go on. What are the fat salaries at the BTA for? We need proper marketing of Barbados to potential tourists (including myself , so to speak) who can go to Dubai and Egypt for less than we have to pay to come to Barbados.

Reputation-wise, I think Barbados may be suffering from the Peter Pan syndrome at this point. I agree that the island has had good stable government (no coups d’état) and is a good place to live. However within recent times we have seen a drop in our stature in the eyes of our Caribbean neighbours. This, especially regarding the question of immigration and other issues. We have to manage immigration without being seen as arrogant xenophobes.

I could go on and I will but I have got to buy groceries. Three quarters of them will be made in the UK, 1/4 in France. I can buy Walkerswood Jerk seasoning and Grace products at Sainsbury’s but cannot find a a Bajan product. By the way, can someone explain why the very same product in London is cheaper to buy here than it is to buy in Barbados (I mean imports), that is insane. We relieve tariffs on CARICOM goods, we do I pay more in Barbados and less in London.

Even shilling oil for when I get a stuffy nose (and I know it is not Bajan but is sold in Barbados and is part of the overall Bajan culture) I buy in Leicester Square in China Town which is a bra in itself. If I felt poorly, I would have to go all the way to Dalston to get something when I can buy paracetamol in Boots. Where are the Bajan products? Where is the marketing of this country as a top tourist destination? Where is Barbados…I am often asked.

What we have branded best is reputation distortion of each other and a decidedly nasty way of carrying the desire to destroy each other over to the Bakan communities in other Countries. Never have I heard such nasty gossip by two Bajan women as I had in Hammersmith in a pharmacy. Some things never change.

If in the vernacular of Barbadians, they pronounce Barbados as BAR-BAY-DUS, then its phonetic pronunciation should be thus. BAR-BAY-DOSS is the phonetic pronunciation of the rich, former British colonists. I thought it was Independence time. Anyhow….

34 responses to “Defending The Bajan Brand – II

  1. @Kim

    Thanks for your perspective. Our blog on the subject which admittedly was simplistic attempted to approach the issue from a position of Barbados having achieved a consistent stable and political position through the years. We did not include the product view. Your position added to ours exposes some issues which our media should be feeding Bajans to encourage discourse. 

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  2. I don’t know if there is anything to add. I agree wholeheartedly that we are not properly branded. We do have a reputation but that is it.

    Until the day that we can integrate our creative arts into our branding, we will never be branded.

    Branding comes with a certain amount of taste and finesse. Imagine we bottling pepper sauce in rum bottles. We have tailors and seamstresses making clothes but no brand. They have to hide and mix them in with imported stuff to get them sold; where is the appeal; no confidence.

    We must come forward and be identified. The amount of professionals we have employed between BTA and BIDC, we should be seeing better results.

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  3. I made the same comment last week about the bajan brand. Where I live in Queens New york has the highest concentration on West Indian Immigrants and their is no Bajan products in the stores. It is all Grace from the caribbean and Jamaican Brands. When I went to different liquor store it is only Red stripe and Appleton Jamaica rum .I asked for Mount Gaye and the clerk never heard of it but yet still they have the sunshine rum from St. Lucia.There was a Bajan Restaurant on Farmers Boulevard where I use to get my Mauby but I pass by the other day and it went out of business.

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  4. @David

    I understand that the BIDC has a presence in USA and UK. If this is so, why have they not yet established a wholesale warehouse where all Bajan manufacturers can export to and have among them salespersons or marketers who would go out and sell to retail outlets as well as promote the warehouse and encourage clients to visit? That in itself is a sustainable venture.

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  5. If the BIDC has a presence anyplace, don’t expect anything to happen anytime soon.
    Bajan products definitely need to be marketed in a co-ordinated manner, for sure there will be a market. Plenty of tourists, when returning home would be delighted to see a product they may have tried on vacation so I agree 100% with all comments so far. But let’s make an effort to actually get an initiative going, and I make no apology for saying the BIDC is just not up to it, never mind their good intentions.

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  6. Well said Kim.

    I live in Canada. WalMart now has grocery stores attached to their dry goods stores. There is one two blocks from where I live and there are products in the International section from every country in the world except Barbados.

    For instance, crix, pepper sauce, achar and malta, to name a few from Trinidad. Every thing you can think of from Jamaica. I mean everything – even breadfruit in the can, all types of herbs and seasonings, nary a thing from bood ole Bim. NOTHING. I can buy tartinade from Bulgaria, pickled beets from Poland, lentils from North Africa and India, nothing from Bim.

