Wonderful ‘made in Samoa’ success stories

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 12 March 2018, 12:00AM

We know this much. 

It’s a mountain of a task for local companies from small countries like Samoa to break into some of the major overseas markets, which are dominated by big corporate companies. For the simple reason that these global conglomerates have the money, resources and political muscle to dominate. 

But that hasn’t stopped our people from trying. 

And during the past few days, we’ve seen some wonderful examples of what could happen when local companies continue to put their best foot forward and work hard for their share of that global pie. 

In the big scheme of things, it might not matter much in the eyes of the outside world. But that’s not the point. We believe that coming from a small country in the middle of the vast Pacific ocean; these are achievements worth celebrating and encouraging. 

First there was the Vailima Beer’s big break into the U.S.A market, announced last week. Thanks to an agreement between Samoa Breweries Limited and Foredrinks LLC, people living in U.S. states including Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, California, Utah, Nevada, will soon be able to taste Vailima there.

People in Hawaii will follow suit and other states.

“Entering into a market like the United States of America is not something you can do overnight,” said Heath Baker, International Sales Manager. 

National Sales Manager, Aumua George Avia, said the decision is all about taking the brand to their customers – especially thousands of Samoans overseas.

 “We know certainly that there’s a lot of Samoans who used to live here in Samoa and in American Samoa that have moved to the U.S,” he said. “This is about taking a bit of home with you and keeping it there to the U.S. with yourself. 

“In the bigger scheme, it’s been an honour and pleasure to be giving such a wonderful product to the U.S. and to indulge them as well. Another part of the strategy is to help grow Samoa as well.”

With the deal sealed on its 40th year anniversary, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi congratulated the company.

“This investment also provides the platform for import substitution and employment creation for the people of Samoa,” he said. “I look forward to future developments with this exciting venture, which I am confident, will prosper and continue to ensure the financial stability to the Samoan families.”

But beer is not the only Samoan product that is on its way to the big U.S. market. Yesterday, another local business, Pacific Oil, announced a major deal with U.S. multinational company, Dr. Bronners, where some three thousand tonnes of coconut oil from Samoa will be exported to the United States.

After years of negotiations, Pacific Oil’s Director, Fanene Samau Sefo, is excited about the potential not just for Pacific Oil but also for Samoan coconut farmers.

 “With the new joint venture, we are now paying a much higher price for copra than we ever used to because the price is now good,” Fanene said.

“At the moment we have 1,050 farmers who sell to us, but that list is expanding because what we have done in the past 16 months is convert all our farmers who supply us into organic and Fairtrade farmers.”

All these farmers – and possibly more – stand to benefit from the deal. 

“The deal is we provide the oil and we sell it to them,” Fanene explained. “They (Dr. Bronners) came here about three years ago and started looking around for a company that could provide them with coconut oil.

“Up until now, they have been getting their oil from the Philippines because they are the highest producers of coconut oil, but they weren’t happy with the quality. 

“So they tested the quality of our oil and they were very happy with it.”

The rest as they say is history.

Now let’s be realistic, just because these two companies have gotten a foot in the U.S. market doesn’t mean that everything will be roses from now on. Far from it. 

There will be many challenges along the way. This is only the beginning. 

For Vailima, it’s about finding a niche market in such a global environment where there are so many other beers. It’s about targeting a certain market who would realistically buy the product for one reason or another.

As for Pacific Oil, there are quality control issues they have to think about, especially for such a tough market as the United States. Then there is the question of whether there is enough local supply for coconut oil given the high demand for coconuts – green and otherwise - today. But these are some of the challenges. We are sure both companies have got them sorted.

Lastly, the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (S.R.O.S.) deserves to be commended for developing whiskey from our very own talo. Fascinating stuff.

Who would’ve thought that one day we could be talking about a whiskey made in Samoa, let alone from talo? 

Ladies and gentlemen, these are exciting developments. Amidst the doom and gloom of the political sphere and everything else that is happening here, they are inspiring stories that we should be proud of and continue to encourage.

Congratulations to everyone involved and here is hoping for more and more similar stories. Have a wonderful Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 12 March 2018, 12:00AM

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