Notes From The Margin

July 23, 2007

Plantation Reserve – An Interesting Strategy

Filed under: Agriculture,Barbados,Capitalism,Caribbean,Caricom,Globalisation,philosphy,Sugar,tourism,WTO — notesfromthemargin @ 1:41 am

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.



  1. Interesting story. I saw the sugar in a Waitrose supermarket in England and vaguely wondered about it so thought the Guardian article was interesting, if a bit long, and have forwarded it around. Question is, is there enough demand for a really upscale sugar like this to keep the Barbados sugar industry afloat ? Nice looking tin though, maybe I’ll be me one and refill with the normal stuff….

    Comment by james — July 25, 2007 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

  2. Maybe I was a little OTT in the original post, however the real truth of the matter is that Barbados doesn’t have much sugar to sell (when compared to the absolute size of the market). So even a small niche could be considerable in terms of the size of the island.


    Comment by notesfromthemargin — July 25, 2007 @ 1:35 pm | Reply

  3. In the article it says that the average Brazilian plantation is larger than Barbados which illustrates your point. Regardless of the economics, I do think it’s an excellent idea – at least somebody’s doing something. I’ve heard people talk about ‘branding’ sugar for 20 years. Just trawling through the web, it looks like they’re in all the right places (Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Waitrose, Royal Ascot, The Ritz – basically a who’s who of stores and events where posh English people go to shop) which is an achievement in itself and has got to be good for the sugar industry and Barbados. Good luck to ’em.

    Comment by james — July 25, 2007 @ 1:53 pm | Reply

  4. it’s wonderful but needs to be more available to US market …

    website only sells in pounds and this is discouraging to us poor state-siders!


    Comment by Rhonda — December 7, 2007 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

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