PA Benjamin thinks big

PA Benjamin to commence $450-M expansion Q1 2018

BY KARENA BENNETT
Business reporter
bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 08, 2017



Weeks after securing four awards at the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association Awards Ceremony, PA Benjamin has disclosed that plans are underway to begin construction of its new factory by first quarter 2018.

It's a project valued at $450 million.

But not only is the company constructing a new factory on land it acquired 30 years ago, PA Benjamin is also in the final stage of receiving approval for the acquisition of a section of John's Lane — the road that separates its East Street factory from the space earmarked for the construction.

The acquisition of the section of the lane will result in some traffic changes and as such has delayed construction of the new factory.

“The original plan was to be in there by now, but it seems to be at the final stages now and the drawings are ready to be given to the KSAC. So we hoping that early in 2018 we will start construction,” director Christopher Powell told the Jamaica Observer during a tour of the factory last week.

“When it's completed it's going to be one big property. We are going through a tender process now for the construction of the factory, and we have contracted an engineer who was responsible for designing the plan to FDA and our specifications, and he is also responsible for managing the project and getting the contractor,” he continued.

Plans are that the new building will be completed by 2019, doubling the space of the PA Benjamin facility to roughly 52,000 square feet. The company will split the newly constructed building into a factory and a laboratory, allowing for more warehouse space and for the testing of all its products to be done in-house.

What's more, PA Benjamin is also planning to expand into a line of castor oil products next year. Discussions are also underway for expansion into other product lines, but the company was tight-lipped on the details. The expanded product line will form part of PA Benjamins' target for four new products per year.

Today the 138-year-old company manufacturers 100 products, including its pharmaceuticals line, personal care, cough and cold, infant care, flavourings and colourings, savouries, laundry and household-cleaning products, and bath and body care products under the Body Collections brand. While the company did not disclose its production capacity, it is understood that the total product number is doubled to facilitate different sizes to meet consumer demand.

Over the years, PA Benjamin has established a reputation as a supplier for vanilla and rubbing alcohol. Technical Manager Gabrielle Andrade, in explaining why the company has become the household brand for many Jamaicans locally and overseas, said it is based on the extensive research done by the company to understand market needs.

“We conduct a market analysis looking at what products are out there, as well ask about our existing products and if there is something else that the customers would like to see from that line. Once all that information is gathered, we start the feasibility study to determine if it will make sense to produce it and then, based on that, we start developing the formulation. If what we develop is stable, we conduct a market test,” she told the Business Observer.

“The labellings and designs will come after, but with that we take into consideration how do people respond to the images. We were looking at something as simple as flavouring and what type of colours people expect to see. Something like vanilla, which traditionally you may think of as white, the bean itself is brown and Jamaicans are so used to seeing that colour,” Andrade continued.

All products manufactured at the company's factory are made to conform to British and United States pharmacopoeia standards and in-house standards. Its laboratory is capable of performing microbiological analytical tests and currently conducts approximately 80 per cent of product-testing activity in-house.

With the new facility PA Benjamin will not only double production capacity, but also should increase the number of people it employs by at least 40 per cent, moving from its current number of 85 employees to roughly 120 people.

“We believe that with the new facility we will be able to experience the true potential of PA Benjamin. Many times we have received orders, but because of constraints we have not been able to meet those demands. We are confident we can meet those orders once everything is in place,” Powell said.

The Benjamins brand is currently marketed in more than 20 countries, including the USA, Canada, United Kingdom and the Caribbean, with export sales accounting for approximately 33 per cent of total sales. Locally, the products are sold to two major distributors — T Geddes Grant and Facey Commodity Ltd — for distribution into wholesales, supermarkets and pharmacies, while internationally the company secures distributors for each market.

The privately owned company recently named Latin America and Ghana as two of its newest targets as it seek to double revenue from exports.

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