C A P E H E R B A N D S P I C E
Cape Herb and Spice
SPICEof LIFE Managing director of The Cape Herb and Spice Company, Paul Jibson, tells Jane Bordenave how the organisation has grown from a wheelbarrow vendor to one of the premier providers of dried herbs and spices in the world.
he Cape Herb and Spice Company is a Cape Townbased producer of high quality herb and spice products to the retail sector. The organisation was founded by Irene Ivy and started its life operating out of a wheelbarrow on the city’s waterfront in 1992. Having had great success using this model of selling to passing trade, Ivy decided to formalise the
business, registering it in 1994. The company now exports its goods around the world, as well as serving the local market. The registration of the company in 1994 is what really brought it to the next level of operation and made it what it is today. “There was a two-fold driving force in the Cape Herb and Spice Company officially registering its business in 1994,” explains managing director Paul Jibson. “Firstly,
we began providing private label goods to a local food retailer in South Africa. Secondly, at more or less the same time, we got our first export order form the United Kingdom. In order to progress, we had to become officially registered.” Approximately three years ago the firm sold a majority stake to Liberty Star Consumer Holdings – a private label manufacturing solutions provider to all retailers in www.southafricamag.com
South Africa. Over the intervening years, The Cape Herb and Spice Company has evolved to primarily become an export operation producing private label goods. “70 percent of our revenue comes from exports, while the remaining 30 percent is from domestic sales,” says Jibson. “In terms of private label to own label products, the split is 80/20. What this means is that of all the herbs and spices we produce, 80 percent is sold under the name of a store of brand such as Co-operative and Jamie Oliver in the UK or Woolworths in South Africa. The remaining 20 percent is sold as The Cape Herb and Spice Company products.” This method has produced an enterprise with annual revenue of over £11.5 million.
KEEPING IT LOCAL The Cape Herb and Spice Company prefers to keep almost all of its manufacturing and business operations in house at its Cape Town factory and office. This approach allows it to keep all its threads together and maintain its focus, whether that is warehousing, logistics, production or distribution. It aids the research and development process as it can be approached in context. The company has also chosen to pursue a strategy of mechanised production with human input, rather than all-out automation. “Our process has to be flexible in terms of quantity and variety of product. Full automation would restrict us in this area, while our current way of operating, using machines but also keeping people working on the production allows us to be more responsive to our clients’ needs.” Innovation has always been important to all aspects of the company’s business and its constant drive in this area is an important part of its evolution. “One of our earliest examples of innovation was the development of an 3
Cape Herb and Spice
adjustable transparent disposable grinder – that is a single use container with a grinder attached. While these are fairly commonplace now, in the late 1990s, Cape Herb and Spice Company was the first business in the world to develop this kind of product,” recounts Jibson. The organisation held that niche for many years, however as more and more competitors began to use the same design, it began to lose this defining edge. “In our industry, the only barrier to entry is finding the moulds for the grinder mechanism and a way of filling the containers – which can be done by hand if necessary,” Jibson says. “So we had to reinvent ourselves otherwise we would lose ground to the competition.”
modern, which we launched at the end of last year,” says Jibson. “It is still as robust as before but the shape has totally changed. We also set about redesigning the labelling, making it more ‘funky’ and eye-catching, while maintaining simplicity.” It was not just the aesthetics that changed, but also the range of available sizes. “We used to only produce 100ml grinders, however now we are able to provide a selection of larger and smaller volumes up to 325ml,” Jibson explains. Another area of innovation has been in the sterilisation process of the herbs themselves. “There are lots of challenges inherent in this business, but reducing or eliminating the levels of micro-organisms present in the product while retaining quality is one of the biggest,” says Jibson. “Our business is export focused, so we have to meet the most exacting international standards in order to be successful.”
We had to reinvent ourselves otherwise we would lose ground to the competition
A REVAMP What was needed was a revamp, which, two years ago, is exactly what happened. The company wanted to keep the acrylic container-built in grinder combination, so it focused on redeveloping the design. “We developed a container that was sleeker and more
STRINGENT REGULATION Perhaps ironically, for an export business, the country www.southafricamag.com
Cape Herb and Spice
with the most stringent regulations regarding microbial content is South Africa. However, the methods used to meet these levels of acceptability can damage the product. The most commonly used system for the sterilisation of herbs and spices before packaging is irradiation. This is not surprising, as the process kills absolutely everything, but it is, for The Cape Herb and Spice Company not the most desirable solution. “There are other standard methods available that will clean the product to the necessary standards, but these can ruin the natural oils of the product, which gives it its flavour, as well as causing discolouration,” says Jibson. The Cape Herb and Spice Company took it upon itself to engineer away from irradiation, but find a process that did not compromise quality either. Working with the University of Stellenbosch, the organisation came up with was an innovative freezing technique that is entirely unique. “This has put us at the forefront of innovation in this area – achieving
optimum sterilisation without compromising taste,” says Jibson. And what of the future? This is a fast-moving and competitive market, how does the Cape Herb and Spice Company intend to stay ahead of the curve? “Our current mission statement is to be the preferred herb and spice manufacturer and provider to the retail industry globally. Our vision statement for the next five years is much the same, except that we would also like to be investing in new categories and categories within categories. For example, we currently produce only dry products, however in the future we hope to also look at manufacturing cooking pastes – particularly the fruit-based niche. We also want to increase penetration into the domestic market; this is very important for our progression as a business, particularly with the Rand as strong as it is currently. This will be quite a step change for us, but we hope to achieve it both through natural growth and also any acquisition opportunities that present themselves.” END
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Published on Apr 3, 2011