I came across a very interesting article on the UK Guardian’s website about that sugar that has been showing up on Barbadian supermarket shelves “Plantation Reserve”. I will admit to being more that a little bit skeptical the first time I saw it, however after some thought it begins to make more sense. The Guardian article lays it all out….
So Barbados has come up with a novel idea to save its sugar. The island has always been a byword for excellence in sugar and, rather than fighting a futile battle to compete on the bulk-commodity sugar market, it intends to capitalise on its strong historical reputation and go for broke by making nothing less than the best sugar in the world. With the clock ticking away towards the 2009 deadline, it is developing a new generation of sugars that it hopes will distinguish it from its competition, and allow it to provision niche markets around the globe.
The first of these is Plantation Reserve, a unique, straw-coloured sugar with large, sparkling crystals. Stick your nose in a tin and you inhale the most remarkable butterscotch-and-fudge aroma. In the mouth, Plantation Reserve is reminiscent of the slightly green, sugar-snap pea-like sweetness you will find in freshly squeezed sugar-cane juice. It is not to be confused with dark, treacly muscovado sugars, or the nondescript ‘brown’ sugars that are simply ultra-refined white sugars, re-coloured with molasses. ‘If you smelled and tasted Plantation Reserve blind against other golden sugars, you would definitely spot the difference. It has a buttery caramel taste and a more intense, deep flavour and aroma than any other sugar. It is very, very different,’ says Cameron Steele, Sandy Lane’s executive pastry chef.
Now for most people sugar has always been a commodity. However this product jumps out into the uncharted waters of an “Ultra Premium” sugar. The market for this product is a niche amongst niches, but Barbados is SO small, that on a global scale the niche could probably absorb all of the sugar that we manufacture. The strategy leverages the “Barbados Brand” that we have established (what with Sandy Lane, Concorde, etc. etc.) and also factors in a feel good factor so if you buy fair trade bananas you might find this product attractive.
I can only hope that the Government has all of it’s intellectual property in place with trademark registrations and copy rights world wide, because if this works, other people will be quick to copy.
However this goes to the heart of my philosophy on Globalisation, the “have pity on a poor small island” approach is not going to work in the new global world order. However I do believe that if we pick the areas where we can compete, and if we exercise our creativity and intellect to do some original thinking other than following everyone else into mediocrity the Caribbean can not only survive, but can prosper in the future. The example of Plantation Reserve, illustrates that concept beautifully.