    With the amount of shoppers and turnover that Walmart does, Barbados is missing out big time.

    My Canadian friend who was in Bim with me this spring was introduced to Tiger Malts. This malt is licensed to be made here in Canada, but the quality is poor. It is too sweet and no malt flavour, so now she buy from WalMart, the Trinidadian Carib malt.

    We can get Guyanese Demarara sugar at every grocery store here in Canada. And because it is “Demerara” it is mighty expensive, but you see, Demerara is a brand. Even in see-through plastic bags it is still costly.

    Just imagine with all the Walmart stores in North America how Trinidad and Jamaica are capitalizing on their export market.

    Canadians love flying fish. Walmart sells fish from Portugal and even Africa but nary a flying fish is to be had. If you find them in some obscure ethnic store, they are from Trinidad and Tobago. You would never think we are supposed to be famous for our flying fish.

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  7. Dennis Jones (aka Living in Barbados)

    @Kim, Banks beer is available in the USA (NY, NJ, Florida), and in Canada (Toronto, and Alberta) I was informed by a senior Banks executive. The “Legends” brand is available in the UK (Tesco), according to the BHGL website (http://www.thebhlgroup.com/showproducts.cfm?p=banksbreweries).

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  8. @Chattel

    If BIDC is not up to it, then it is a question of political will and not the competence of the staff. They have well qualified staff. That is the point.

    To get something going would mean that somebody would have to set up a warehouse to receive the exports from B’dos. It will need support so that when exports arrive the exporters could get their money. If it is not set up with backing, it is going to fall through and then we will hear that Bajans can’t do anything. So unless somebody can raise a few million dollars, then a start will be near impossible and if you start small then it is a question of building it and building takes sacrifice and personal dollars; long hours too.

    You will also need somebody with a good understanding of business. Not necessarily a high flier, but somebody with a good grounding in business, who understands the sacrifice that is required to build a business and willing to work the extra hours. Anybody who wants to work from 8-4 for a standard salary is a waste of time; even if you get your millions.

    I tell you, a business like that could create a serious amount of economic activity. Employing a lot of Brits and/or Americans too.

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  9. @ROK

    We have been resting on our laurels. We have become lazy by depending on legacy systems. The late Errol  Barrow spoke disparaging about our army of occupation. Although our bureaucracy and civil service served us well in the past we are now in a different time. To get competitive we have to dismantle/reorder obsolete systems.

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  10. @Denis, if Banks is in TESCO where I just left buying almond croissants on Gloucester Rd opposite Bailey’s Hotel (next to the pub) thus perfect for Brits and tourists, then it must be under a different name. I DELIBERATELY look for Barbados products. Stella, Carona, Heinekin, about 40 brands, sorry no Banks – exactly!

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  11. Dennis Jones (aka Living in Barbados)

    @Kim, Tesco has about 3725 stores, so if only about 140 carry Legends, then you may be out of luck.

    Check what Banks website offer and see if Glos. Rd branch can get its fill up:

    UK Agent & Distributor

    International Brands of the UK is the official Agent & Distributor of Legends Export Lager for the UK and Northern Ireland. All queries pertaining to Sales and Marketing should be sent to:

    International Brands
    PO Box 7260
    Tadley
    Hampshire RG26 5FB
    Tel & Fax01189 821277

    Attention: Mr. Peter Martin

    email: PeteHMartin@aol.com
    or
    email: worldbeers@aol.com

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  12. Forgive the typos before. On the issue of products again. I think that Barbados is indeed losing out BIG TIME but I have a question for ROK regarding will power and/or qualifications. I may be a qualified vet but if I have no will power to help animnals or any experience, I may very well kill off a top dog. It is one thing to have qualified people stationed at a desk at 800 2nd Ave in New York or Great Russel Square in London and it is quite another for them to have the desire, passion and drive to commit themselves to opening up opportunities for Barbados on the one hand, and for Americans, Canadians and Brits or whoever doing offshore business in Barbados. What about trade in services, are we doing enough to encourage trade in services on the island given the relative stability of our dollar and the various double taxation treaties which allow offshore companies to pay less tax and do good business in Barbados. I am no expert in the area. Maybe Denis can help me here.

    As for the Demerara sugar. That is more than a brand, it is a luxury now. The Queen herself has licensed the product and it is sold by TATE, no less. So what is the difference with Barbados sugar. In the supermarkets in Bim, I see it in blue and transparent package called Moscovado Gold (correct me if I wrong). Where is this, what is it, is it gold? Anyway, I know of Demerara but even so, I still have not seen it (Barbados sugar) in the UK and then Bajans get upset about the EU discusses the removal of preferential treatment on OECS and other island countries of CARICOM regarding trade in products. Someone please help me understand this. Some things are too high for my poor brain.

