The family ownership at the helm of K.C. Confectionery Ltd. has led its candy business through the last 90 years with a combination of innovative technologies and old-school sensibilities. Ashmeer Mohamed praises his family’s dedication to bringing the latest technological advances into the company’s facility in Trinidad and Tobago while maintaining handshake agreements with distributors who have worked with K.C. Confectionery for decades.
It doesn’t hurt to understand the palate of the Caribbean people, either. “All our formulations are developed in-house and are suited to Caribbean tastes,” says Mohamed, who serves as director of international marketing for K.C. Confectionery. “We’re not making sophisticated products, but we’re manufacturing with state-of-the-art equipment.”
This juxtaposition is no more evident than in the candy maker’s 114,000-square-foot production facility in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago. There, K.C. Confectionery produces tastes that are timeless favorites to Caribbean people in the region and throughout the world with machinery that can wrap 1,800 pieces of candy per minute – all sourced by suppliers operating on handshake agreements still in place decades after they were made.
“We produce 30 tons of candy in eight hours, and there is nothing faster in the world,” Mohamed boasts. “We have a reasonable amount of international recognition, but we want to be a household name.”
The company is well on its way it seems, considering K.C. Confectionery exports approximately 70 percent of its production. Mohamed says K.C. Confectionery ships products to nations throughout the Caribbean as well as to the United States, Canada and England.
K.C. Confectionery’s company policy is to upgrade its equipment every five years. In 2009, it purchased an automated hard candy line from Bosch. The new equipment uses dosage pumps to automatically produce the same size of candy for up to six months of production.
The company also installed a new technology that better captures flavor. Mohamed says his company has cut costs associated with evaporation of flavor as its candy was made. This technology saves the company money by preventing this evaporation altogether.
“One of our advantages is we have always embraced technology,” Mohamed says.
K.C. Confectionery’s embrace of technology helped one of its largest customers in its expansion efforts. In 1980, Cadbury licensed K.C. Confectionery to manufacture its products for the Caribbean market, partly because of its advanced manufacturing capabilities. When Cadbury expanded into Fiji, the candy giant approached K.C. Confectionery about installing its systems in the Fijian facility.
“They had to come to us to find out how to manufacture like we did because they were on an old batch system,” Mohamed explains. “So, technology flowed to Cadbury rather than the other way around.”
During its journey from a regional candy manufacturer to a worldwide producer and distributor, K.C. Confectionery embraced technology while leaving other parts of its operations firmly entrenched in the past. This is no more evident than in its partnerships with customers, with whom Mohamed says there is nary a signed contract.
“What we’ve developed is a loyal customer base,” he says. “Most of the customers we deal with have been with us over 20 years. We have no formal written agreements; just verbal agreements about doing business.”
K.C. Confectionery shares that sense of loyalty with its employees, as well. Mohamed says employees at every level – many of whom have 30 to 40 years of experience with the company – are empowered to make their own decisions so they feel like they have a stake in the company.
For instance, K.C. Confectionery’s department heads meet once a week to determine what products will be produced in the week ahead. Mohamed explains this not only gives employees decision-making power, but it helps the company identify potential managers and executives from within its own workforce.
They’re trained to make informed decisions, as well. Mohamed says K.C. Confectionery executes regular formal and informal training both in classroom settings as well as on the job. Topics include good manufacturing processes, ISO refresher courses and management training.