CubaNews / November 2003
By Larry Luxner
Cadbury Adams USA wants to crack the Cuban chewing-gum market. Steven Sabo, general manager for the company’s Caribbean division, said he’s been dealing with Cuban state agency Alimport since last March and is now getting ready to export.
“Under the Trade Sanctions and Reform Act, chewing gum is considered an agricultural product, and we hope to begin exporting before year’s end,” Sabo told CubaNews in a phone interview from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where his division is based.
“Alimport acts like a middleman. When we went two months ago, they set us up with the actual companies that are end-sellers,” he said. “These end-sellers place an order through Alimport, and Alimport consolidates the order to ship to us. They have to pay us on a cash-up-front basis.”
Cadbury Schweppes plc, a British firm, recently bought the Adams division of Pfizer, which was previously owned by Warner Lambert. The gum itself is manufactured in the United States and Colombia, and will be shipped to Cuba by Cadbury Adams USA via its warehouse in Puerto Rico.
“Since 1996, we’ve had a business plan for Cuba, and I actually went there in 1998 on an organized trip from Puerto Rico, and since then, we’ve been waiting,” Sabo told CubaNews. “We have no idea how big the market is. We’re going in blind.”
Most of the chewing gum sold in Cuba now comes from South America; Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. Inc. also exports some of its products, following that company’s wildly popular debut at last year’s U.S. Food & Agribusiness Exhibi-tion in Havana.
“Wrigley’s is doing better than expected” in Cuba, says Sabo. Officials at Wrigley’s Chicago offices couldn’t be reached for comment.
As for where the gum ends up, Sabo expects to sell its little boxes of Chiclets, Clorets and Hall’s for the equivalent of 10¢ each on the streets of Havana and other Cuban cities.
The company — which like its competition may not advertise in Cuba — will also attempt to sell its more expensive Trident sugarless chewing gum to foreigners visiting Cuba, says Sabo, “though we hope some Cubans will buy Trident too.”