    If it requires political willpower as ROCK suggested, then I am sorry for everybody.

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  13. Thanks Denis. I will look/see but this is a prime area for tourism in London (I live in between and among hotels) in South Kensington. I’ll see if I can get it in Aberdeen ( < :

    Nevertheless, let us put heads together and see what we can do. I will look at the links. I think we need to stop having these sit down dinners with wine and buffets for already bloating and fat government ministers talking about what they will do and DO SOMETHING

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  14. The Pub is open tonight. I’ll pop by later and ask for a Legends.lol

    If no luck, I will phone the various luxury hotels around me and ask if I can get it on tap or by the bottle, hopefully not plastic!!
    lol

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  15. Dennis Jones (aka Living in Barbados)

    The beer exports are a case study. The UK has some 400 breweries according to some figures, compared to Barbados’ one. Then there are the different brands. So, without taking account of the imports already in the UK market to add to the domestic brands, one has to think about Barbados would or should be trying to do. Can it really break into the UK mass market? Should it try to be a speciality brand (is it special in any way)? Should the marketing target the Caribbean diaspora (where the response is likely to be better for various reasons)? Etc. For the cost of marketing and exporting the goods what will be the foreign exchange earnings? Can the company produce volumes that would matter in such large markets?

    The attractiveness of the local Bajan beer is mild (no pun) if not insignificant when set against a world full of other brands. It also has a huge problem in the UK (which may be why it changed the brand name). Banks was already is the name of a famous brewery in the UK that has been in existence for over 130 years.

    Caribbean products maybe do best as niche goods in markets like the UK, but to be good they need to be great or very special.

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  16. A few tourists visiting a country or a few Bajans pining for the comforts of home does not a market make. I just went into my pantry and removed a bottle of Falernum ( Non Alcoholic); a bottle of Sweet and Dandy Mauby syrup; I have Tiger malts; I have Kola Tonic all of which were bought in Toronto. I’ve bought Plus; I’ve bought Aunt Mays products and I’ve bought Bajan Hot sauce here and Twists in the USA. Banks and Mount Gay is available at the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) in the Toronto area. One can safely assume that those items for which there is a demand are exported.

    BIDC exists to help Barbados based industry develop and market their goods in other countries. It is not supposed to build warehouses to house goods. The businessmen are still responsible for teaming up with import/export operators who act as a conduit to the target market. The market is not necessarily there for the taking; it must be developed and nurtured. This is where the BIDC and the BTA can be instrumental in exposing the goods by way of targeting the business community at special y meetings. Falernum with alcohol was available at the LCBO some years ago but was delisted due to poor sales.

    There are many Indians living in northern New York; Michigan and Ohio who make the journey to Toronto on weekends to purchase Indian goods in the “Little India” area of Toronto as these goods are not available in the community which they currently reside in, perhaps Pat can make the trip to Toronto too

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  17. Sarge

    Like you are a typical civil servant. What is the purpose of having these outlets… and paying people to do what? Just have a presence?

    The idea of a warehouse is what I am saying is required.

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  18. @Kim

    You should try to get an appreciation of what it is like to work in Government. Bottom line is that creativity and initiative are discouraged. You do what your PS (Permanent Secretary) tells you or what your immediate boss tells you to do because they are getting their instructions from the politicians.

    The politicians take all the praise for everything and that is oh so important, you would not believe.

    I know because I was a civil servant for 10 years. You see Sargeant’s response? That is a typical PS response. Justifying the unjustifiable… but you can be assured that it is about a political agenda. The truth is never told.

    How can you tell me that you marketing and have nothing to show? How can you be marketing or developing a market and can’t supply. The two go hand in hand otherwise it is bare hot air.

    As for products being delisted because they were not selling, that is a typical failure of marketing. So what are they up there developing? Air markets? Methane? BL&P could do with some.

    Come again Sarge. Don’t make any excuses for them. They have their agenda and it is obviously being served. Not that we can see what they serving.

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  19. Kim, I said “political will” not will power. It means that the politicians have to tell them to do it before they can do it. Not one of them can’t get up from their desk and do anything unless told to. If they are not told to, then the political will for it to happen is not there.

    I agree with your conclusion though:

    “If it requires political willpower as ROCK suggested, then I am sorry for everybody.”

