Business Times

CBL revenues high but challenged by Indian, Chinese copies of ‘Munchee’

By Bandula Sirimanna

Ceylon Biscuits Limited (CBL), whose biscuits reach out to consumers in 45 countries, has recorded its highest ever revenue in history but at the same time is facing difficult challenges with Chinese and Indian brands copying the Sri Lankan brand.

Manufacturers from countries such as China and India are copying the CBL brand image and manufacturing counterfeit biscuits and this is one of the biggest issues the company is facing. “The ever increasing cost of raw material, inadequate regulatory assistance and fluctuating freight charges come across as some of the other hurdles we have to encounter during our operations,” Jude Rubera, General Manager – Exports told the Business Times.

But he said CBL is confident of a growth exceeding 20% in exports during the 2010-11 financial year establishing itself as a strong player in the country's export arena. The expertise CBL has shown in strengthening its activities in the global market place with non-conventional exports has helped in building Sri Lanka's reputation as a non-traditional exporter.

An operation which had only Maldives, Canada, Australia and USA as its export markets during the late '90, CBL has now spread its wings across all continents encapsulating both conventional markets and non-conventional markets for confectionery exports. Countries such as Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Tahiti, Fiji are emerging as the high potential regions while New Zealand, UK, France, Switzerland, Norway and Singapore have a steady following in terms of both value and volume, the official said.

The export product portfolio is lead by Munchee biscuits recording the highest volume and income. In addition Ritzbury chocolates and Tiara cakes have secured exports to 15 countries while Samaposha / Lanka Soy brands have strengthened their positions in ethnic markets (among Sri Lankans expatiates) such as UK, Australia, the Middle East and Canada.

Mr Rubera noted that both product development and market development strategies have helped CBL to achieve its present status. “We have continuously kept abreast with the happenings in global confectionery industry and has taken part in international food exhibitions which paved the way to new markets.”

In addition to being an off-the-shelf supplier to most top end supermarkets in several countries, CBL is also the supplier to some international air lines and restaurant-cafeteria chains. As the largest confectionery exporter of Sri Lanka, CBL Exports has extensive plans for future expansions. Mr Ruberu, who is quite upbeat about the future, said it is their objective to become the number one confectionery brand in Asia. In order to achieve this, the company has set an interim goal of becoming the number one confectioner in the SAARC region. “We are also exploring the possibility of expanding our production facilities to West Africa,” he further added.

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