Toilet paper was a luxury on Haiti when Glory Industries began its niche mission for hygiene… and 80% of the market

A new era of enterprise has started for one industry on the Caribbean republic eight years after a devastating earthquake caused major damage and killed up to 160,000. Long supplied exclusively by multinational brand imports, founder and director general Myrtha Vilbon plans ambitious expansion… and eventually exports. She talked to TWM.

TWM/1: What led you to establish Glory Industries?
“Following 17 years of imports and distribution of multinational brands with unhappy endings, I decided to seek added-value through local production, promoting products and brands of my own. Toilet paper – a first necessity – overlooked by many, was a luxury, not affordable to 40% of the Haitian population. There I seized the opportunity to respond to a need and a hygiene issue in a population of 11,400,000 inhabitants, who had previously been supplied exclusively with imported toilet tissue paper (100%).

“The company started with the production of 35 gram rolls, which have proven to be a success. The aim is to outfit every Haitian household and institution with affordable personal care tissue hygiene products, starting with toilet paper and napkin, and our pricing strategy consists of having small margins over large volume.

“Our products address the local community’s need of affordable, environmental-friendly toilet paper rolls and napkin, which help improve access to sanitary paper. We produce a range of toilet paper rolls in diversified labels, weights and prices, and are one of two local converters sharing 10% of the local market. To meet the needs of Haiti’s low-income consumers, our toilet paper rolls can be as small as 35 grams and account for 60% of our production. Our low-cost toilet rolls create an important niche for consumers, moving away from traditional sanitary methods to affordable, improved hygiene habits. We are a key player in hygiene enhancement and social inclusion of rural, marginal urban communities. We look forward to apply this model to all 10 departments of Haiti, to reach 8m inhabitants nationwide.

“Our affordable toilet rolls have impacted a change in personal care awareness across the country, primarily in the city of Port-au-Prince, with an estimated population of 2,618,894 in the metropolitan area. Through this plan we aim to reach 80% of the population, nationwide, by satisfying the growing demand for low cost tissue hygiene products within the next five years.

“Our growth, resulting from hygiene consciousness, will, at the same token, solve serious health and dignity issues.”

TWM/2: Where are you based and what do you produce?
“Glory Industries is a family-run business and was established in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in June 2015. This geographic position provides a significant competitive advantage due to the centralisation of our production to our customers in the western section, and also our proximity to provincial stations. The plant is on an area of 90,000 square feet, with ample space to accommodate planned expansion. We produce toilet paper rolls and napkin and these products are currently marketed in formats to tailor the needs of the market in all sectors. Toilet paper formats range from, Super Mini, Mini, Standard and Extra and they are marketed under colourful brands: Toutou Ni, Siye, Pwop, Joy, Classic. We produce napkins in three formats: (50, and 200 sheets) under the Glory Classic brand, and 500 sheets, unlabelled package for institutional use.

“Our company is currently operating with Chinese semi-automatic converting machinery. This choice was made to lower our initial investment. At present, we are looking into higher performing machinery. Our packaging is 100% manual, and PEIXIN International, a Chinese company founded in 1985, is the manufacturer of our initial machinery.”

TWM/3: How many tonnes per year do you produce and how do you plan to increase this?
“We produce an average of 300mt per year, and our objective is to expand our operations to 8,000mt. We plan to achieve this goal through financing or partnership, to acquire new machinery, automate our operations, build production capacity, diversify our production range, maintain continuous production and grow sales at a competitive level and to gain a 60% share of a 13,000mt market of toilet tissue on a short-term basis.”

TWM/4: Is your target market Haiti, do you plan to export also?
“Our present target market is Haiti, on a national basis, with distribution in urban and rural communities. We foresee the company scaling from 1.5m to outreach 9m local consumers in all income sectors, with a variety in quality and price, to later respond to export requests from Cuba, Venezuela, Aruba, Curacao, and the CARICOM Countries.”

TWM/5: What tissue trends are you seeing in the Haiti market?
“As there is no tissue mill in Haiti and all materials are imported from aboard, the growth situation in Haiti for At-Home products is tremendous. Only 60% of the population presently has access to tissue hygiene products. Some 90% of tissue paper products in the Haitian market is now being imported from the United States, the Dominican Republic, China and other surrounding countries. The impressive number of foreign products marketed in Haiti confirms the potential of this sector. Despite imported products, the Haitian market is still untapped in terms of personal care paper products. Local production is presently insufficient to curb market dependence on imports. Our present plan is to increase our production capacity of existing products, toilet paper and napkins to effectively satisfy growing demand, while offsetting massive imports. At the same time, introduce to the market additional tissue hygiene lines of products to satisfy low, medium and premium quality segment.

“Haiti is a country at a stage of moderate demographic transition with moderate growth population, and young age structure. With such a trend, the Haitian population is expected to reach over 16m inhabitants in 2050 against 11,400,000 today – an increase of 40%. This analysis confirms the growth potential of the tissue sectors. The national consumption of toilet tissues is today estimated at 13,000tpy for a number of 6.6m consumers, or just 60% of the population. Improvement in consumer hygiene awareness will further drive the growth of tissue and hygiene in Haiti. Tissue hygiene products being imported at 90% leaves local production much room for growth. The dynamics that stimulate consumer demand in retail tissue in Haiti will welcome an offer of an assortment of paper weights at a variety of affordable prices, suitable to various income levels.  This dynamic is not necessarily possible with imported products. Glory Industries’ operations will be more cost effective by lowering production costs, subsequently selling prices with the economy of scale. Revenue, profit and income will increase, and  our products will be more competitive and become substitutes for imports. The imports of brands from the United States, China,Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic into the Haitian market is estimated at an annual statistic of 30,000 tonnes, all products combined, toilet paper, napkins, tissues, baby diapers and incontinence products.”

TWM/6: What trends are you seeing in terms of  private label growth, AfH, etc?
“With planned reinforced border control, higher tariffs on imported tissue paper goods and import quotas, we foresee great opportunities for local production. As a result, a number of imported established brands with considerable market share and established distribution in the Haitian market’s pipeline will resort to subcontract the production of their brands to local producers. AfH is not presently strong in the Haitian market.”

TWM/7: What are the key challenges?
“Our main key challenge is access to growth capital. The political challenge of Haiti minimises the opportunities of foreign investments, causing a hindrance to the industrial development of the country.”

TWM/8: And the key opportunities?
“With total estimated hygiene tissue paper consumption of 30,000mt, and 90% of imports, Haiti offers tremendous opportunities for local production. Our company, beneficiary of the tax exemption law, is poised to gain a lead in the competitive position in the Haitian market as well as in the export market, to reach, upon expansion, a targeted 8,000mt yearly in toilet tissues rolls and 20,000mt in overall hygiene tissue products. Once local production capacity proves to sustain the population’s needs, a change in legislation may impose tissue paper imports quotas or higher customs tariffs on imported goods, to protect local
investments. The geographic position of Haiti, with imports of 90% of its tissue consumption, offers a wealth of opportunities  to emerging markets investors.”

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