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  20. Dennis Jones (aka Living in Barbados) // November 7, 2009 at 6:17 PM … Banks beer is available in the USA (NY, NJ, Florida), and in Canada (Toronto, and Alberta)

    3 weeks ago, I was at a Caribbean store in FL. A few people were standing by the shelf where there was Banks and other foreign beers.

    As you pass by, a man held up a bottle of Banks and said, “read fuh yuh self, Banks mekking in Guyana now.”

    My aunt stopped and read it; then said to me, “aint that something, I wonda if Banks sell out tuh de Guyanese.”

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  21. @Eye Spy

    One of the problems with Banks is that it is originally Guyanese and as a matter of fact we could not export beer for a long time because of this. Not sure we can now either. So Legend is now the thing.

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  22. WE - All Ideas Are First Spoken

    Kim,
    Long time no hear or see. It is interesting that you are still making the same point that we discussed many moons ago. I have long concluded that if one does not value something, then it is unlike one will sell or promote it unless some external motivator exists. If one were to drive around the local neighborhoods of Brooklyn, one is sure to find a Dominican, Haitian, Jamaican or Guyanese restaurant. The menu of the restaurants reflects the culture of the respective island. The visibility of the Barbadian culture is not so but public but exist in a limited form in the same way that pudding and souse is sold on Saturday’s from somebody’s home. A great part of the demand for some products is satisfied by the suit case trade (returning friends and family). The question is not whether a market exists but why the business opportunity goes unresolved every day.
    The short answer is that the nature of our cultural experience does not create a hunger among our businessmen. Neither do our businessmen see foreign exchange creation as part of their national contribution. I would argue, even though I don’t have data, that Grace Kennedy was able to match their need for foreign exchange with the fact that Jamaicans, generally will choose their own products in preference to others.
    The deeper is issue is that our retail business generally did not require product branding. Chefette, Solar Dynamics and the Nation are the exception rather than the rule. We still confuse Marketing with Selling, and even though the communication channels have changed, we have not yet made a move because imitation rather than creation is our default position.
    In the 1980’s, when I was PRO for BMEX, a Best Buy Barbados logo was created with the objective of stamping all exported products and sowing a tourism seed at the same time. The Tourism experts saw themselves as separate from IDC, and I believe the project was abandoned. We speak of the Singapore model without understanding that the Asians see National implications in whatever they do.
    I would argue that our deep feelings about slavery still blind us and dirty our mirror image. My greatest fear is that we will continue to miss the several opportunities that lay before us. Image products are the in thing. Rhianna is a perfect example. I understand that people are fascinated by her Bajan accent. Her response to Dianne Sawyer’s probing spoke to her education and coaching. Her handlers were able to expand her fashion market experiences while parking her musical side without losing a step. Within a short period of three years she has been able to build an Empire. (Her words)
    The point is Rhianna a Barbadian product. Someone saw a need in a non Barbadian market and designed a Brand that Americans, Japanese, Russians, Europeans and others continue to purchase.
    Step 1 to branding Barbados is the acceptance of fact that there is no disgrace if you allow others to design your brand, especially when you are unable to step off the bus and see the bus. Otherwise we need to become critics who seek the good. Whenever we shake the tree to get the mangoes, we also get rid of the blossoms.

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  23. @ Sarge

    I can get some of those products too, but not at main stream shops. They can be had at the local Jamaican groceries. These stores cater to Caribbean peoples. We were discussing breaking into the mainstream (Loblaws, Metro, Zellers, WalMart) with products other than Mount Gay and Malibu.

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  24. @EyeSpy

    Ha ha ha! I used to get Bajan Ju-C up here. Then I noticed the label looked different and when I read it, it said ‘product of St. Vincent’. I bought one, no flavour, no fizz.

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  25. WE - All Ideas Are First Spoken

    Barbados’ water is different from water in the islands. When bathing one needs less soap and water in the islands. For me it is the water that made a difference with JU-C, Bank Beer, Lee & Perins Sauce etc. Since comments regarding diffrence in taste are always positive( including non Barbadians) I can only conclude that water based products should be a major part of our manufacturing industry. Can you imagine Gooseberry our sourasop wine?

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  26. We can all agree we maybe able to find some Bajan products on the shelves in foreign markets but the question remains if we need to provoke a national conversation about creating a national consciousness about where we need to go. At the moment these important issues seem to be divorced from the national agenda.

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  27. Living in Barbados

    @WE, “Barbados’ water is different from water in the islands”. Fortunately, manufacturers find ways around the specific qualities of local water (or other natural inputs) so that their products taste more or less as desired whatever the source. Thus, McDonalds can taste the same without needing to ship US beef all over the world.

