- Expands overseas presence
- Improves livelihoods of over 10,000 farmers
Ceylon Bis-cuits Limited’s (CBL) new Managing Director Sheamalee Wickramasingha says CBL is positioned for successful expansion. On the cards is growth momentum overseas and meaningful developments locally, while delivering sustainable top tier performance. The leading biscuit manufacturing company in Sri Lanka is setting up a dedicated manufacturing facility in the Seethavaka Board of Investment zone for the overseas export purpose with an investment over Rs. 1.2 billion.
“We want to be number one in the SAARC region. Mun-chee is already strong in many parts of India. We will also enter any other market where we see opportunities. We already have strong markets in the EU, Australia, Africa and North America,” said Wickramasingha.
The company will continue to invest in their iconic brands with Munchee being the market leader holding over half (60%) of the domestic biscuit market, Ritzbury controlling 46% the chocolate market, Tiara, CBLs cakes, controlling 75% of the branded cake market and Lankasoy accounting for 25% the soya meat market, noted Wickramasingha.
The confectionary powerhouse is now eyeing expansion into foreign markets while growing its domestic market share. The company says its export strategy is based on adapting its product offering to different market requirements. CBL also focuses heavily on its distribution network and marketing activities, to promote its products into new markets.
CBL says its products for the domestic market are on par with export standards. “The quality standard is the same for the domestic market, as for the export market. But we have gone for a dedicated export facility because export demand has grown exponentially and we cannot cater to this through our existing capacity. Also a dedicated export facility within the export processing zone makes it easier to export by using other export oriented services,” explained Wickramasingha, who has a Masters in Food Chemistry from Purdue University, USA, and a BSc from the Kansas State University in Food Science and Industry.
Wickramasingha joined CBL in 1991 as a food technologist and has held several positions within the company. She joined the CBL board in 1996 but prior to this, in 1994, started Modern Pack Lanka, a packaging company, where she is the Managing Director. She is also an executive director of several CBL subsidiaries.
As part of its innovative product development for local and foreign markets, CBL has introduced a range of herbal biscuits starting with its Kurakkan Cracker and Karapincha Cracker while the latest herbal biscuit, Kothalahimbutu, is the brainchild of the Chairman of CBL.
“It took seven years of research, in collaboration with the ITI, to develop the Kothalahimbutu biscuit because we wanted to make sure the efficacy of the raw ingredients were preserved, while making it pleasant to eat,” says Wickramasingha, adding that the Kothalahimbutu Cracker has been received extremely favourably by consumers. “In fact the consumer’s feedback so far on the product has been very positive,” she said. The company also plans to increase rice based products due to government encouragement in this area.
Wickramasingha notes that CBL was founded on a CSR premise and says the company is involved in many Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities in areas of education, rural infrastructure development, sports, arts, culture, skills development and others, with a focus on sustainable development. Among its many projects CBL is also involved, with the UNDP, in a project to revive the disappearing art of beekeeping, to increase production of bee’s honey in Uva province.
“Our main drive is community sustainability. We also support education in a big way. The most important objective, through CSR activities, says Wickramasingha, is to enhance access to education.
“What is closest to my heart is what we do to enhance education opportunities for children. We have helped children make it to university and I feel this is a huge achievement because children are the future of this country,” explains Wickramasingha.
The Samaposha food brand, manufactured using agricultural raw material such as corn, rice, soya and green gram are purchased from approximately 10,000 dedicated farmers closely working with CBL’s subsidiary company, Plenty Foods Limited.
These farmers are attached to a backward integration program where their produce is purchased by the company according to a pre-agreed pricing formula, ironing out the negative effects the farmers would otherwise face due to market price fluctuations.
This has created a lot of positive sentiment among farmers to be with the company and to adhere with the production and quality requirements introduced by the company.
Today, CBL provides employment to 1,700 people, while the CBL group has generated employment for around 4,000 people. However, Wickramasingha notes that CBL enjoys low employee turnover. Wickramasingha says this is a result of CBL’s open door policy towards employees of all levels and its many employee welfare initiatives.
“Each year we recognise employees that have served the company for a long period and we recognise the service rendered by our employees. Some employees who joined the company as factory hands have now reached executive positions because we provide opportunities for growth.
Our business is about sustainability with food security becoming a global issue. We are all very involved in the entire process of our business and will continue to do so,” emphasised Wickramasingha.