A variety of natural juices that are made a little more than 20 kilometers from Santo Domingo reach the United States market. This is Caribe Juice, Dominican company which is located in the “Nigua Free Zone”, a free zone park in the south of the country.
“Our company started in 2014. We started extremely small from my house, we processed the fruits, put the frozen fruits in bags and sent them in a container to the United States and that took us almost three months to do,” says Johann Batlle, vice president by Caribe Juice.
He explains that what they visualized from that moment, they still maintain, to bring to the US market the tropical fruits and flavors that are customary in the region, such as passion fruit, guava, lemon, carambolas, cherries, mango, watermelon, among others.
“We identified that in the United States there was not really an offer of them (tropical fruits), only products made with concentrates and products that do not really represent the flavors that we as Dominicans are guaranteed,” he said. The company sells 99.5% of what it produces in the US.
He indicates that: “Today we continue with the same commitment. We have had ups and downs, but today we are a company that sells our products nationwide and in the United States we are with the largest distributors such as Walmart, Whole Foods, Target, Costco, among others. Almost all the big ones (commercial establishments) have our products”.
He points out that in the short term they aspire to continue expanding their distribution in the United States. But in the long term they want to continue towards other horizons, other countries that have the same emptiness such as Canada, the countries of Europe and, also, they think of the Caribbean islands.
The expansion plans have been slowed down by the lack of financing in the Dominican Republic, being forced to borrow in dollars in the United States.
“Approaches have been made by different platforms in the country, but without existence,” says Lennis Núñez, director of operations.
Despite this situation, they do not lower their guard, but less and less hope is lost and requests continue to be made so that “companies like these with a real location, with a real and physical job that can be visited at any time, because they are deposit the trust in a forceful way. What would that forceful way be like, then, providing funds that allow expansions and bringing labor here that we know we have had to place in the United States”.
Caribe Juice has two plants, one of them has state-of-the-art technology, which is a technology that maintains the product in a healthy way and kills microorganisms through the high pressure process or High Pressure Processing.
The company has a capacity of 10 million liters per year, “a little more because there are two machines that are combined and can give 11 million in production at full capacity.”
In addition, the Caribe Juice company has a direct employment of around 170 people, multiplying when added to the chain that is formed from the producer of the field that involves harvesting, packaging and transportation.
“We have two production plants: one for the natural pulp process, in which we have the capacity to pulp multiple fruits, including passion fruit, watermelons, guavas, cherries, avocado, ginger, sapodilla, among others,” he indicated. Lennis Núñez, director of operations.
He assures that this plant has a capacity that exceeds 700,000 pounds per month. “This pulping capacity maintains all the organoleptic characteristics of the product and makes it completely natural. This implies that there is no contact with heat in the fruit, which allows the products that are made from our pulps to be totally natural.”
More details on Caribe Juice below. The company offered some details to Diario Libre
Why is Caribe Juice in an industrial park Chigger Free Zone?
The situation of the park is unique. It provides access to lower-cost raw materials, direct labor, and overhead, leading to higher margins, better operating efficiencies, and greater social benefits for the local economy.
Our 25,000 square foot manufacturing facility gives us a competitive advantage by enabling global distribution, availability of fresh raw materials, and low manufacturing and overhead costs. Due to our significant growth expectations, we plan to grow our team from 150 employees today to 250 next year (2023).
What products does the company sell?
Currently, Caribe Juice sells branded and proprietary products through various retail channels and supermarket chains in the United States and Dominican Republic markets.
In 2020 we acquired the WTRMLN WTR brand, original cold-pressed watermelon juice, in an agreement that marks a turning point in the company’s growth story. Right now we are in the process of applying for a US$1MM revolving line of credit to provide financial flexibility and working capital to meet the initial increase in purchases of raw materials, specialized machinery and other expenses necessary to meet the demands of the newly merged company.
How much fruit will be exported in 2022 from the Dominican Republic to the United States market?
We have a global purchase forecast of 22 million pounds of fruit.
From which Dominican provinces come the fruits that are going to be used to make the juices?
Of the great majority. Vegetables from Constanza, guava from Monte Planta, San Pedro de Macorís and Puerto Plata. Chinolas from Higüey, Hato Mayor and Azua. Cherry from Puerto Plata, Monte Plata and San Cristóbal. Sugarcane from Monte Plata and Avocado from the border, among others.
What products are going to be manufactured with Dominican fruits?
Juices for the WTRMLN WTR, Caribe Juice and private label brands.
What is the planned investment for 2022 (by operations)?
Two million dollars.
What is your expected growth for the next few years?
The expected growth of the company is exponential, four times in 2021 to 20 million and twice in 2022 to 40 million. Due to our competitive advantages, we expect EBITDA to grow from four million in 2021 to 11.2 million in 2022.
What is the differentiating value of Caribe Juice?
Caribe Juice was born from the need to offer natural and nutrient-rich juices. As our name suggests, our inspiration comes straight from the Caribbean, where fresh juices are a cultural staple. We pride ourselves on making high-quality, cold-pressed, healthy juices. We are proud to be Dominicans and that our products are recognized internationally. We strongly believe in educating and empowering consumers to take an active role in their health, which is why our juices contain no preservatives or added sugar.
We are the only company based in the Caribbean that uses HPP for juice. To preserve all the flavor and health benefits of our products, our process is based on a continuous cold chain from production to consumption. After hand-picking the product at peak maturity, the juice is cold pressed and then passed through HPP (high pressure processing). HPP is a cold pressurization technique that kills bacteria, viruses and other flora, extending the shelf life of the product and guaranteeing food safety.
What is your relationship with the producers?
We participate in a circular economy, in which giving back to the community is a priority and in which win-win situations are sought. We buy our fruits from more than 100 small farmers in the Dominican Republic.
Thanks to our passion and commitment, small farmers are the protagonists of today’s competitive global economy.
Our environment is the key supplier and as such we work on a “nothing goes to waste” basis, allowing us to make the most of our raw materials and reduce landfill. Our bottles, caps and rings are recyclable and will soon be 100% recycled and biodegradable PET.
What is your relationship with the Government? Do you think they support companies like yours?
The Government is betting on making commercial processes more efficient and simplified. For example, this year 2022 we have obtained the AEO-Simplified Certification, in order to enjoy the benefit of the 24-hour customs program.