    On ‘branding’, national images can be difficult to manage. Take Jamaica. Is its brand guns, drugs, and crime? That’s what many will see, but the nation would not wish to promote. Or is it sweet music, wonderful foods, a cool and easy way of life, fantastic athletes? That is what others will see and the nation would love to promote. But the promoters can only send the messages not control their reception.

    Rihanna clearly promotes Barbados (maybe not as all would wish it to be seen, but it’s more visible and generally seen positively) and alone could do much to ‘brand’ the island and generate valuable interest. Ryan Brathwaite too can add to the ‘brand’. One leaf to take is to associate the internationally known personalities and activities with products and let that do for the international stage (see Bolt and Powell and reggae and Marley = Jamaica; Brathwaite and Rihanna and cricket(?) = Barbados, etc.)

    The Chinese diplomats in Barbados wondered a few years ago why rum was not being promoted in China, where it was really an unknown product but could easily appeal to the Chinese drinkers. Jamaica and Barbados have now set up embassies in China to help do that, and promote other products.

    Are there, or do there need to be, priorities for national branding? I think that political leaders should have such priorities in mind and drive the agenda to get them followed. The nationals (including diaspora) can then be much better ambassadors.

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  28. in a global world role models like marley
    and mlk etc are an inspiration to everyone

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  29. Bob Marley – No Woman No Cry

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  30. @ whoever it was that said I am pining for a product and that does not a market make, I agree. However, the last thing I am doing is for pining for Barbados products. I experiemt and just enjoyed more sushi and Sake. @Rok, I have worked in Goverment and closely with two PSs and indeed I do appreciate totally how Government works. ALSO I agree with Denis on the issue of costs of exports etc. I understand economies of scale etc. However as it relates to tourism, I think we can do more since the way we market has NOT changed, also we have to stop expecting the Brits to turn up and US short stay visitors to arrive. Germany was once a huge market in the early 80s. But they have their neighbours and the Middle East and London. Think outside the box is what the people must do. Also, Rihanna is a product indeed. The fact that she did a 20/20 interview on the Chris Browne issue in her accent is great, only many thought she was Jamaican. However, Rihanna works and lives in the US on their immigration work permit for entertainers. Rihanna could do more but she is not obliged, she doesn’t have to and she has done a lot already. How can we then transate Rihanna into a BARBADOS as oposed to US super songstress, product? Help!
    Best, love this conversation.
    Kim

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  31. @Rok and @Dennis,
    chastised and understood. I think it is both political will and will power. As for beer, agreed. I shall also have a chat with Ms. Roach at BTA. How do we fully represent ourselves at world food expos. @Sageant, douse yourself in Alcolada. lol. R u not well?
    Kim

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  32. Where can I buy Ju-c in NY. Please forward some stores that are in Brooklyn, Queens, NYC etc

    I enjoyed this site. First time logging on.

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  33. Fah sure. Indeed. We are absolutely very in our marketing skills with regards to selling the Barbadian brand. I’ve been the African World Festival here in Michigan a few years ago and was very embarrassed to see the show case for Barbados. What made it more embarrassing was the theme Spirit of Barbados or words to that effect. There was no spirit to be felt from their presentation. I believe the show case was put together through the collaboration of both the Barbados Consulate (Toronto and Detroit). In a nutshell it totally lacked imagination and left a lot to be desired. Were I a person looking for a travel destination I would certainly not have selected Barbados.

    As for marketing of our products I must agree with the comments of Kim Young. Our products take up very little space on the supermarket shelves both in Toronto and Michigan and when you see them there are in the West Indian supermarkets. Really, with proper marketing we should be seeing our products in some of the main stream supermarkets as well. In the liquor stores the main/only Barbadian brand you see is Mount Gay rum.

    So yes there is an illusion that we are branded. I think that the BTA need to seriously go back to the drawing table and seriously review the staff in the marketing department, as well as review their overall approach to selling itself as a brand and really put our beautiful country on the map as one to be reckoned with. Maybe is it time to wake up and smell the Mount Gay and all the other brands that you produce.

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  34. @Truth Comes

    Interesting. I do not know who this person is but alas the brutish and nasty comments are typically Bajan, all I have to say to you is God Bless and I have a British passport, a Barbados passport by way of British birth etc. All other comments made by you are trash, slander and not factual and thus ignored. If you can’t say something food about someone, say nothing. Typical of not having anything to do with one’s precious time left on this earth.

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