Forty years on, Banks Beer finally makes it to the U.S. mainland

Pat Hoyos/The BSJ Published April 22, 2008

After trying unsuccessfully for close to half a century to market various versions of Bank Beer internationally, the two owners of the Banks name, one in Barbados and the other in Guyana, finally came together in 2005 and agreed buy shares in each other’s companies, following up with an agreement to a joint export strategy for the brand.

An early union between the two enterprises, both built by Guyanese entrepreneur Peter D’Aguiar, in Guyana in the 1950s and barbados with a decade after, was terminated in the 1960’s and the two companies went their separate ways, and thus two Banks Beers were developed, according to Banks Holdings Ltd.’s CEO Richard Cozier, speaking last week at the launch of Banks new export drive.

 He noted that almost from inception, Banks Barbados began receiving requests from visitors about availability of the product back home, but with no rights to use the name outside of the Caribbean, and with the Guyana company independently pursuing its own export strategy, the Barbados firm was in a quandary. To get around the export barrier, he said, various options were evaluated, including renaming of the product for export to “Bajan” but, with the exception of a brief stint in the UK, no real progress was made. “This independent and differential marketing was to last for over 40 years with neither entity being able to derive a meaningful export business,” lamented Mr. Cozier.

When the two banks firms finally started working together, options evaluated including contract filling by host brewers in North America and elsewhere, but in the end it was decided that the brand should be produced in Barbados. Banks DIH in Guyana also authorized BHL to produce their Shandy range for the North American markets. Mr. Cozier offered his company kudos to the team from Banks DIH in Guyana, which was represented at the launch by the Director of Marketing George McDonald.

Next came the task of determining the best areas to penetrate and best options to service those areas, Mr. Cozier explained. With the assistance of the BIDC, through its Technical Assistance Fund, research was commissioned which highlighted the areas where Banks Beer was likely to make inroads the fastest, as well as consumer opinion data which helped determine both the marketing and advertising strategies to be used. Mr. Cozier gave credit to the overseas missions in New York of both Guyana and Barbados which he said also aided the process greatly.

Armed with the research and the demographics of the area, the next step was to attract representation by reputable agencies, said the BH’s CEO. “The US adopts a three-tier system which requires every alcoholic beverage to enter into the US through a registered importer,” he explained. “The importer then sells to a licensed distributor who then sells to retail from whom the consumer makes the final purchase. The three-tiers operate independently of each other, and, in addition, there are two levels of taxes, State and Federal and amidst all this, there are the regulatory approvals from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, known as the TTB.”

Stansfeld Scott Inc., headed by Barbadian Patrick Cabral and located in Miami, has therefore been appointed Banks’ importer.

Mr. Cozier said that all of the above reasons where why the project took over two years from original concept to first shipment. Three weeks ago, three containers containing over 3,800 cases of Banks Beer were shipped to New York, representing the start of what the two companies expect will turn into a reasonable export business within three years. Finally, for any brand to succeed it requires marketing support, he said, thanking Timothy Simmons and the Export Promotion & Marketing Fund, for helping to provide it.
Mr. Cozier said he wanted to thank the Government and all the agencies, individuals and consumers in Guyana, Barbados and now New York who readily supported this new export effort.

In his remarks, Minister responsible for Trade, Industry and Commerce George Hutson noted that that the penetration of extra-regional markets by Bajan products was “critical to the future development of Barbados’ economy and therefore, Government is intent on providing the necessary support which the manufacturing sector requires.. This is shown through the support given to the export venture by the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) and the Enterprise Growth Fund Limited (EGFL).







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